Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday October 23, 2021
CRB, wage and rent subsidies will all end on Saturday as pared-down benefits take their place
The federal government will spend $7.4 billion on a revamped suite of targeted pandemic supports in the months after several major relief programs expire on Saturday.
As the Star first reported late Wednesday, the Canada Response Benefit (CRB) — which replaced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit last year — will wind down for good on Oct. 23.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Thursday morning that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) will also officially expire on the same day.
“Our economy is rebounding, and we are winning the fight against COVID. However, it’s also true that the recovery is uneven, and that the health measures that are saving lives continue to restrict some economic activity,” Freeland told reporters alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outside a children’s hospital in Ottawa.
“That is why today we are announcing what we very much hope and believe is the final pivot in delivering the support needed to ensure a robust recovery.”
From Oct. 24 until May 7, the new Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit will provide $300 a week to workers facing local lockdowns, including those who are not eligible for Employment Insurance. The benefit is intended to assure other levels of government that if they impose a temporary lockdown, those who may lose out on work will still be able to get help.
Anyone whose loss of income is due to their refusal to follow vaccination mandates will be excluded from accessing the aid.
On Thursday, the Conservatives declared that Trudeau “followed” Erin O’Toole’s fiscal plan by choosing to end the CRB.
“Yesterday, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said he would not support CRB benefits being extended past Nov. 20, citing skyrocketing inflation and ongoing labour shortages across the country,” Tory finance critic Ed Fast said in a statement Thursday.
But NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Trudeau was “cutting help for people” amid a fourth wave of COVID-19.
“He has the power to extend these benefits to the end of November, but has instead chosen to give the people depending on these benefits only a few days’ notice. It’s unacceptable,” Singh’s statement read.
Canadian Labour Congress president Bea Bruske told the Star that replacing the CRB with a support program keyed specifically to lockdowns freezes out a swath of struggling workers.
“There are workers who are not yet back to full employment and the discontinuation of the regular benefits is going to be challenging for many,” Bruske said. (KW Record)