Op-Ed: Election ’21 a missed opportunity to talk about basic income

by Marie Burge and Laurie Michael

The PEI Working Group for a Livable Income (WGLI) agrees fully with Teresa Wright’s article, an election about nothing (Guardian, September 13, 2021). At the same time we take this opportunity to say “Welcome home, Teresa!  PEI clearly needs your clear analysis and writing skills on many crucial issues”.

            We are writing our opinion on Election Day. So we are limiting ourselves to expressing our disappointment with all political parties which failed to bring into focus any serious commitment to basic income. After the Election results are fully tabulated, our organization will re-group to express our expectations of the new government.

            As Canadian citizens/residents, we dutifully accept that a federal election is one of our venerated democratic practices. We therefore continue to have high expectations that political parties would create platforms which more or less reflect the will of the people.

            We are not naïve, however, about how election platforms are developed. We know that the “handlers” opt for what the election organizers interpret as “vote-getting”. This is a sector which we identify, not as politicians, but as technocrats (nuts and bolts people). They identify the “wedge issues” for the parties and candidates and create the narratives which end up as political speeches.

            It is clear to us that in this election’s political platforms, and campaign speeches were not reflective of the realities of the public’s support for basic income. Especially given that since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a growing movement here and in other countries advocating for the implementation of basic income. The public deserves an explanation of why basic income was not seriously considered during this election, even with the strong support it has, and despite the abundant and conclusive research now available.

            It seems to us that Canadian politicians fail to acknowledge the shortcomings of its social “safety net”. They are lagging behind in their sensitivity to the needs of the people. They fail to reflect Canada’s changing and diversifying demographics and fail to acknowledge settler colonialism and the system that functions to fail all marginalized populations. At this point it feels as though politicians disregard social, health, economic, environmental inequities is on purpose… not out of ignorance. Really, they must know, especially from the experience of the government’s efforts to meet the needs of various populations during COVID-19, that millions of Canadians are historically and continuously left behind.

            However, regardless of party ideology, it seems that politicians continue to dream of having absolute power. This is seen is the obsession over majority government which in the current electoral system is rarely representative of the interests, will or the needs of the people. As long as this system continues, we will be treated to election platforms based on flavor-of-the-day contents and strategies.

            The PEI Working group for a Livable Income and other basic income groups across the country are proud of the advanced level of advocacy for basic income among everyday people.  We feel that the people are ready for basic income, but that the politicians are lagging behind.  From a political viewpoint our work for basic income is in its very early stages. All the more reason to move on quickly, and with focus, after this election is over and done.  A minority government could give us another year of space for political work.  Let’s run with it but put more emphasis on the urgent need for enlightened political will

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