Canada’s smallest province might just be the first to go BIG – and Hugh Segal couldn’t be happier.
After all party leaders in Prince Edward Island endorsed a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) program recently as a poverty reduction strategy, there is optimism that the long-sought-after program might just become a reality.
“I am delighted to hear this news,” Segal, the Conservative standard bearer on this issue for years, tells Leaders and Legacies, “to see fruit on the vine for this issue in Prince Edward Island.”
It was during the Leaders’ Forum on Women’s Issues in mid-April when each one of the major party leaders endorsed the policy to combat poverty. With PEI in the middle of an election now, the implementation of a pilot project or a full model program could come after the May 4th election.
Segal, a retired senator who once served as chief of staff to both Conservative Premier Bill Davis and Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, says he was aware PEI has been giving this serous thought for many years
“I’ve always been of the view that, like most important changes in Canada, it would begin in a province” because a province “has the tools to manage and assess this kind of thing more directly.”
“Like Medicare, it just seems to be the way this country works.”
This is great news for sure. However, I immediately thought of how many people were potentially going to flock to PEI to get on this program… that is what made me write this reply… to let those who may be thinking this is the thing to do know that you may want to think twice.
I lived temporarily in PEI and it was beautiful, however there was a bit of a disturbing side to their financial assistance procedures. After I lost my job at Walmart while in PEI I applied for financial assistance (welfare) and was told I would not be getting any. I was shocked to hear this and while maintaining a professional and calm demeanor I told the worker I was not going to leave until I have a review. I stayed seated at my chair across from his desk. He said he would call security to remove me. Nothing happened for about twenty minutes. (Maybe no security?) Then after some phone calls he informed me that they would make me a deal.
They offered instead of giving me welfare, they would give me money to buy a ticket back to Ontario. Feeling my hands were tied, I accepted. I know better now and would not tolerate such a thing today however, I am just writing to let anyone know that there is a bit of (at least there was) a culture that if you are not from the Island (you are known as “from away”) you are not always going to get the service you expect. Unless things have changed there, I don’t think it would be a good idea to flock to PEI just to get on the BIG just yet!
They may filter who can receive it as part of a pilot project… as in only residents who have lived there for the previous 12 months at least etc.