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Now that I am a senior, the Old Age Security (OAS) in effect gives me a Basic Income Guarantee. (I won’t go quite so far as to call it a Guaranteed Livable Income.)
After a lifetime of employment instability, it is a great relief to know what my budget is and when it will arrive. Still, I can’t help thinking what a boon it would have been to have that when I was scrambling to raise my children alone on limited resources. The best thing about the OAS is that it does not strip me of my dignity in order to receive it. All I have to do now is stay alive and do my annual income tax return – it requires no show of abject poverty or scraping to put together enough insurable weeks’ employment in order to receive EI. So, I thank you, Canada.
Universal child care would have been a great help to my family too, but our last chance at achieving that goal was killed by Jack Layton’s ambition. He brought down Paul Martin’s Liberal government in a vain hope for a chance at being Prime Minister; thus scrapping a universal child care bill that was moving through the parliamentary process way back then. Instead of an NDP win, we got Harper – and a complete loss of the years of bureaucratic work and millions of tax dollars that had already gone into the legislation. It was a real shame that I hope to see corrected soon for future Canadian families.
One thing that really helped me and mine to achieve some security was the Hensley Green Housing Cooperative, which a group of dedicated volunteers worked for two years to create under a former CMHC program (later ended by Conservatives). We were inspired and coached along that road by architectural partners Karen Lips and Ole Hammarlund. (The latter is now one of our new Green MLAs.)
After taking up residence in 1985, my family enjoyed a new sense of empowerment, belonging as we did to a complex community of motivated member-owners, capable of managing our own affordable housing affairs, and eligible for a low-income subsidy when times were extra tough. I witnessed our children bloom with a sense of belonging that doesn’t come with a private sector rental. Such happy pride could never happen in a large block of social housing apartments on the outskirts of town.
I urge all parties to consider implementing new Co-op programs as solutions to our housing crisis in order to add long-term wellness to Island communities. And I urge all voters to get out and vote for what you really want. Consider carefully which party and candidate is most dedicated to truly care for social justice and combat climate change, having had years to plan the way to comprehensively do both.
Laurel Smyth is a resident of Charlottetown, P.E.I.