by Amery Boyer
Have you ever thought about how you could eliminate hunger and homelessness? When it comes to hunger, the answer is very simple, and human beings have been doing it for a very long time. It is called food sharing.
The Bible contains at least 93 references to the sharing of food. In the Bhagavad Gita, it is written that from food, all beings are evolved, and feeding a hungry person is treated as the greatest service to mankind. The Prophet Muhammad said “Whoever feeds someone who is hungry will have his sins forgiven, and whoever helps someone to travel will have his sins forgiven.” Feeding the hungry, giving food to the needy, and helping people with their needs are all good deeds that can earn us a place in Paradise. And for years, people looked to churches to provide for the hungry.
Then, municipalities and provinces took on the task by establishing social services for housing, food and other needs. And today, food banks and food pantries are the latest in food sharing outposts. Yet churches, municipalities, provinces, food banks and individuals continue to wrestle with issues of homelessness and hunger in our communities.
There has been a lot of talk about coming up with realistic solutions to both these issues. One of these is the notion of a basic income for all Canadians. In a way, Canada and its provinces are already part way there. For example, many larger employers offer sick leave, short and long term disability leave, and pension plans for their employees. The provinces offer workers’ compensation in the case of accidents. The federal government offers CPP (Canada Pension Plan QPP in Quebec) to workers, and OAS Old Age Security) and GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) to all those who qualify. During the COVID pandemic, CERB was offered to workers who experienced income loss. Each one of these programs comes with its own rules, its own criteria for qualification, its own administrative costs, and in many cases, its own bureaucracy. In Atlantic Canada, for example, there are four Workers’ Compensation Boards.
So the next time someone talks about guaranteed or basic income, just think what it would be like if all Canadians were guaranteed a basic income. While we would still need some bureaucracy, could we not greatly reduce our collective costs to achieve something greater than the sum of all of the parts with the same amount of money?