Backgrounder on Income Security, Jan.2021

Advancement of Women Halton (AWH) is a non-partisan coalition of community groups located in the Region of Halton, which seeks to promote the advancement of women by developing and supporting social, political, cultural and economic strategies to achieve gender equality municipally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

These turbulent times have given AWH an opportunity to reflect and one thing is certain; we do not want to go back to the old normal. Now is the time to reimagine the social, economic, and ecological environment in which we want to live.  Now is the time for a new social contract in Canada.

A new social contract is a universal system of social protection that would include those social, educational, housing, income security, and health policies and programs that allow all Canadians to live with dignity, to participate in community, to educate their children and to care for their families. 

Prior to the pandemic Canada’s government had disinvested in social protection, gradually shrinking its responsibilities for our collective well-being.

In the design of a new social contract, AWH entreats the Government of Canada to respect its obligations to Canadians, articulated in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Canada signed in support of the idea of a guaranteed liveable income, through Article 25 which states:

        “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” 

This clearly is a call for a new social contract with a set of programs and services, accessible to all, that would also be inclusive of income security afforded by a universal guaranteed liveable income.

 There are many models for income security under discussion, however, it is the set of principles which underlie such a program that is vital.  These principles will determine the program’s capacity to support Canadians at different points in their journey through life, whether it be in raising children, to make transitions in the labour force, to cope with unemployment, to create a passage out of poverty, to attain greater education and training, to contribute to our nation’s soul through the arts, or to enable full participation in civic democracy.  

These principles include: 

  • A guaranteed liveable income (GLI) will provide sufficient income for individual Canadians to meet the basic necessities of life and to live in health and dignity in the community.  
  • The GLI will be set at a level that brings an individual above the poverty line as defined by the Low-Income Measure After Tax (LIM-AT).  It will assure a floor below which no-one falls.  It will be income tested.
  • The GLI would be administered through the tax system, where efficiency and capacity has been successfully demonstrated by the CERB during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Income supports related to other circumstances will continue to be funded as separate programs, (OAS, GIS, Canada Child benefit, Employment Insurance).
  • GLI will be non-conditional.  It will be provided to individuals living below a defined income floor without other, often degrading, eligibility requirements or conditions.
  • It will not replace, disrupt, or limit access to other essential health and social service programs.
  • It will augment education and employment supports, such as training and further education. 
  • It will complement, not supplant, a public policy commitment to the creation of good jobs for all, including opportunities for decent work in the community and civic sector.
  • It will have no bearing on the need for an adequate, legislated minimum wage that ensures an individual working full-year, full-time escapes poverty, nor should it discourage all employers from paying a living wage to their workers based on the cost of living in their area of the country so that individuals and families can sustain themselves and fully participate in community life. 
  • It will not indirectly result in compelling women to assume the full burden of caregiving roles for children, elderly or other family members.
  • There will be ongoing research on the impact of such a guaranteed liveable income. 

Income support is a social protection that lies firmly in the domain of our federal government. 

We believe that Canada as a country can afford to invest in the future by providing this support.

Income security is but part of the intricately interwoven suite of programs of a new social contract.  AWH has great expectations that 2021 will see a strong movement to a more equitable, just, and inclusive society. 

Sources: These principles are built on: reflections and study by Advancement Women Halton; on notes from a November 2016 workshop of the Social Planning Network of Ontario; A Working Monograph from the Marvyn Novick Legacy Group. Re-Awakening Our Social Commons. June 2020; Basic Income Canada Network, Basic Income: Some Policy Options for Canada. 2019;  Guy Standing, Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen. 2017; Office of Kim Pate, Independent Senator, Why a Guaranteed Livable Income? The VB604 Perspective. June 2020.