Scrap social assistance, top-up earnings, says livable income group

A guaranteed basic income plan will be unveiled by the P.E.I. Working Group for a Livable Income Thursday night.

P.E.I. Working Group for a Livable Income unveiling guaranteed basic income plan

Marie Burge of the Cooper Institute says about 10 per cent of Islanders would have needed an income top-up according to 2011 figures. (Laura Chapin/CBC)
A guaranteed basic income plan will be unveiled by the P.E.I. Working Group for a Livable Income Thursday night.              

The group, a coalition of 11 P.E.I. non-governmental organizations and charities that promotes the goal of livable incomes for Islanders, wants to see the next provincial government scrap social assistance and offer Islanders a top-up if their incomes are too low to meet basic needs.            

According to Statistics Canada calculations in 2011, a single adult on P.E.I. needs at least $18,000 a year to cover basic costs of food, shelter, transportation, clothing and other necessities. A child needs $8,000 a year. 

We're not pretending that this would be a cheaper way to go.- Marie Burge, Cooper Institute

Marie Burge, a member of the Cooper Institute, says in 2011, about 10 per cent of Islanders would have needed the top-up, at a cost of about $150 million.              

The working group wants that cost shared by the province and Ottawa.    

"We're not pretending that this would be a cheaper way to go, in terms of cash out," said Burge.

"But when we look at the cost of people not having enough to eat, people living in miserable situations and the cost of health. We have to look at other opportunity costs, of not having people with basic income and that guaranteed."

The provincial government spent around $32 million last year on social assistance. A 2011 Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report found the direct costs of poverty to the provincial government, including social assistance, is $100-thousand a year.              

The working group plans to propose a five-year pilot project to be run across the Island after the May 4 provincial election.

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