An open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
*In recent weeks I, like all Canadians, have watched the ’emergency’ aid packages roll out. While I applaud the efforts to do so, I have wondered-as someone who advocated in my former column for a Universal Basic Income-why the government did not choose this route as an immediate option. Emergency aid is exactly that…it is needed immediately. Funds coming two months from now, don’t help those treading water and slipping below the surface right now. Delivering a Universal Basic Income would have saved on the myriad of administrative costs associated with multiple funding routes and could be delivered immediately to every Canadian,thereby leaving no one falling through the cracks. And there are still many who do. Those who survive in a gig economy, those on CPP, etc etc. I think government failed to recognize how a very large majority of Canadians are living right on the edge. Many leaders will be defined by their responses during this crisis and if you have never struggled in your life, it is often hard to develop policy that effectively represents the reality of those in poverty, or on the edge of it. We see that clearly now in the current crisis as every community is dealing with trying to feed people who, in some cases, have not eaten for days. Kim is a friend of mine. She has been a hard working Canadian and a fierce advocate in her life for others. She is one of many being left behind. She asked me to proof read this letter she intended to email, and upon reading it I knew it would be better served representing the voices of many in the public realm because I think there are many more like Kim out there, who may not have any voice at all. If you too find yourself not fitting into any emergency aid categories, please share your story in the comments. We hope it will help officials in guiding their policy decisions during this time.And if we can help direct you to assistance in the community you live in, we will do so. Without any more delay, please read Kim’s letter below. *
Dear Prime Minister,
I am a constituent of the Honourable Mr. Garrison, on Vancouver Island.
During this difficult time, I have watched different press conferences every day, from all levels of government, hoping that today will be the day I will no longer fall through the cracks.
Every day I am left feeling defeated, and disappointed.
I understand that you need to help suddenly unemployed Canadians. I applaud that you are trying to do that.
Today the province of BC pledged some real help for the poor, in supports for those on Income Assistance and PWD, and I applaud that as well. Many BC’ers are still falling through the cracks though, because it was required that we access CPP disability before any provincial disability…and that made us invisible to the province.
Personally, let me describe my situation.
My CPP Disability (I am not quite a senior) pays me $890 a month, my husband gets about $910. We have paid the rent. Most of the bills. But the last month we ran out of medications, so I rationed mine, and husband was out for 5 days. Blood pressure meds, in a highly stressful time, should not be rationed.
We had $100 left for food last month.
Friends brought me toilet paper. And food. This month I went to the pharmacy and they informed me it would take 3 days to fill my prescription and the were limited to a 30 day supply now. My medication went from $70 over three months to $40 for one month. I now have to pay more dispensing fees. The grocery store charged me $11 for 15 rolls of toilet paper. All of this comes directly out of our food budget.
It seems fairly obvious to me that many people are falling through these cracks. It seems fairly obvious to me that this is by design. Everyone knows you could immediately deliver a universal basic income. Even the Conservatives are calling for that. I can’t help but think you are terrified that once you unleash such a powerful tool, it will be demanded that it remain in place.
I want you to consider history for a minute, how Tommy Douglas managed to do a good thing for Canadians with Universal Health Care and how Canadians have voted him the Greatest Canadian for that. Mr. Trudeau, please reach back and find that your father had the courage to trial this idea in Manitoba in the 1970’s. Imagine the legacy such courage would leave you. Our grandchildren would learn about it, and celebrate your vision. This is what Canada needs right now, urgently so. An error doesn’t become a mistake, unless you fail to correct it.
Lacking the courage to act so boldly, at least, for the sake of the citizens of this country, who need it, raise the CPP. It’s not perfect, but it will help the poor people continually ignored.