Young people are eager for word that universal basic income and an ambitiously green recovery are on the agenda when the Liberal government unveils its reworked COVID-19 pandemic recovery plan.
“We need it to be visionary,” said Catherine Abreu, the executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, about the throne speech coming Wednesday. “Young people want to hear about how we are going to move from a society where the unequal distribution of wealth and resources is increasing” to one that is more equitable, she said.
The speech, to be delivered by the governor general on Wednesday, will lay out the policy plans of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's minority government as it launches a new parliamentary session.
Post-secondary students are feeling particularly left behind by Ottawa after the $900 million earmarked to pay them for summer volunteer work seemingly evaporated amid the WE scandal, said charity consultant Vivian Lee.
“From the university and college students’ perspective, they’re just in a state of flux and there's no end in sight, so from Trudeau’s speech it would be helpful to outline transparently how they’re going to help this demographic of disenfranchised youth,” she said.
Lee said she hopes the speech includes plans for an ongoing minimum payment known as universal basic income (UBI) to replace expiring emergency benefits, a concept which has been gathering supporters recently.
“It would make a lot of sense to implement UBI now,” she said. “But then you have to ask the question fiscally, where is the money coming from.”
Canada projected a $343 billion budget deficit earlier this year, its largest since the Second World War, including more than $212 billion in direct COVID-19 support.
Lee said she’d support raising taxes, including by introducing a seventh bracket at the top of the scale that taxes annual income of over $7 million at 70 per cent, but admits that could be a hard sell.
A recent poll conducted by Abacus Data for the Broadbent Institute showed more than half of Canadians across age, geography and political affiliation want the speech to feature bold new ideas from the feds for improving people’s lives and dealing with climate change.
Abreu and Climate Action Network Canada along with several major Canadian environmental groups backed the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s ‘Green Strings’ report from June that set out the conditions they’d like to see attached to future stimulus.
Younger people will be listening closely to the Liberal government's throne speech for talk of an ambition clean recovery agenda and steps to reduce income inequality, advocates say
It said the recovery should attach seven green conditions to government stimulus and recovery efforts, including that industry receiving assistance commits to a zero-emission transition and disclosure of climate risk and a prohibition on share buybacks and dividend payouts.
But the recent rise in COVID-19 cases may have blunted the sharp point Trudeau had planned to put on a green recovery plan, Reuters reported last week.
The news agency said the speech will include pledges to expand unemployment benefits and provide federal money for child care, as well as some pro-environmental elements such as a retrofit program to make buildings more energy-efficient, the news agency reported, citing unnamed government sources.
Alastair Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer