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Time for a guaranteed livable income in Vancouver?

Photo of Strathcona by Ross Doherty. From Flickr Creative Commons

Our B.C. government is about to finish province-wide poverty reduction consultations.  At a recent consultation meeting in Richmond, I heard from the coordinators that implementing an income guarantee has so far been the number one poverty reduction recommendation made by the public at the consultations.  Despite this, the recent provincial budget committed only $4 million to “model” such a program, most likely a top-up to our abysmal welfare rates and low-wages.  A “top-up” will provide only minimal relief to those in poverty and be a boon to low-wage employers who can continue to keep wages low.  The group I belong to, Livable Income Vancouver, believes that instead we need implementation of a Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI), an income guarantee that is universal, unconditional, individual, and set at rate that meets the cost of living.  Livable Income Vancouver is calling on both our provincial and federal governments to implement a GLI that will promote the greatest autonomy, security, wellbeing and equality for all in B.C. 

Livable Income Vancouver is a group of individuals who have been active in movements for greater equality and freedom in Vancouver for many years.  These include movements to end violence against women, for racial justice, against poverty, and for health and wellbeing.  Our experiences tell us that our current welfare system is broken, with rates that leave people destitute as well as rules and a bureaucracy that punish, police, and/or deter most recipients.  Unfair welfare programs are pushing people into unfair working conditions and narrowing choices, such as by trapping women in relationships with abusive men.  Our wage system is broken, too.  A growing proportion of the workforce works at minimum wage jobs, even as the cost of living rises. 

We support campaigns for a stronger minimum wage, broader unionization, full employee benefits, and better working conditions.  However, these will never be enough because full employment is a myth.  Through disability, illness, or the need to care for someone else, any of us can be pushed out of the workforce.  Currently the work of caring for others falls disproportionately to women either without pay or with low-pay.  Further, women, people of colour, new immigrants, Indigenous people, youth ageing out of care, and others disproportionately face discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, low-pay, and unfair conditions at work.  For all these reasons, an income guarantee is a necessary step to ensuring fairness and ending poverty in B.C.

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