This is a moment of extreme danger and challenges for our planet. The pandemic remains a deadly threat, climate change has not been halted, imperialist wars continue to rage, and fascist forces are on the rise. Here in Canada, governments and bosses want workers to pay for the deepening economic crisis.
Seven million workers in Canada were unemployed last spring. Eight million people relied on CERB to survive and others scraped by on EI or social assistance. Savings are gone, people are drowning in debt just to put groceries on the table and keep the lights on. Tens of thousands aren’t able to pay their rent or mortgage and are facing eviction. More and more small and not-so-small businesses are going bankrupt or are swallowed by big corporations, whose profits increased by 30% this year.
And it’s not over.
Today 4.5 million people depend on CERB, during the worst economic crisis since the Dirty Thirties.
The Liberal plan to replace CERB with EI will exclude almost 75% of the unemployed who don’t qualify for EI under the current rules. Of those who do qualify, 80% will see their benefits reduced. Nearly 25% will receive just $100 to $200 per week, while 30% will receive an average of $312 per week – just over half of what they received with CERB. Only 16% of those who qualify for EI will receive more than $500 a week.
Women will be especially hard hit. Over 60% of women who are eligible to move from CERB to EI will see a drop in income. Of CERB recipients who are not eligible for EI, 57% are women.
More than 3 million people – 1.2 million of them women – will be without jobs or income at the end of September.
The Liberal plan for tiny extensions to EI is completely inadequate to the unemployment crisis workers are now facing. Real EI reform is essential.
Unemployment insurance was won by unemployed workers in BC during the 1930s. Fed up with the federal government’s slave labour ‘relief camps’, they launched the On-to-Ottawa Trek in 1935, demanding unemployment insurance and jobs.
Workers today need to take mass action to get the EI reforms so urgently needed now or face a life of subsistence on social assistance or as a precarious worker in the new jobless economy.
- EI must be non-contributory and cover all unemployed workers including first-time job-seekers
- EI benefits must continue for the full duration of unemployment
- EI benefits must be set at 90% of previous earnings
Raise Wages and Incomes
EI reform is urgent, but other help is needed to ensure that all working people can live in dignity and security.
- Substantially increase pensions, and drop the pension age to 60
- Raise the minimum wage to $20 across the country
- Introduce a Guaranteed Annual Livable Income to replace and increase subsistence level social assistance
Who Should Pay?
Liberal governments raided the Employment Insurance fund in the 1990s to provide huge corporate tax cuts and contribution holidays to employers. Now, fewer than 40% of workers who pay into the fund are eligible to collect benefits.
This is the result of corporate greed, aided and abetted by governments that delivered massive corporate tax cuts, cut the corporate tax rate, dispensed corporate bailouts, and allowed corporations and the rich to hide their wealth in tax havens.
Today corporations must pay up, and Parliament – under pressure from labour and the public – must make them do it.
- Increase wealth taxes, a capital tax, capital gains taxes, and inheritance taxes on the very rich, to provide the funds needed to increase and expand EI benefits.
- Nationalize the banks and insurance companies – the most profitable corporations in Canada.
- Get out of NATO and cut the bloated military budget by 75%, to redirect billions to civilian spending and jobs.
The real solution to unemployment is jobs – good jobs that generate higher wages and living standards, a stronger economy and more revenue for public services and social programs. Workers must press governments to adopt full employment policies.
- Expand public services and social programs – free universal childcare; Medicare that includes long-term care, pharmacare, dental, vision, and mental health care; postal banking.
- Enact a 32 hour work week for 40 hours pay.
- Reverse privatization and nationalize key sectors of the economy.
- Build 1 million units of social housing and rebuild aging municipal infrastructure and housing.
- Build publicly-owned renewable energy and affordable electric vehicle industries.
- Get out of the USMCA free trade deal and enact plant closure legislation with teeth.
Working People Won’t Pay for the Crisis
Big Business and their Conservative and Liberal allies want working people to pay for the $343 billion cost of the COVID crisis. They say CERB and EI benefits make people lazy. What they really mean is that the unemployed should be forced to work for minimum wage or less – driving wages everywhere down and corporate profits up. They want to bust unions and get rid of regulations that protect workers. They want to privatize social programs and services, and big cuts to corporate taxes.
Minority government provides a stronger chance at winning reforms to help the unemployed and the whole working class. But the labour and democratic movements will have to mobilize and pressure the NDP, Greens and Bloc Quebecois to demand the Liberals deliver these reforms. Without mass pressure, these parties will all continue their embrace of policies that benefit Big Business.
Communist Party and a People’s Recovery
Communists are actively engaged in the fight for a people’s recovery, for immediate action to provide stable incomes to the unemployed and to create good jobs and services for working people. To do this, we have to curb unbridled corporate power in Canada. We need fundamental change that puts people’s needs before corporate profits, that guarantees the rights of workers, women, Black and racialized people, 2S/LGBTiQ+ and youth, as well as the national rights of Indigenous people, Quebec and the Acadians.
The real alternative to corporate power is socialism – working class political power – where working people, not corporations, are in the driver’s seat. It’s gaining more and more support across Canada today.
Capitalism brings mass and permanent unemployment, impoverishment and misery, militarism and police violence at home, war and coups d’états abroad. It doesn’t have to be this way. United, working people can make the fundamental change we need.
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