Friday September 18, 2020 | NATIONAL
by Mary P Brooke, editor | Island Social Trends
Today NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said it doesn’t matter what continued emergency support for Canadians is called, but that it should continue to be available as a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic approaches.
Canadians who have relied on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) are worried that the Liberal government’s plan to shift people onto a multi-layered system of supports within the Employment Insurance program (with less for self-employed workers and others right from the outset) will leave many individuals and families falling between the cracks, especially those who don’t fit into the standard definition of employment.
“It is not my goal to tear down government, it is not my goal to force an election,” said Singh this morning during the Q&A of a live Zoom call, just hours ahead of his 11 am (EDT) meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
If the Liberal minority government’s Throne Speech on September 23 is not supported by the Opposition parties then an election would be called.
Looking at all options:
“Our goal is to fight for people, to deliver the help that people need. And to do that we are willing to look at all options. But we know with the coming second wave, with the help that Canadians need right now, our focus is on making sure that families, working people, small businesses, get the help they need,” said Singh, against a backdrop of the Parliament buildings in today’s Zoom call.
Prepared to fight an election, if social safety net fails:
“We know that the richest have made profits in this pandemic but everyday people have felt the pain. So we need to get help to them. But if the Liberal government continues to have a path where they’re more interested in helping themselves, they get caught up in scandals, and they’re not willing to do what’s necessary — the vision that we’ve put out, to help people — and they’re still more interested in helping themselves, then we’re prepared to fight an election,” the NDP leader said today.
The last federal election was barely only one year ago, in pre-COVID October 2019. “We should continue to fight to make Parliament work for people. There are certain supports that are simply not there. The social safety net is not there for people,” said Singh in response to a media question.
Working within the system, if it works:
“The federal government is in the best position to deliver a national safety net that provides support to Canadians,” the NDP leader continued. “And right now with the Liberal government ending CERB at the end of this month, there is no support in place to help Canadians who are going to be concerned with the second wave. So for those concerns of people, we need immediate support before we consider an election,” said Jagmeet Singh today.
Continuing the CERB, by whatever name:
“We need to put in place something immediate that can provide help to all Canadians,” Singh said today. “The current proposal that’s on the table from the Liberal government is changes to EI. If we can propose changes that are immediate — using existing programs that don’t have to wait — our goal is how to get help to people immediately, in the quickest way possible, we are options to all options,” he said, with reference to the urgency of the coming second wave of COVID-19.
“At the beginning of this pandemic we said CERB should be universal, it should go to everyone in need. We still believe there should be help in place for everyone who needs it,” says Singh.
It is quite clear that without NDP pressure on the Liberals, that CERB would not have been set at the $2,000 level which seemed to meet people’s basic requirements. It was also pressure from the NDP which saw an extension of CERB in June (and echoed in August for extension into September). The overall presence and stability of the CERB program would not have happened without NDP political pressure to ensure Canadians did not fall between the cracks.
It’s not about labels. “I’m not worried about the title of that support, what it’s called. I just want to see money in people’s pockets when they cannot work, when they’re forced not to work through no fault of their own. People need to have supports and that’s our goal. How do we get money into people’s pockets when they’re not able to work. For millions of Canadians their jobs are not there for them. They need help and we’re going to be there for fight for them.”
There is presently no national safety net that provides support for all Canadians who might face hardship, and no path for potential for austerity. “If there’s a path to supporting people, investing people. lifting people up, that’s what we’ll do, ” said the NDP leader who is willing to work within the system to produce results.
Path forward in COVID second wave:
Essentially the possibility of a fall federal election lies in the negotiating ability of NDP Jagmeet Singh in his meeting today with the prime minister, and of his party and their presence for Canadians following the Throne Speech next week.
The NDP-Liberal tango is where Canadians’ hopes lie for a more stable experience through the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic this fall. Many people will be challenged for employment, child care options, and maintaining family stability on top of the serious health concerns around COVID-19 infection and the social isolation required during quarantine.
“If there’s a way to continue to support families, workers, small businesses … if there is a way to get help to people I will explore all options that help people. But I will not walk down a path where there’s a suggestion of austerity or cutting the services that people need, cutting health care,” says Jagmeet Singh.
“If there’s any suggestion of cutting the help that people need, that’s not something that me or my party will support. But if there’s a path to supporting people, investing in people, lifting people up, that’s what we’ll do,” said Singh, wrapping up today’s Zoom call.