Feds yank rug out from under workers


CANADIAN WORKERS ARE YESTERDAY’S HEROES. Financial support from the federal government is gone. Workers, who were hailed as heroes during the dark days of the pandemic, have been abandoned to their fates. They can either go back to work at some shitty job, or try and eke out an existence on a paltry $300 a week with a less-than-certain “lockdown benefit”.

Wage and rent subsidies from the federal government ended on October 23, as well as the Canada Recovery Benefit.

The business community didn’t get the same treatment. It got a replacement in the form of targeted wage and rent support payments.

Workers got the vague promise of a new lockdown benefit with no clear timetable as to when it will happen and no certainty about how much it will be worth.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough emphasized that workers would only be eligible for the benefit under a “complete lockdown.” Anyone losing their job due to the tightening of public health restrictions short of a “complete lockdown” will get nothing

Provincial governments have uniformly vowed not to reimpose lockdowns no matter how high COVID-19 infections and deaths rise.

Workers lose, business wins—again

Labour advocates say the federal government is leaving workers behind in favour of businesses.

“I was horrified,” said Deena Ladd, executive director of the Workers’ Action Centre Ladd.

This latest move will force many to make tough choices about their housing and work options, said Ladd, potentially putting themselves and their families at risk.

Ladd said it feels like the government is pandering to the idea that the employment benefits were keeping workers at home.

“Businesses have received as much support to survive this pandemic, as workers have. But we don’t hear the same ... rhetoric about them,” said Jim Stanford, director of the Centre for Future Work and former economist at Unifor.

To date, the wage subsidy program has given out more than $95 billion to employers, roughly equal to the amount given out to workers by the CRB and CERB combined.

However, the total of all forms of financial support given to banks and big business during the pandemic adds up to $650 billion! This unprecedented bailout of Canada’s financial oligarchy made the super-rich even richer by $78 billion during the pandemic’s first year.

The sharp difference in the treatment of the rich and workers is reflected in the government’s latest subsidy announcement, said Stanford, where workers were cut off “cold turkey” while business sectors received ongoing targeted support.

Lockdown benefit too iffy

As for the lockdown benefit, Ladd said it remains to be seen what the criteria are, as Parliament won’t even resume to debate it until mid-November. She questioned why the government didn’t at least extend the CRB until then.

David Macdonald, senior economist for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), agreed it’s unclear whether the lockdown benefit will even be used.

Meanwhile, he estimates that around a third of businesses that were receiving the wage subsidy previously will be eligible for the new, more targeted programs.

And yet 880,000 CRB recipients have been left in the cold with the end of the CRB, says Macdonald. Contrary to popular belief, many of those recipients have been working, said Macdonald, with the CRB filling in the gaps.

“This is screwed up,” says Tracey Crosson, the administrator of a Facebook support group for people on income support.  “These people are slipping through the cracks.”

British Columbia resident Krystal B is one of those people. She’s applied for more than 200 jobs in two months, all the while waiting for her work to return.

She’s also dealing with the long-term health side effects of COVID-19, and taking care of her son, so her job options are limited. And she doesn’t qualify for the caregiving benefit because her son is over the age of 12.

“The government needs to do better,” she says.

- 30 -

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.