Upon entering politics in 2011, and going door-to-door in Charlottetown, I was struck by the extent and devastating impact of poverty in our city. It was heartening to see The Guardian‘s Thursday edition focus almost exclusively on the issue.
As a new MP, I joined the all-party anti-poverty caucus, and have held town hall meetings to engage the community. A key focus has been better supports for those needing Employment Insurance, and support for affordable and co-operative housing. In addition, I have and continue to wholeheartedly support the implementation of a guaranteed annual income.
Last fall, the PEI Legislature unanimously supported Motion 83 – declaring its support for a basic annual income pilot project. The Province is looking for a funding partner to assist in carrying out this pilot project. I believe Prince Edward Island would be a perfect test ground for a basic annual income, and it’s an idea I’ve thrown my weight behind.
In early March, my colleague Wayne Easter and I wrote to the Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, to appeal for a federal partnership with the province to trial a basic annual income. This builds on the work of others, including the Finance Committee’s recommendation in its latest pre-budget report, advocating that the Government take on a multi-year pilot project for basic annual income.
Prince Edward Island is a perfect place for such a pilot project. Our small population, combined with the infrastructure of an entire provincial government, will ensure the best test ground possible. In addition – as evidenced by the unanimous motion of the legislature – the project enjoys cross-party support and the provincial government stands as a ready and willing partner.
When it comes to poverty reduction, the time has come to examine innovative solutions. A basic annual income could revolutionize our social safety net. I will continue to advocate for solutions to the plight of poverty. One day we will be judged by how we treated those less fortunate. It is especially true for those in elected office, and it continues to guide me.