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Guaranteed Livable Income

October 17 is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, a day of observance initiated by the United Nations over thirty years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in reversing decades of progress in the fight against poverty. In 2021, according to the World Bank, the number of people living in poverty around the world is estimated to be
between 143 and 163 million, most of those living on less than $1.00 a day.

In Canada nearly five million people – one out of every seven individuals – currently live in poverty. This is a moral outrage in a country with many financial resources. Poverty can happen very quickly, through loss of jobs, illness, and lack of access to housing among other causes. Here are some words from someone with lived experience of living in poverty: “I would not turn the heat on until December. In November I wear my winter clothes inside because I am trying to hold off the heating bills.”

Since the 1970s the United Church of Canada has been advocating for a universal basic income that is more equitable and less expensive and complicated to administer than the numerous government support programs presently available. Since then, national and international studies and programs have shown that a universal basic income is both affordable and has beneficial effects in the areas of health, justice, education, and social welfare.

Today a growing movement of religious leaders, senators, and many more across Canada are calling more urgently for the implementation of a Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI): “guaranteed” signals a focus on ensuring a level of income for all and “livable” signals an income that enables people to live with dignity, not just stay alive.

A GLI would be a payment to individuals or families by government that covers the cost of basic necessities (food, shelter, clothing, transportation and community participation) and would not be conditional on meeting employment criteria. It allows everyone to live with dignity and security, regardless of their work situation. In one a trial program a
recipient stated: “I didn’t view it as just a handout. I still worked hard...but it was the cushion...I wasn’t stressing about whether I could pay my bills the next month.”

The United Church of Canada’s Guaranteed Livable Income Network is co-chaired by Barry Morris and former Moderator Lois Wilson. Many people of faith in Canada worked hard to make GLI a key issue in the recent election; now we can add our voices to advocate that the federal government mandate a guaranteed livable income.

For more information about this work and ideas for ways in which you can take action please visit the Social Justice page of our church website.