Poverty in Canada is widespread and our current social programs do not eliminate poverty; they treat and perpetuate poverty.

Ending systemic poverty means rethinking the system. Canada is among the richest countries in the world. We have the resources and talent to create a truly just society [1]. Saskatchewan’s social safety net was developed almost 50 years ago. There have been no bold innovations since the government of Tommy Douglas. It is time for the next major innovations – pharmacare and Universal Basic Income [2]. We can eliminate poverty and create a healthier, stronger Canada.

The current poverty band-aid system encourages an underground economy, in cash-only transactions, to avoid the claw back of poverty payments. We need to shut down the underground economy and ensure proper taxation. We need to prioritize giving people housing [3]. It will cost far less than we pay now to maintain densely bureaucratic social systems and cover the many other costs poverty imposes on our society.

We need to modernize our social safety networks. And we need to do it now, before automation, artificial intelligence and the gig economy decimate traditional labour markets.

Poverty is a problem we can fix. Here’s how:

  • Establish a Universal Basic Income to ensure each Saskatchewan resident can live with dignity and independence.
  • Implement a National Housing Strategy to provide every Saskatchewan resident with a place to call home.
  • Create a culturally sensitive Housing First approach to provide immediate support for those experiencing chronic homelessness.
  • Increase access to social housing for Indigenous peoples living on and off reserve.
  • Invest in the co-operative housing sector to invigorate the new, affordable housing market and sustain existing co-ops facing liquidation.

[1] Costing a National Guaranteed Basic Income Using The Ontario Basic Income Model, Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. https://www.pbo-dpb.gc.ca/web/default/files/Documents/Reports/2018/Basic%20Income/Basic_Income_Costing_EN.pdf

[2] Ortiz, Isabel and Behrendt, Christina and Acuña-Ulate, Andres and Anh, Nguyen Quynh, Universal Basic Income Proposals in Light of ILO Standards: Key Issues and Global Costing (June 29, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3208737 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3208737

[3] Somers, J. M., Moniruzzaman, A., Patterson, M., Currie, L., Rezansoff, S. N., Palepu, A., & Fryer, K. (2017). A Randomized Trial Examining Housing First in Congregate and Scattered Site Formats. PloS one, 12(1), e0168745. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0168745

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