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Canadian artists, writers, performers call for national basic income

The request is detailed in an open letter

July 20, 2020  The Canadian Press

TORONTO — A group of Canadian artists, writers, technicians and performers is calling on Ottawa to guarantee a basic income for anyone in need.

Novellist and screenwriter Emma Donoghue, poet George Elliott Clarke and opera singer Adrianne Pieczonka are listed among those supporting a call to “provide financial security to meet people’s basic needs, regardless of their work status.”

The concept would involve the government making regular payments to citizens to meet their basic needs.

The request is detailed in an open letter written by visual artist Zainub Verjee, multidisciplinary artist Clayton Windatt and the campaign’s team leader, media artist Craig Berggold.

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Signatories include the Writers’ Union of Canada, Playwrights Guild of Canada, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the Canadian Federation of Musicians and the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association.

The letter says the COVID-19 pandemic has put millions of Canadians out of work, and has “deeply affected” those in the arts, culture, heritage, tourism, and creative industries.

It’s part of an ongoing campaign by the Ontario Basic Income Network to build support for a basic income, in partnership with Basic Income Network Canada and Coalition Canada.

Previous letters have focused on the impact of precarious income for women, small businesses, food security and health.

The latest push says many people in the arts-and-culture sector are subject to precarious short-term contracts, and many don’t receive benefits, paid sick leave, or employment insurance.

The group suggests a basic income guarantee that would build on existing programs, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.