A Public Letter on Guaranteed Basic Income

What follows is an open letter signed by 41 Anglican and ELCIC bishops to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance calling for a Guaranteed Basic Income.

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON KIA 0A2

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P.
Deputy Prime Minister
Privy Council Office
Room 1000
85 Sparks Street
Ottawa, ON KIA 0A3

The Honourable Bill Morneau, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Finance
90 Elgin Street, 17th Floor
Ottawa, ON KIA 0G5

May 3, 2020

Dear Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Morneau:

Subject: COVID-19 Pandemic – Guaranteed Basic Income

We write from across our country – from the tundra of the high Arctic, the out-ports of the Atlantic coast, from French and English speaking Canada, from urban to rural, the Prairies, the Rockies and coastal mountains and from the Pacific coast; we write as Indigenous people and as non-Indigenous. We write from across denominational traditions. As bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada we write, compelled by our shared faith convictions and moral obligation to care for the human condition of all.

Although we represent great diversity, we write to you because we are united, and morally bound in a singular message: Canada needs Guaranteed Basic Income for all. We need it today.

We applaud the government for the various pandemic-related programs it has launched, including CERB. These programs address vital needs. As you have seen in practice, each of these programs is based on specific inclusion and exclusion criteria, with the result that there are different entitlements for individuals in varying circumstances. Way-finding through this can be daunting and some are excluded from all programs. We aspire to share this goal: that no one should fall through the gaps, and that everyone should have straightforward access to equitable support.

There is a way to that goal: an alternative, affordable, just, evidence-based policy option called Guaranteed Basic Income. As Pope Francis wrote last week: “This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage”. We would extend and amplify the Pontiff’s remarks: “This IS the time.”

Canada has long-considered GBI as a possible way to address inequities – from Mincome in Manitoba, to recent efforts in Ontario. The Parliamentary Budget office has studied it. National and international evidence shows that it is affordable; the Canadian studies suggest it would cost no more than perhaps 1% of GDP.[1] Many scholars are confident that there would be beneficial returns in every aspect of our polity, from justice to health, from education to social welfare.

We recommend GBI, not just as an astute financial policy, but also because it marks our identity as a country who cares for one another; it is a policy that enshrines this value in law. GBI would be a new social contract, defining a new relationship amongst Canadians, through the mediating role of our government: we would be articulating a relationship where we would know, with enduring certainty, that some of our public spending would provide income for others. With GBI we state clearly and definitively that no one will be failed by the system so catastrophically that they cannot feed and house themselves and their families; that no one is left so alone and so far behind that they cannot find a path out of precarity.

We encourage you to see the enormous economic and social value that Guaranteed Basic Income provides: from savings in our health care and correctional systems, to a strengthened opportunity for individuals to access child care, transportation, food, refugee and immigration aid, housing, and particularly the self-determination and health for Indigenous people.

GBI represents a positive nation-building policy option for today and for tomorrow. It can become the great, transformational legacy, left by this government, which arises from this pandemic, paralleling the great social gains which arose during and after earlier conflicts: public health insurance and equal rights. Guaranteed Basic Income is the policy which we can bequeath to our children, to their children, to the future.

We strongly urge the government to immediately implement Guaranteed Basic Income for all people who live on this land – for our citizens, our refugees, even for the visitors who find themselves here during this pandemic, unable to work and unable to thrive.

We say again, from diverse places, with diverse voices and diverse convictions: Canada needs GBI for all. Now is the time to put it in place. Today, we say in unison: “Canada needs Guaranteed Basic Income for all. We need it today.”

Yours sincerely,

The Rt Reverend Geoffrey Woodcroft – Diocese of Rupert’s Land
The Rt Reverend Jane Alexander – Diocese of Edmonton
The Most Reverend Linda Nicholls – Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada
Reverend Susan C. Johnson – National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Reverend Jason Zinko – Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
The Most Reverend Anne Germond – Dioceses of Algoma and Moosonee
The Most Reverend Fred Hiltz – Diocese of Moosonee
The Rt Reverend Geoff Peddle – Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador
The Rt Reverend John Watton – Diocese of Central Newfoundland
The Rt Reverend John Organ – Diocese of Western Newfoundland
The Rt Reverend Bruce Myers – Diocese of Quebec
The Rt Reverend Mary Irwin-Gibson – Diocese of Montreal
The Rt Reverend Michael Oulton – Diocese of Ontario
The Rt Reverend Andrew Asbil – Diocese of Toronto
The Rt Reverend Peter Fenty (suffragan) – Diocese of Toronto
The Rt Reverend Riscylla Shaw (suffragan) – Diocese of Toronto
The Rt Reverend Jenny Andison (suffragan) – Diocese of Toronto
The Rt Reverend Kevin Robertson (suffragan) – Diocese of Toronto
The Rt Reverend Philip Poole (retired) – Diocese of Toronto
The Rt Reverend Nigel Shaw – Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Forces
The Rt Reverend Don Phillips (retired) – Rupert’s Land
The Most Reverend Mark MacDonald – National Indigenous Archbishop
The Rt Reverend Susan Bell – Diocese of Niagara
Bishop-Elect Shane Parker – Diocese of Ottawa
The Most Reverend Ron Cutler – Diocese of Nova Scotia / Prince Edward Island
The Rt Reverend David Edwards – Diocese of Fredericton
The Rt Reverend Todd Townshend – Diocese of Huron
The Rt Reverend David Parsons – Diocese of the Arctic
The Rt Reverend Joey Royal (suffragan) – Diocese of the Arctic
The Rt Reverend William Cliff – Diocese of Brandon
The Rt Reverend Lydia Mamakwa – Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh
The Rt Reverend Isaiah Beardy (suffragan) – Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh
The Rt Reverend Chris Harper – Diocese of Saskatoon
The Rt Reverend Robert Hardwick – Diocese of Qu’Appelle
The Rt Reverend Michael Hawkins – Diocese of Saskatchewan
The Rt Reverend Adam Halkett – Diocese of Saskatchewan Indigenous Bishop
The Most Reverend Greg Kerr-Wilson – Diocese of Calgary
The Rt Reverend Lesley Wheeler-Dame – Diocese of Yukon
The Rt Reverend David Lehmann – Diocese of Caledonia
Bishop-Elect Lincoln McKoen – Territory of the People
The Rt Reverend Logan McMenamie – Diocese of British Columbia
The Most Reverend Melissa Skelton – Diocese of New Westminster
The Rt Reverend Lynne McNaughton – Diocese of Kootenay
The Rt Reverend George Bruce (retired) – Diocese of Ontario
[1]    Canada. Parliament. Senate. Special Committee on Poverty. and Croll, Poverty in Canada; Report of the Special Senate Committee on Poverty.; Hum, Simpson, and Economic Council of Canada., Income Maintenance, Work Effort, and the Canadian Mincome Experiment; Forget, Basic Income for Canadians; “UBC Press | Bootstraps Need Boots – One Tory’s Lonely Fight to End Poverty in Canada, By Hugh Segal.”

Matthew 10:40-42


40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous, 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

John 15:12-17

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

John 21:15-19

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Luke 11:33-36

The Light of the Body

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel basket; rather, one puts it on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but if it is unhealthy, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. 36 But if your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”

Matthew 8:1-4

Jesus Cleanses a Man

8 When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him, and there was a man with a skin disease who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing. Be made clean!” Immediately his skin disease was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”