Well, it's the morning after. Like a great many Canadians, I spent yesterday with my mind restless and my gaze set firmly on voting in the U.S. This election has been a source of great hope and grave concern over the past few months. We’ve seen some of the worst incendiary hate-filled politics in a generation. But, we have also seen a massive upswell of progressive movements and ideas that have taken the country by storm. Racial justice, climate justice, closing the wealth and income gap aren’t just concepts. They now come with specific, well-documented and widely supported policy solutions that are taking centre stage in the political and popular discourse, both inside and outside of the U.S.
Since March, governments across Canada have worked to deliver supports to Canadians whose income or employment has been impacted by COVID-19. The federal government has primarily been responsible for providing income and financial support to workers, except for provincial/territorial social assistance programs and varying student and caregiving support. As parts of Canada begin to enter into a second wave, income supports remain an important part of Canada’s COVID-19 response to maintain the public’s health and safety.
The federal government recently decided to end the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and create two new benefits for those continuing to incur employment losses. Additionally, the government created a new paid sick leave program for workers who don’t have access to paid sick days through their employer.
These new benefits are a direct result of pressure from opposition parties and advocacy campaigns over the last seven months that called on the federal government to provide adequate financial support to workers, particularly to vulnerable and low-income groups.
Here is an updated list of federal financial supports available to workers:
Employment Insurance program (EI) Those who were formerly on CERB may qualify for this benefit. This benefit is available for those who lost their job or are temporarily unable to work due to sickness or caregiving duties and have also accumulated 120 insurable hours in the past year. This benefit is not available to those who have quit or lost their job due to a fault of their own.
Canada Recovery Benefit Those who were formerly on CERB may qualify for this benefit. Provides $500 a week for up to 26 weeks for workers who have stopped working who had their income reduced due to COVID-19 and who aren’t eligible for Employment Insurance.
Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (paid sick days program) A $500 a week benefit for workers who are unable to work because they have contracted COVID-19, self-isolating for reasons related to COVID, or have underlying conditions or undergoing treatments that make you susceptible to COVID-19.
Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit A $500 a week benefit workers who have to care for a child or family member or who have a high risk of serious health implications due to COVID-19.
COVID-19 financial supports extend beyond providing direct and/or temporary financial relief. Public programs like national pharmacare and child care are needed to ensure access isn’t determined by ability to pay for these increasingly high cost necessities. Additionally, provinces must do their part to ensure social assistance and provincial worker programs and employment legislation are updated to reflect the conditions of precarious and gig workers. From raising wages to providing permanent paid sick leave, here is a list of some of the advocacy organizations calling on governments to act:
The unprecedented scale of job instability loss during the pandemic has reignited interest in providing Canadians with a basic income. Proposals range widely from a universal benefit to one offered to people in particular economic circumstances. The objective and cost of these programs, and how they fit in our overall social safety net, also vary greatly. And it's the details that matter.
This webpage is a compilation of Broadbent Institute published materials on the topic of basic income that seeks to offer insights and important considerations for advocates and policy-makers exploring this timely idea.
Report authors Angella MacEwen, Mark Rowlinson, Andrew Jackson, and Katrina Miller seek to clarify the problem that a basic income might solve, and outline principles to guide the development of social policy post-CERB, and in response to the COVID-19 shutdown and subsequent job losses, from a social-democratic perspective.
Andrew Jackson discusses why incremental reform towards an income-tested guarantee for working-age Canadians delivered through the tax system will be the best path forward as opposed to more visionary “big bang” solutions such as basic income.
This blog argues from a health perspective why advocacy efforts to address poverty and persistently low wages should be focused on achieving universal services for all, rather than universal basic income. This is done by increasing spending on public programs that improve health, assist children and seniors, and protect us from poverty and unemployment, in order to bolster the building blocks for a strong society.
As part of the Broadbent Institute’s 2020 Digital Convening Series, the Institute hosted a pressing conversation on the highly debated topic of universal basic income. The webinar featured prominent progressive thinkers, Simon Black and Armine Yalnizyan, to get their thoughts and expertise on whether basic income is the policy solution progressives should be advocating for.
Atkinson Fellow on the Future of Work, Armine Yalnizyan, explains why basic income isn’t a progressive policy solution to addressing poverty, wages and unemployment, but rather our collective efforts should remain fighting for decent work.