An idea that’s time has come.

It has been hard to be one of the few writers harping on the need for a Canadian universal income program. This past week, we got some support in the person of Mike Schreiner, leader of the Ontario green party, and Jo-Ann Roberts interim leader of the federal greens. They drew up a simple little opinion piece for the Toronto Star lauding the concept.

But where were the leaders of the new democrats? Are they unable to get any ink these days? Have the new democrats decided that universality is for peasants? Are they on Bill Morneau’s ‘save the one per cent’s wealth and the trickle down will follow’ bandwagon?

To be fair, I listened to the federal finance minister carefully when they were streaming the media conference with the cabinet luminaries early in the week. I got the feeling from what he was saying (more than doing) was that he did not believe there was a really an effective way to reach all the Canadians in need of support. Anyone who thinks our retail banks can help is suffering from myopia anyway.

What the banks can do is give every person access to a bank account. They have got to stop sending indigents to cheque-cashing store fronts.

I believe that there are fair-minded conservatives and many more liberal-minded Canadians who understand that a universal income program would save a great deal of money that is now spend on inadequate and wasteful support programs.

And there will also be a small percentage of recipients of these funds who will need what is recognized in some courts as a McKenzie Friend to provide advice and assistance in managing their stipend.

But the essential point, as stated in the green party commentary, is that “Our social safety net has been broken for a long time and the covid-19 crisis has only exposed the gaps in our income support programs.” Employment insurance cannot fix it. Payments starting in April are too late. We have to get money to those who need it immediately. And if we can get the wrinkles out of the program, we should keep it.

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