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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.

Roundtable with Justice Minister Lamatti

On Friday October 16, MP Pam Damoff hosted a Zoom round table discussion on justice issues with Minister of Justice David Lametti and his assistant Morgan McDougall.  Her guests were MP Hon. Anita Anand, Alma Arguello of SAVIS, Andrew Tyrell of the Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton (CCAH) and three members of the Advancement of Women Halton (AWH), Bonnie Brown, Daniela Jansson and Tina Agrell.

Bonnie introduced AWH.  Daniela spoke with passion about the over representation of black and indigenous people in Canada’s jails and urged Minister Lametti to implement the recommendations of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. Tina asked that the Mandatory Minimum Sentences, which have been a costly failure, be completely eliminated.

Andrew Tyrrell, CCAH president, discussed the overrepresentation of Blacks in the criminal justice system.

Other discussions included human trafficking and inappropriate sentencing of the Indigenous community within the criminal justice system.

AWH POST-PANDEMIC VISION

One thing is certain; we do not want to go back to the old normal.

This experience has exposed the gaping holes in our systems and institutions.

We believe that now is not the time to cut education, social and health services, ease environmental regulations, or relax labour laws in the name of austerity to help the economy “bounce back”.

Now is the time to reimagine the social, economic, and ecological environment in which we want to live.  If we are really “All in this Together” then there must be a systemic change.

It is time to empower governments to intervene on behalf of citizens.  Our governments have shown that they have the capacity to respond to crisis.  Canadian citizens have shown that they have the capacity to co-operate and to care for each other.  We have the tools and the will to respond with common purpose.

In recent decades, we have seen racism targeted towards many minorities.  We have seen the steady rise in insecure and low paid work, which has left many individuals and families one pay cheque away from disasterWe have seen the devastation to our long-term care homes, and the neglect of our vulnerable elderly.

We have seen how women are suffering disproportionately, most especially where gender intersects with age, race, poverty, and disability.   

Work as the vehicle for the distribution of wealth has turned out to be a shaky foundation for a life of dignity. It has also become apparent to everyone that the essential work of providing food, water, and care for the vulnerable has been grossly undervalued.  We know now that service jobs are essential to society and deserve to be paid accordingly

We need a new vision where the wealth and resources of this nation serve all our people not just a few.

We must reform Medicare.

We must strengthen our income support system and include some form of universal basic income.

We must create a robust social safety net which includes improved labour rights and decent work.

We must ensure a fair taxation system that treats taxes as national treasure to be used in the service of a well-functioning society. 

We must  focus on caring for the planet, safeguard our democracy so that it is one in which all voices are heard and where people are not marginalised because of their race or gender expression. 

We must invest in women by developing universal childcare and public transit, by providing affordable housing and ensuring safety from violence.

We must consciously acknowledge and speak up for the importance of equal human rights for all.

AWH STATEMENT ON RACISM

We publicly recognize the ongoing tragedy inherent in Canadian society where systemic racism exists.
 
Racism is part of our history and, therefore, creates the conditions of the present.  We must work to eliminate its root causes.

White privilege is rooted in centuries of racism and woven into the fabric of our society.  Changing this will require a whole-of-society response.  The voices of those who have suffered racism must be central to bringing about change.  All of us however, have a responsibility to act now in support.

Systemic racism operates through self-perpetuating, reinforcing systems in health care, housing, education, employment, welfare, and criminal justice.  It is incumbent on us all to educate, speak out, support and protest in any way we can.  We recognize that visible non-violent protest is more likely to bring change.

We aspire to be allies.  AWH, as a feminist organization, will always be conscious of the unique oppression of women and girls at the intersections of race who experience both sexism and racism.  We pledge our solidarity with those struggling to address racism in all its forms in Canada and to turn that pledge into concrete actions in our own work.