by Nancy Murphy
We Canadians commonly see the pandemic as a disaster unparalleled in our history. Guess again. Looking back over my lifetime and that of my parents and grandparents, I see that we have been faced with crisis after crisis. Wars, pandemics, depressions, and social unrest are part of our past. It took strikes, and a nation-wide “Trek to Ottawa” by our unemployed men, who had been shuttled off to isolated government work camps in the 1930s and ‘40s, to create change. In 1940, an unemployment Insurance program was introduced by Prime Minster Mackenzie King. Family Allowance came in 1945, during heavy unemployment and drought. Old age security followed in 1952. In the 1960s a national welfare program was put in place in response to unemployment.
Times change constantly, and it usually takes a crisis to open our eyes to conditions. The pandemic, a “sign of our times”, has made us aware once again of our challenges. We must find solutions as a society, as our parents and communities did before us. There are proposals out there for a basic income guarantee program. It has been piloted in the U.S., Europe and here in Canada. We should seriously look at it, possibly for P.E.I., which has 39 per cent of people living under the poverty line.
The province is presently discussing this with the federal government. Canadians are now at the end of the line of alternate solutions. Acting isn’t an option; it is a necessity.