New Brunswick Green Party MLA Megan Mitton says although the COVID-19 pandemic has created new problems, it has exposed some that already exist.
“Now more than ever there is a need to de-couple labour from income and ensure that everyone’s basic needs are met through a Guaranteed Liveable Income,” Mitton, who represents the provincial riding of Memramcook-Tantramar, said Tuesday night during a Green Party panel discussion on Facebook.
She pointed to the $2,000 per month that people, who have been forced to stop working because of COVID-19, are eligible to receive under the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
Mitton echoed a point that provincial Green Party leader David Coon made earlier about the $537 per month that single welfare recipients receive in New Brunswick.
“CERB has been essentially establishing new benchmarks for what minimum incomes could be,” she said. “So, $2,000 a month is needed, I guess, to support someone — that’s what the government is essentially saying as a minimum stopgap — and yet people have been expected to live on much, much less.”
Mitton added that aside from the $537 monthly income that single welfare recipients get, other New Brunswick workers have also been earning much less than the $2,000 federal benchmark.
On April 1, the provincial minimum wage increased to $11.70 per hour, a rate that gives someone working a 40-hour week a weekly income of $468.
‘Corporate tax dodgers’
“While these gaps and cracks in our society are being exposed,” Mitton said, “we have corporations and the extremely wealthy who are actually in some cases profiting from the pandemic, and we have corporations who are registered in tax havens and they’re going to be able to access bailout money here in Canada.”
She added that the federal government should follow other countries in not allowing such corporations to receive emergency funds.
“These companies have actively been avoiding paying taxes in our country and contributing to the public good and our public services,” Mitton said. “We need to, at this moment, ensure that progressive ideas and that investments in public services and liveable income and wages are the policies that are solidified and we need to hold corporations accountable.”
Mitton said that after the pandemic, the province needs to resist neo-liberal policies that emphasize deregulation and privatization as outlined in Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
“We need to ensure the opposite of that happens,” Mitton added. “We need to make sure we are taking care of people and that we stop letting tax dodgers off the hook.”
Mitton did not mention the Irving family by name, but according to Financial Post columnist Diane Francis, K.C. Irving pioneered corporate tax avoidance in 1972 when he moved to Bermuda.
“Since then a large chunk of an entire Canadian province has been owned by a series of trusts worth billions of dollars that don’t pay Canadian taxes,” Francis wrote in 2016.
Bruce Wark worked in broadcasting and journalism education for more than 35 years. He was at CBC Radio for nearly 20 years as senior editor of network programs such as The World at Six and World Report. He currently writes for The New Wark Times where this story first appeared.