Mr. Speaker, the Canadian emergency response benefit alleviated financial hardship for many Canadians, but unfortunately, too many are still without emergency relief. I have a long list of constituents and businesses that are currently missed by all of the relief programs that have been announced.
I have a constituent in my riding who is working part time and taking care of an elderly parent at home. In December, her father was hospitalized with congenital heart failure. When he came back home, she quit her job to care for him full time. By March, her father's condition had improved enough that she was able to start looking for part-time work again. Then the pandemic hit. She is viewed simply as someone who quit her job, and therefore, she is not eligible for help and is now struggling to pay her bills.
I have another constituent who was working two jobs. She lost the income from her main job and since her secondary job brings in slightly more than $1,000 per month, she is ineligible for assistance.
I have been contacted by students, some in the middle of their studies and some about to graduate. Students in the middle of their programs rely on summer jobs to pay their living expenses and to save for the school year ahead. Without those jobs, they do not know how they are going to pay their rent and grocery bills for the coming months. Some are uncertain if they will be able to go back to school in the fall and continue their studies. Graduating students are in a very tough spot as well. They are coming out of years of school, and they are looking forward to entering the workplace. Instead, they are facing a bleak reality and have nowhere to turn for help.
I have heard from seniors and people with disabilities. These Canadians are surviving on fixed incomes without any buffer for increased costs related to the pandemic. They are experiencing stress, anxiety and insecurity over being unable to cover their basic needs.
With each passing day, too many Canadians are getting closer to losing their businesses, their homes and their dreams. The stress and sense of hopelessness is taking a serious toll on mental health. Individuals, communities, cities, regions and our national economy will all be severely negatively affected if we allow these people and businesses to fall through the cracks.
What our current crisis has revealed more clearly and urgently than ever is that Canada needs a guaranteed livable income. A GLI is not a radical idea. It is an idea whose time has come. Imagine a safety net that captures everyone. For both social and financial reasons, Greens have been advocating for a GLI for years, and the Green Party caucus has been working to advance the national conversation on a guaranteed livable income.
My hon. colleague from Fredericton spoke about the need for a GLI in her speech in the House of Commons during the emergency session a month ago. My hon. colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands brought it up again in the House a week and a half ago. A guaranteed livable income is an idea that the Green Party has been promoting since long before any Greens achieved the honour of taking a seat in this place. It is an idea that has gained support across the political spectrum, because it is a sound and sensible thing to do.
A guaranteed livable income is a fair system that alleviates financial hardship and rewards work. It would replace our patchwork of federal and provincial programs with a single, universal, unconditional cash benefit. The principle is to establish an income floor below which no Canadian could fall. The amount would be based on the cost of living in each region the same way a living wage is calculated. The benefit would be progressively taxed back according to income. Allowing low-income workers to retain the full benefit would be a strong incentive to continue working. There would be no big clawbacks that create disincentives.
The GLI would eliminate extreme poverty and free up our social services to focus on our mental health crisis and addiction crisis. An emergency guaranteed livable income could be set up to automatically make a payment to every Canadian with a social insurance number. Those who did not need the payment would have it taxed back by the CRA in the next tax season.
A guaranteed livable income in normal times would replace federal transfers for social assistance, disability supports, the old age supplement, the guaranteed income supplement for the elderly, the Canada child benefit for parents with children and the Canada workers benefit for the poor, all of which are very guaranteed livable income-like programs.
Because it is a benefit all Canadians would receive, a guaranteed livable income would eliminate the social stigma associated with needing income assistance. We would no longer have to pick apart people's lives to ensure they are eligible.
A GLI would make it possible for more people to upgrade their education and skills, increasing employability and wage-earning capacity.
Studies and pilot programs have shown that a guaranteed livable income or universal basic income improves the health outcomes of low-income people. They can afford nutritious food and a place to live, and long-term stress associated with poverty is decreased. These are just the broad strokes.
The benefits of a GLI are many, but right now, in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis, there is one potential benefit that stands out. Delivering a single, universal, unconditional cash benefit to every Canadian would be simple. Because a GLI would replace our current patchwork of benefit programs, it would dramatically simplify the administration required and save money there as well.
Everyone would receive a monthly payment. Most of the time, most people would not really need it and the funds would flow back to the government through taxes. However, when circumstances change, whether it is one person who loses a job or millions, having a guaranteed livable income in place would help us weather the storms ahead.
There are other storms coming. We know we are in a climate crisis. Epidemiologists and scientists have told us that we can expect more pandemics, we can expect more emergencies, we can expect more situations where people will lose their jobs and lose their homes as we struggle to deal with this climate crisis.
A guaranteed livable income would allow us to navigate future challenges without the stress, anxiety and hopelessness that too many Canadians are enduring now.