Extended EI sickness benefits needed
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This article was published 24/04/2021 (766 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Thousands of Canadians have gotten sick or died during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, we need a comprehensive EI sickness benefit to support Canadians who are unable to work.
For years, the NDP has been calling for an extension of the benefit from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. It is an idea whose time has come. In this Parliament, the House of Commons has twice called for this extension, but the Liberal government inexplicably continues to ignore this call to help sick Canadians.
The issue has become that much more pressing during the pandemic. There is still much to learn about the long-term impacts of contracting COVID-19.
Estimates range, but it is thought that between 10 and 30 per cent of those who contract the virus develop post-acute COVID-19 syndrome. These self-described COVID long-haulers experience troubling and wide-ranging symptoms that can persist long after their initial infections. So far, research has identified over 200 symptoms possibly related to long COVID, some far worse than what was experienced immediately after COVID infection.
Unfortunately, Canada has fallen behind many other countries who have set up specialized long-haul COVID clinics funded by the government.
As a result, COVID long-haulers are navigating a patchwork medical system with a condition that is little-understood. I believe that governments must support those on their journeys to recovery as much as possible. It’s critical that we support all Canadians through the pandemic and that we not let those who continue to struggle with a positive diagnosis fall through the cracks.
Relieving them of the financial burden created by being out of work due to post-acute COVID-19 syndrome would go a long way in achieving this. It would also help people with other illnesses whose medical treatment has been delayed by the pandemic and have used their 15 weeks of EI sickness benefits.
Many Canadians have been struggling to stay afloat financially this past year. They need a government that will help them through their illness, not one that only helps them at the beginning.
I have tried to push this issue on to the government agenda by introducing a Private Member’s Bill and by trying to amend pandemic Employment Insurance legislation, but so far to no avail. The government’s opposition to this important change has so far prevailed.
The NDP is committed to fighting for Canadians who are struggling. We will continue to press for an increase in the sickness benefits of the Employment Insurance system and for the extension of regular sick leave to workers who presently do not have this benefit through their employers.
It is vital to make sure sick Canadians do not escape the pandemic into poverty.
Elmwood-Transcona constituency report
Daniel Blaikie is the NDP MP for Elmwood-Transcona.