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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at Rideau Cottage amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on May 21, 2020.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

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Under fire

Re Provocateur Artist Kent Monkman Apologizes For Painting Depicting Sex Assault (May 20): Now that Kent Monkman has apologized for his painting, is the artist planning to burn it in the town square? Will the public be invited?

Larry Rossignol Hornby Island, B.C.

Back to school

Re A Recession Is A Great Time To Hit The Books (Editorial, May 19): We agree that, for many, this is a good time to look into post-secondary education.

Ontario’s colleges, true to their entrepreneurial nature, have been busily coming up with creative solutions for students since the pandemic began. This means not only a quality online experience now and in the fall, but looking at ways (guided by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health) to accommodate labs and other hands-on learning elements.

To support these objectives, we will be looking for government to support college retraining programs that promote rapid skill acquisition and deployment, and make college applied research and innovation more accessible to small- and medium-size enterprises through dedicated long-term funding. We believe it will be essential in the coming months for all levels of government to support displaced workers with programs to help get good jobs through post-secondary education, as was done in the 2007-09 recession with such great results.

Linda Franklin President and CEO, Colleges Ontario; Toronto

Closer reading

Re Street Spirit (Opinion, May 16): I was left feeling very sad as contributor Joseph Rosen described the anti-Semitism that Montreal’s ultra-Orthodox Hasidim recently endured, because a member of their community was one of the first to die from COVID-19.

He also cited the community’s Mile End block as the neighbourhood of Mordecai Richler. I ran to my shelf where I found a book written by Mr. Richler’s mother, Leah Rosenberg: The Errand Runner – Reflections of a Rabbi’s Daughter. She writes about her father walking down the street, shielding his eyes as he was pelted with stones, all while she watched.

Mr. Rosen’s hesitant approach to the local ultra-Orthodox men yielded a welcoming and friendly response. Yet anti-Semitism is still alive today as people fear that which they do not understand. Mr. Rosen’s charge to “rediscover the values that guide us” should not go unheeded.

Cassandra King Annapolis Royal, N.S.


Re CERB And Other Coronavirus Benefits Won’t Last Forever. Or Will They? What A Universal Basic Income Could Look Like (Opinion, May 16): Discussions about universal basic income seem to continually run into the issue of cost. Most calculations rightly net out the cost of other welfare programs that could be eliminated. However, there are other potential cost savings, with the largest being reduced health care costs.

Income is one of the primary social determinants of health, with higher incomes being linked to better health outcomes. A healthier population reduces the burden on health care systems. There is even direct evidence from Finland’s UBI experiment showing an increase in self-reported health among participants.

Similarly, UBI may lead to reductions in crime by removing individuals from financially desperate situations. It would also increase the income of those with the highest marginal propensity to spend, which may counteract some costs through increased tax revenue.

For a complete picture of the costs of a UBI program, accounting for all potential savings is essential.

Ben Moy Toronto

I believe a universal basic income is still a Band-Aid solution to two structural problems in our economy.

Our economy should not have full-time jobs with wages at or below the poverty line. These jobs are clearly undervalued. Their cost should increase – no one who works full time should be poor. We should provide incentives for employers to provide as many full-time jobs as possible, or disincentives to rely on part-time work.

Without fixing these problems, UBI would simply support paying too many people less than their work should be worth. No one can tell me that, collectively, we cannot afford it. Just divide the amount of earned income in Canada by the number of employees; there is huge headroom to pay those at the bottom of the income scale a decent wage without becoming communist.

UBI could then replace income supports for eventualities, rather than structural problems – and become much cheaper and, therefore, affordable.

Manuel Mertin Calgary

We have now seen that many Canadians struggle to meet basic needs, and that government can move swiftly to implement benefits such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Without the unprecedented public health crisis, we may never have seen such action to address the income challenges of Canadians.

Social workers have long advocated for universal basic income to address poverty, food insecurity and homelessness. While government supports have made what was previously impossible now possible, it should be time to guarantee that all Canadians have access to UBI. Let’s address poverty and create a new normal.

Jody-Lee Farrah Executive director (acting), Alberta College of Social Workers; Edmonton

I have advocated universal basic income since the 1970s, when I was executive director of Mincome, a federal-provincial experiment in Manitoba. The political, financial and social feasibility of UBI depends entirely upon the characteristics of the operational form chosen, and the administrative skill with which it is executed.

I find this accounts, in part, for the failure to have a program in place, despite half a century of debate, reports and conferences. Some of the most vocal advocates of UBI, while well intentioned, champion systems carrying avoidable risks.

A national system, able to respond with speed and accuracy to the fluctuating circumstances of lower-income individual and families, could be affordable and available the next time a crisis hits Canada. A well-designed UBI could increase work incentive and offer effective means to supplement lost income, while providing an opportunity to rationalize the present mishmash of income-support programs.

Ron Hikel Stratford, Ont.

A universal basic income should be known as an allowance. My dictionary defines income as something earned. It will remain so despite Orwellian forces to the contrary. So let’s talk about a universal basic allowance instead.

Rob Graham Claremont, Ont.

Good for it

Re The Death Of Cash Is A Problem For The Bank Of Canada (May 19): Ever since I came to Canada in 1965, I have received a paycheque or, eventually, direct deposit – not cash. In the 1970s, supermarkets in Kitimat, B.C., only accepted cash. On one payday, the banks ran out of cash; they informed merchants that any cheque, written on any paper, would be accepted.

So for a couple of weeks, decades before debit cards, Kitimat was cashless.

Jorgen Christensen Kingston

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