Origins of the PEI Working Group for a Livable Income
During the winter and spring of 2003 to 2004, Cooper Institute held two five-week community promoter training programs and assisted in organizing three community workshops on minimum wage and low wages. The objectives were to raise awareness among Island communities about the reality of low-wage workers in PEI and to engage citizens in influencing public policy related to wage levels and working conditions. At the same time, other organizations on PEI, including Women's Network PEI, Association des femmes acadiennes et francophones de l'Î.-P.-É., and the PEI Federation of Labour were also involved in the issue of low wages. Eventually the discussion broadened from one of the impact of low wages, to one where all sources of income were considered - for example, social assistance, pensions, disability supports, Employment Insurance. As a result of a decision of one of the community workshops, Cooper Institute in September, 2003, sent an invitation to other organizations to form the PEI Working Group for a Livable Income.
The basic goal of the Working Group is to influence the attitudes and actions of the community, employees, employers, and public policy makers around the advantages of a livable income for all people. The PEI Working Group for a Livable Income believes that all citizens of PEI have a right to an income that allows them to live in good health and with dignity.
The PEI Working Group for a Livable Income considers a livable income to include enough to pay rent or mortgage and monthly utility bills, to buy nutritious food and medicine, to use transportation, to continue learning, to access childcare or eldercare, to participate in the community, and to cover emergencies. A livable income supports people to live in good health and in dignity.
The PEI Working Group for a Livable Income (WGLI) is a non-governmental network of ten community-based organizations and a number of individual members. It was formed in 2002 in response to a community request. It has functioned as a collective with consensus decision-making.
From the beginning, WGLI has seen the need to address the on-going roots of impoverishment of a large number of people in PEI. This means having a long-term goal of establishing a system of guaranteed livable income for all Islanders. This poverty elimination program is Basic Income Guarantee (BIG). The Working Group formalized its Basic Income Guarantee program in 2013 and called it C-BIG PEI (Campaign for a Basic Income Guarantee PEI). We were the first BIG group in Canada; now there are at least 20 community-based BIG organizations as well as the national organization, Basic Income Canada Network, of which we are members. Here in PEI we carry out continuous research, and on-going consultations with community and public policy makers. As well we maintain consistent formal and social media coverage.
While addressing the long-term goal, WGLI continues to urge the community and governments, in the shorter term, to support and develop strong poverty reduction strategies to shore up current income sources and develop policies and programs which include providing: livable wages, a fair EI system, adequate social assistance payments, pensions, and increases in disability supports and Old Age Security, affordable housing, food security, access to dental and mental health care and to prescription drugs.
Working Group Members (2017)
- Cooper Institute
- PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women
- PEI People First
- PEI Federation of Labour
- Culture PEI
- Actions Femmes
- PEI Council of People with Disabilities
- St Vincent de Paul - Holy Redeemer Church
- Women's Network PEI
- PEI Association of Social Workers
- Habitat for Humanity PEI
What do we mean by livable income?
By livable income, we mean an income that allows a family or an individual to pay their rent or mortgage and their monthly bills, buy medicine and healthy food, use transportation and childcare, and have money left for some extras (like sports activities or kid's birthdays) as well as to cover emergencies, such as cars or furnaces breaking down, or having a family member laid off or hurt.
A guiding principle of our group is inclusion. It is a fact that society continues to exclude people or to discriminate against them on the basis of gender, racial and ethnic origins, age, sexual orientation, and physical and intellectual ability. The Working Group asserts that the health of Islanders and of our province's economy will be enhanced by the enactment of livable income.
Over the past few years, the Working Group has participated in reviews of the Employment Standards Act, and has made presentations to various Ministers and both governing and opposition caucuses. In 2006, the group organized public meetings as part of a pre-election strategy to encourage Islanders to name livable income as an issue in the provincial election campaign.
Working Group members keep livable income “on the radar” by writing letters to the editor and opinion pieces, and by making sure that whenever health, the economy, or jobs are on the agenda, in workshops, public meetings or at conferences, livable income is part of the discussion.
The Working Group understands that especially in a seasonal economy such as P.E.I.'s, workers need to have access to a fair and adequate Employment Insurance program. In 2011 members of WGLI collected stories from people who were affected by changes to the EI program:
Employment Insurance: The Prince Edward Island Story (2011)
Since 2012, members of WGLI have joined with several other groups, including local unions, to form the PEI Coalition for Fair EI. In 2013 the Coalition held forums in several PEI communities, and participated in the Atlantic Premiers' Panel on Employment Insurance. You can find out more about the work of the Coalition on its facebook page.
Basic Income Guarantee
Since 2012 the WGLI has made Basic Income Guarantee a focus of its work. You can read all about our campaign for a BIG pilot project for PEI on the website: Campaign for a Basic Income: CBIG-PEI
Principles of Basic Income Guarantee
A successful Basic Income Guarantee for Prince Edward Island will:
1. Be universal and unconditional to all adult residents, subject to
income, but regardless of work status or relationship status.
2. Recognize that not all people have the same basic needs and some
will need more support in addition to a Basic Income Guarantee.
3. Transform some social programs and services, such as income
support, while maintaining others, such as disability support.
4. Be administered through the income tax system, and respond to
people’s changing income levels in a timely manner.
5. Be sufficient to provide for people’s basic needs. To us, this means
enough to pay rent or mortgage and monthly utility bills, to buy
nutritious food and medicine, to use transportation, to continue
learning, to access childcare or eldercare, to participate in the
community, and to cover emergencies.
6. Be grounded in human rights, as opposed to charity, and be
provided with dignity and respect for recipients.
7. Recognize that human health and wellbeing depend on the health
and sustainability of the natural environment.
8. Be designed and planned based on inclusive and meaningful public
consultation, with a continuing role for community throughout
9. Make investment in people the priority for all government
spending and economic development.
10. Be evidence-based, considering both quantitative and qualitative
evidence, and applying lenses to ensure results are equitable for
all people. Important lenses to apply include gender, diversity,
age, ability, mental health, class, culture, language and literacy,
sexuality and gender identity, and geography.
11. Be monitored, measured, and evaluated.
In February of 2017 we had a series of four opinion pieces on Basic Income Guarantee published in the Charlottetown Guardian. Read them here.
And read the REPORT of Cooper Institute's First Annual Social Justice Forum, which was on the subject of Basic Income Guarantee.
You can also watch a video of Chandra Pasma's presentation: Powerless Workers and Apathetic Citizens: Is Basic Income The Cure?