Punishing people for being down and out and homeless is not the answer. Increased and sustained funding for safe, affordable, supportive housing, well-connected with primary health care that is inclusive of mental health and substance use treatment, is what works to address homelessness. Policies and programs led by people with the lived experience of homelessness make them more innovative and effective.

Poverty is at the root of food insecurity in Canada’s North, say experts.

Eight witnesses testified to the House of Commons’ Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee on the topic of food insecurity in Northern Canada on Tuesday.

Many northern communities lack economies that can generate wealth, said Merlyn Recinos, vice-president of business development at Arctic Fresh Inc, a store in Nunavut that sells affordable products online.

“What we need is to create an economy to be able to create those jobs,” Recinos told MPs. “(When) you create those jobs, you’re creating wealth within the community.”

With a smattering of nays from the floor of the House of Commons, the federal NDP’s latest effort to pressure the Liberal government to implement a guaranteed livable basic income was defeated.

But while the non-binding motion required unanimous approval, meaning it never stood a reasonable chance of proceeding, the push to build a financial safety net for all is unlikely to dissipate as Canada wrestles with a devastating third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am committed to keep building momentum and moving forward exploring next steps with advocates leading the guaranteed livable basic income movement throughout Canada,” Leah Gazan, the NDP’s critic for children, families and social development, said after the setback.

From Greens to Conservatives, it seems everyone has a version of guaranteed basic income (BI) that they can support. There is confusion, however, over the objectives of BI, and very different views on what is feasible.

The debate on BI has advanced with the recent publication of a study commissioned by the British Columbia government, and by tworeports from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).

The B.C. report rejects BI on the grounds that it would be cheaper to achieve poverty reduction in the province through targeted measures. The PBO report suggests that the national poverty rate can be halved at no net cost, assuming the elimination of some tax credits and social assistance programs. Who is right?

P.E.I.’s commitment to end food insecurity by 2030 is precedent-setting, says a food insecurity researcher, and she has some suggestions about how the province should go about it.

The P.E.I. Legislature made the commitment in passing the Poverty Elimination Strategy Act, introduced by Green MLA Hannah Bell, earlier this month. The act includes targets government can track to make sure it is making progress on this issue.

“That is absolutely precedent-setting,” said University of Toronto nutritional science Prof. Valerie Tarasuk.

“We’ve seen other provinces and the federal government, you know, talk about food insecurity and different documents. But we’ve never seen anybody come forward with a commitment like P.E.I. to say we want to end this.”

The pandemic and the associated recession provide an opportunity for us to reconsider the ‘normal’ state of affairs. Now is the time to envision a bold new normal and learn from the failures of the previous status quo.

In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the estimated number of Canadians experiencing homelessness each year was anywhere from 150,000 to 300,000. Difficulties in collecting data around the exact number of people experiencing homelessness means that this number could be much higher. In Toronto alone, an estimated 10,000 people were homeless on any given night – with over 500 sleeping rough outside on the streets, or in encampments in Toronto’s ravines, waterfront, and under overpasses. The wait list for supportive housing in Toronto has grown from 700 in 2009, to over 18,000 now, and is projected to rise to 37,000 without new investments.

Last week, at the Liberal party policy convention, a majority of members endorsed a resolution to introduce a universal basic income model to Canada.

At the convention, Alex Spears, of Young Liberals of Canada, spoke on the resolution, saying a universal basic income (UBI) is “completely consistent” with Liberal values, which include “making sure that no one is left behind” and having a “strong and robust social safety net.”

“In addition to this, there are several key economic benefits that it would provide, including providing just a massive boost to the economy through job creation, putting more cash in the hands of working Canadian families, and according to some estimates, lifting as many as 3.2 million Canadians out of poverty,” Spears added, after which 77 per cent of delegates voted in favour of the resolution.