On January 5, 2023, most Prince Edward Island households will wake up to receive a cash payment to relieve some pressures of inflation on their day-to-day household expenses. These inflation support payments will help countless Islanders – and, what’s more, they will prove beyond a doubt that Prince Edward Island is ready to implement a Basic Income Guarantee.

The proof is in the design of the program and the provincial-federal collaboration: non-taxable cash payments, delivered through the federal tax system, based on straightforward criteria set by the provincial government.

A basic income guarantee is a cash payment sent regularly to individuals who need it to meet their basic needs and live in dignity. The inflation support payment is a one-off payment, not a regular monthly one, but it will be delivered in similar ways. As such, it demonstrates how our systems are ready to deliver cash payments to meet people’s needs.

Like a basic income guarantee, the inflation support payment will be delivered thanks to a collaboration of the provincial and federal governments, through the Canada Revenue Agency. No one in PEI will have to apply for an inflation support payment, except by filing a tax return. Their tax return will determine if they are eligible for a basic amount of $500, if their income is under $100,000. Those who make over $100,000 will receive some benefit, but the level will reduce as income increases. Households with higher needs – for example, single people or couples raising children with lower income – will receive more than $500. In a similar way, a basic income guarantee would be based on CRA data on income and household composition and needs. Likewise, those in most need would receive a full basic income, and those with other income would see their benefit gradually reduced.

A basic income guarantee would include any adult who has less income than they require to meet basic needs, regardless of work status. Similarly, eligibility for the inflation support payment is based on income and need, not work. This is a better model than the COVID-lockdown CERB, which required a minimum level of income for eligibility and excluded some of the most needy from receiving benefits.

Regardless of what paid or unpaid work we do in the world, we need food, shelter, medication, transportation, communications, and resources to face emergencies. Our human right to these basic necessities remains the same.

The simplicity and transparency of the inflation support payment mirror the simplicity and transparency we are looking for in basic income guarantee. Program design matters. Cooperation among systems matters. Islanders have just dealt with Fiona relief payments from the provincial government, delivered badly through a third-party organization not equipped to deal with it. Confusion was rife about how to apply, how to prove identity/eligibility, how to demonstrate need, how to receive the payment, and what the money could be used for. And yet, it was evident all Islanders were affected by the storm: there should have been no need to jump through hoops to prove it. The Fiona relief program showed how not to do program rollout.

The inflation support program will be better delivered. What’s more, it will be funded out of a provincial budget surplus. As such, it demonstrates another important factor in favour of basic income guarantee: the solidity of the provincial tax base.

PEI’s government inflation support payment is a small grant and a one-time payment, not a basic income guarantee, and still it demonstrates that PEI and Canada are ready and able to deliver cash payments to support people’s basic needs.

Now, our message to Premier King and Prime Minister Trudeau is that we are ready, too. A recent Atlantic Canadian summit on basic income had a strong showing of PEI political leaders saying we are ready. A national organization, Coalition Canada basic income revenu de base, is preparing to release a proposal with a realistic, costed plan that demonstrates we are ready.

We are ready to live in a province where a program delivers regular payments to meet people’s needs with enough income to live in health and with dignity. We are ready for basic income guarantee.

Signed, the PEI Working Group for a Livable Income.
Co-authors Jane Ledwell and Michelle Jay represent the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women on the Working Group.

PEI Working Group for a Livable Income members meet with Jagmeet Singh in PEI (April 2022)