Supporters gathered in Halifax on Saturday to raise awareness for what they say is a need for Nova Scotia and Canada to implement a basic income program.
“A basic income is enough money to provide people with support for their basic needs,” said Mandy Kay-Raining Bird, chair of the Basic Income Group of Nova Scotia. “It’s a direct payment from the government to ensure that everyone has sufficient income to participate in society and live with dignity.”
The concept of a basic income isn’t new and other provinces in Canada have studied it and introduced basic income pilot projects, like in Manitoba and in Ontario.
Prince Edward Island has been studying it and in February the province requested co-operation from the federal government to establish a working group to help set up a basic income guarantee program there.
“What we advocate for is the provincial government and the federal government to work together to ensure the implementation of a basic income. It can’t be done by the provinces because they don’t have enough money,” said Kay-Raining Bird.
Christie Ragan was at the rally, advocating for a universal basic income program.
“The most vulnerable people are being left out in the cold, literally,” said Ragan, a single mother who is trying to finish her degree in acupuncture and traditional medicine.
Ragan says the pandemic has put her at least a year behind in her schooling and says it’s been hard to juggle her school commitments, parenting and a job which she’s currently out of.
“I have no savings left, I did have a spousal support settlement from when my marriage ended but it was supposed to last me until after I was finished school and until I could find work but it’s gone,” said Ragan.
A basic income would help Ragan pay rent, something she’s not sure she’ll be able to do at the end of the month.
“I can pay my bills and my rent at the end of the month, I can eat, but I can’t do both,” said Ragan. “A basic income would help me out and I could survive on that.”
Basic Income Nova Scotia says the pandemic has shown that the government has the capacity to act quickly and implement a basic income program and Kay-Raining Bird says it’s not as radical as some might suggest, pointing to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) which quickly delivered cash to millions of Canadians who were left unemployed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The government identified $2,000 a month as a level that was necessary to meet people’s basic needs,” said Kay-Raining Bird. “But it’s not a basic income.”
The rally was attended by a dozen people on Saturday and organizers say they are interested in raising more awareness about the basic income program and want to work with the newly elected Progressive Conservative government to study how the program could work for Nova Scotians.