End of CERB could complicate EI system, open door to basic income, says senator

VICTORIA — Senator Yuen Pau Woo is advocating for an experimental basic income program at the provincial level, citing the complications to the employment insurance program after the end of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Woo, who spoke at a webinar about resetting the financial sector hosted by the University of Victoria, says that a basic income program could be a solution to income inequality stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn.

While estimates of a basic income solution would require “a lot of money,” the updated employment insurance system would be complicated for many Canadians due to a patchwork of social security measures, the independent senator says.

Despite the steep estimate from the Parliamentary Budget Officer on the cost of a basic income program, which Woo did not disclose, he said costs of a basic income program could be offset by reducing long-term costs related to health care and other safety net programs.

Woo told the audience that despite concerns about sovereign debt, with borrowing costs low, now is not the time for the Canadian government to take its foot off the pedal.

Paul Beaudry, a deputy governor of the Bank of Canada who also spoke on the panel, said the central bank is watching how its policies to address income inequality and unequal patterns of consumption will affect the distribution of wealth in the country.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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