Newly released figures from Statistics Canada show that for several years ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rates of both poverty and income inequality had been trending downwards.

And while the pandemic led to major economic disruption, government interventions so far appear to have been enough to continue the downward trend.

Even pandemics have silver linings and COVID-19 has at least one: a sharper focus on income disparity and widespread poverty in Canada.

With this awareness comes quickening footsteps of reluctant officials and an ongoing pros and cons debate over one concept, a guaranteed annual income.

What critics, which include social justice advocates, a puzzle to me, need to consider is that a guaranteed annual income is one tool dealing with poverty, not the only tool.

Even the recent B.C. experts panel, two years in the making, is not out right rejecting a GAI. As Hugh Segal points out the three-person panel seems to have themselves “bumping into each other while coming around the corner” in a report of 65 recommendations.

The idea of creating a universal basic income is being pushed by Liberal MPs and grassroots party members, young and old, from east to west — despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apparent lack of enthusiasm.

It is among the top priority issues chosen for debate at the governing party’s April 9-10 convention following an online policy process in which the party says more than 6,000 registered Liberals took part.

One in four children in Pictou County is living in poverty.

According to statistics from the 2020 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Nova Scotia 25.9 per cent of children in the Pictou census district are living below the poverty line. In the broader political riding of Central Nova it’s 24.3 per cent.

While better than some districts in Nova Scotia, it is still among the highest 20 per cent of poverty rates in Canada.

For children in single-parent or minority, the numbers rise even higher. According to 2018 statistics, children raised in single-parent homes had a poverty rate 53.1 per cent.

Despite federal programs such as the Canada Child Benefit which lifted many children above the poverty threshold, it’s clear that many still struggle to make ends meet each month.

Did you know that Canada introduced a poverty reduction strategy in 2018? Our strategy is to reduce poverty 50 per cent by 2030, in line with the UN sustainable development goal for poverty reduction.

While there are many good reasons to have a poverty reduction strategy for Canada, I am wondering whether we are selling ourselves short. Twelve per cent of Canadians live in poverty, and a 50 per cent reduction in poverty by 2030 means that six per cent of Canadians would still be living in poverty, and that’s after 10 more years of strategic poverty reduction.

Rather than an incremental poverty reduction strategy, why can’t we have a poverty elimination strategy in Canada? Why can’t we have bold action, over the next several years, for eliminating poverty in Canada by introducing a Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians?

‘We need to get people inside,’ David Eby says, as Penticton council rejects extension for shelter.

Housing Minister and Attorney-General David Eby says the province is exploring its options after the City of Penticton rejected the extension of a permit allowing a homeless shelter in the middle of the city. (MIke McArthur/CBC)

Housing Minister David Eby says he’s willing to wade into city council decisions on homeless shelters — even if that means angering local politicians along the way.

“I was doing things entirely backwards: It’s much better to provide information to councils before the vote, so they’re making a fully informed vote, rather than after the vote,” said Eby, hours before the City of Penticton unanimously rejected an application by B.C. Housing to extend its permit for a homeless shelter located in the centre of the Okanagan city.

That was despite council previously assuring him it would grant the extension, according to Eby.

Basic income, in Canada, has come to mean an income-tested benefit — a guaranteed income close to the poverty line for those with no other income, and a reduced benefit for low-income workers. Basic income does not replace public services like health care and supports for people with disabilities. It streamlines and enhances cash transfers.

The benefits of basic income have been documented in multiple studies. Mental and physical health improves. People invest in education. There is no evidence that overall work effort declines when a basic income is offered, and some evidence that basic income helps people move from precarious work to long-term employment.