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NDP MPs raise idea of guaranteed livable income with Nanaimo residents

Lisa Marie Barron and Leah Gazan hold press conference, round-table and town hall
Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Lisa Marie Barron, left, and Leah Gazan, the NDP critic for families, children and social development, hold a press conference to discuss Gazan’s bill to set the framework for guaranteed livable basic income on Thursday, Jan. 18, at Rotary Fieldhouse. (Bailey Seymour/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo-Ladysmith’s MP and her colleagues are talking to Canadians about the development of a national framework for a guaranteed livable income.

MP Lisa Marie Barron and the Leah Gazan, the NDP’s critic for families, children and social development, held a press conference and round-table discussion and also scheduled a town hall Thursday, Jan. 18, to discuss the idea of guaranteed livable income with Nanaimo residents.

The two members of Parliament held a round-table with local service providers and also a virtual town-hall meeting to discuss Gazan’s Bill C-223, which proposes a guaranteed income for all Canadians over the age of 17.

“We’re seeing all around us all the symptoms of poverty; people are struggling to make ends meet,” said Barron. “We’re seeing the symptoms of that in so many ways, with the lack of access to truly affordable housing, the increase of people struggling with mental illness, people are not able to access healthy, nutritious foods on their table.”

Employment insurance is an example of guaranteed income; however, Gazan said it’s not livable. She said her bill proposes to make current income guarantees livable, and “extend them out for those that are falling through the cracks.”

She mentioned a pilot project in Manitoba in the 1970s by a provincial NDP government which she said found that the cost of the guaranteed income was off-set by the cost of savings in services like health care and the justice system, people graduated in higher rates, and people had better mental health.

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“It’s important to acknowledge that our current income guarantee programs are not livable, and I think about the many women who are seniors who spent their whole life working as caregivers in a home, that now are seniors and don’t have enough to live on current programs,” said Gazan. “Just one woman being in federal prison is $225,000 a year, and we know a lot of criminal activity that happens are issues related to poverty. Can you imagine if we took that $225,000 and actually invest it in people?”

Regional differences in the cost of living is a consideration addressed in the bill, she said, as well as provisions to ensure a guaranteed income would not mean clawbacks to services “meant to meet individuals’ exceptional needs” like health and disability assistance.

Currently, the bill is awaiting a second reading in the House of Commons, and Gazan said the bill has support from the NDP caucus.

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Bailey Seymour

About the Author: Bailey Seymour

After graduating from SAIT and stint with the Calgary Herald, I ended up at the Nanaimo News Bulletin/Ladysmith Chronicle in March 2023
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