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BC Election 2020

Green Platform Includes Anti-Poverty Plan, Basic Income for Most Vulnerable

Party’s blueprint includes employment standards improvements and action on long-term care and housing affordability.

Andrew MacLeod 14 Oct 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of All Together Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on Twitter or reach him at .

A BC Green Party government would shift the province’s welfare system to make it work more like a guaranteed basic income, Leader Sonia Furstenau said in releasing her party’s platform today.

“As we rebuild we cannot afford to go back to our old patchwork of social supports that were not meeting the needs of people,” Furstenau said. “We need to build a more resilient society and social safety net that lifts people up and doesn’t leave them behind.”

The party also proposes providing a basic income for youth aging out of government care.

The Greens would also make the $300-a-month increase to income and disability assistance recipients during the pandemic permanent and index the rates to inflation. It would eliminate the asset tests used to refuse assistance to people who have more than a certain amount of property. For example, a single person applying for regular income assistance is limited to $5,000 in assets, not including a vehicle.

The Green party would also reduce the clawbacks on earned income and allow people to keep any money they earn from working during their first 12 months on income assistance.

“If you qualify for income assistance in British Columbia, for 12 months you will receive that assistance,” Furstenau said. “You can go get a full-time job, but you will have that certainty and ability to plan that will help you move out of poverty.”

Knowing that they could meet their basic needs with income assistance and also keep anything they earned would allow people to take risks, and anyone who succeeds at finding a job or otherwise supporting themselves would end up paying it back through the income-tax system, she said.

The current system works badly, Furstenau said. “Our social assistance programs do not lift people out of poverty, they often entrench them into poverty,” she said. “We have to be aspiring to having a province where people are not living in poverty. That should be the goal and we have to find ways to get there.”

The Green proposal would make a basic income available to the province’s most vulnerable population and is a start towards making sure everybody has their basic needs met, an approach the evidence shows would be cheaper overall for society than paying the many costs related to poverty, she said.

The complete platform The BC Greens’ Plan for a More Equitable and Sustainable BC is a 36-page document that includes no pictures. A table at its back says it would add $3.8 billion to the provincial budget in its first year including major spending on housing affordability, education and supporting families.

Furstenau said the platform was shaped around two key questions. “What does government need to do to get the immediate targeted support to those who’ve been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic?”

And “How can we build a stronger more sustainable province for the long term?”

The pandemic has hurt young people, service and hospitality workers, and the small business and tourism sectors, she said, adding it has disproportionately affected women balancing work and child care and has had a “heartbreaking cost to seniors.”

Earlier in the campaign the Greens announced plans to shift away from using public money to pay private long-term care companies and to invest in both child care and early childhood education. It would offer a means-tested grant to renters and support for schools as they cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Greens would take steps to “modernize” employment standards and address housing unaffordability, Furstenau said.

“We can build an economy that’s more inclusive, that has secure jobs for British Columbians across the province.”  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Election 2020

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