November rain. But just at the edge there was the sun trying to push through the grey clouds. I stopped for a brief look and headed inside.
“Camp, did you hear the latest proposal by the pundits in Ottawa? This one is about Universal Basic Income, UBI for short.”
“Can’t say I have but this idea surfaces every now and then and it even has been tried in a few places and studied to death. How do they plan to pay for it this time?
“With online casinos and marijuana taxes. They figure the bill for a Canada wide UBI program would be $ 41 billion.”
“I guess that gives gambling a whole new respectability. Now we can feel good about losing money and getting stoned since it helps the poor,” Camp said, shaking his head, which was in need of a haircut.
“No point being cynical Camp. It’s not a bad idea. Over 60 per cent of those living below the poverty line in Canada have jobs – some more than one – and yet are still beneath the poverty line. Present welfare plans across Canada not only pay 20 to 40 percent below the poverty line. Not only that but these plans also discourage work by clawing back benefits if more than $100 or so are earned.”
“The question is always affordability. Looks like $ 41 billion is about 10% of the annual federal budget.”
“Yes, and that doesn’t take all the saving into account, the ones from eliminating provincial programs like welfare and support for the disabled, never mind the saving that would come from less people living in poverty,” I said.
“Well it sounds like you’re all for it and it is a fact that poverty is not good for your overall health. Let’s do it.”
“Yeah, if it would be just that easy. Common sense ideas like Universal Basic Income or the Tobin Tax, the financial transaction tax that was to go against the international debt or free university education as in some European countries, seem so short lived in our top heavy societies,” I said.
“This rain should be good for the deadly California fires,” Camp said and we both took a pensive drink while we looked out at the bleak rainy November weather that was moving in from the pacific.
“What do you think about those migrants from Central America who are piling up in Tijuana, wanting to get asylum in the US,” I asked.
“We should look at history. People who are fleeing misery, poverty and persecution used to be called immigrants, not migrants. We seem to forget that the biggest wave of migrants was in the 19th century. Over 60 million people left Europe in search of better lives. There are about 60 million people of Hispanic origin living in the US, about 20% of the population. So what’s the big panic about a few thousand desperate souls wanting a better life?”
“You’re preaching to the choir Camp. I’m an immigrant myself,” I said. “Did you hear that the provincial government introduced a bill to allow ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft in BC, maybe by next year or maybe not.”
“We all know these services are here to stay. We can’t turn the clock back. I’ve used Uber in other cities. The service was fast and efficient, no cash involved and half the price of a taxi. Let’s face it, all the young people want these choices,” I said.
“As Vaughn Palmer from the Sunsuccinctly put it: ”They are stalling and excuse-making, all in the name of a BC made solution to a problem that has already been solved pretty much everywhere else,” Camp quoted.
Vicky brought us another round and she must have overheard our conversation. “Why are our governments constantly telling us what we can and cannot have as if we were little kids who don’t know how to cross the street. We need Uber as much as we need universal daycare and cheaper university education.”
“Hear, hear,” Camp said, “the only way you will get these changes is to vote. Out with the old, in with the new.”
“Well, I voted for you,” Vicky said with a wink in my direction. “And you’re pretty old but still young at heart.”
“I drink to that,” I toasted my oldfriend Campbell.