Yesterday the Government of Canada announced their COVID-19 economic response plan. For those who will qualify, this includes Emergency Care Benefit, Universal EI sickness benefits for COVID-19, ten percent wage supplement for small business owners, deferred student student loan payments for six months, GST credit increase, and a boost in Canada Child Benefits. I commend the Federal Government for providing some much needed relief for residents and I am grateful that this first round of emergency funding was announced so quickly as it helps to alleviate some fears.
We must acknowledge that time is of the essence. I have been hearing daily from residents who are concerned that their inability to work will pose an extreme financial burden, impacting their ability to pay rent or the mortgage and provide basic provisions for their families. I know the federal announcement does not cover everyone, nor does it go far or fast enough for the many who have seen their incomes decimated overnight. I am equally concerned that the proposed economic supports don't reflect the true cost of living, especially in Toronto, Canada’s most expensive city, and that the much needed funds won't arrive in time for many residents.
I am grateful to hear the Minister of Finance say unequivocally that no options are off the table. I understand that yesterday’s announcement was just the beginning in terms of support for all Canadians, but especially those at most risk. Much more will need to be done to ensure that the gaps in the safety net are closed to prevent others from falling further behind. This is the work still ahead of us.
Earlier this week, I compiled a list of financial and social supports which was considered at the Emergency Intergovernmental Tables convened to combat COVID-19. This call included freezing all renovictions and evictions, simplifying and fast tracking Employment Insurance, freezing commercial and residential rents and mortgage payments immediately, establishing a fund to pay for care work, and incorporating an intersectional gender-based analysis on all decisions, and more. I am happy to see that several recommendations were included in the Federal government’s announcement.
We know that one day COVID-19 will be behind us. We know that together with the global community we will rebuild what was lost and mourn those taken before their time. What pieces are left and how many we lose can be determined now and today by the actions of our governments.
COVID-19 has shown us that the structural deficits in our health, social and financial institutions are more flawed than assumed. Individuals who have been held back by their socio-economic status and living in the margins already knew this but now everyone without exception is exposed to the health and financial risks. This coronavirus is indiscriminate in its approach. Anyone and everyone can be affected. If we are to defeat this scourge, then we have to band together to overcome not just COVID-19 but also the financial devastation it will bring.
Now is the time to take bold and visionary action. It’s critical that we act fast to expand social and economic support for all. Together we can end poverty, cancel student debt and keep public education free for all. It’s time to make housing truly a human right and end homelessness. Every Canadian, as a right of citizenship can be given a Universal Basic Income. It will be the most direct way of putting essential funds directly into the hands of Canadians, especially now when they need it the most.
In this time of emergency and to ensure governments leave no one behind, we must invest in people first. This global epidemic guarantees that the weeks, months and years ahead will not look like the ones before. Let’s boldly reconstruct the most inclusive and strongest economy in our nation’s history. Another world has alway been possible and it’s always been up to us to choose.