Community stories drive pandemic response
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/05/2020 (1117 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
COVID-19 has turned the world upside down in ways none of us could have imagined. It has changed everything; from the way we work to the way we get our food, our daily routines and so much more.
Throughout the crisis, I have been taking the stories and struggles that people in Elmwood–Transcona have shared into negotiations with government to get a crisis response that meets the needs of as many Canadians as possible.
As employment and workforce development critic, one of my roles is to advocate for a better employment insurance system. Fearing the EI system would be inadequate, we called for direct financial assistance to everyone while the government tinkered with the program. The government’s eventual answer was the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
My office was quickly flooded with calls and emails about the new CERB program. Too many people were falling through the cracks.
We heard about people working several part-time jobs who could not apply for CERB because they had not lost all their jobs and still had a bit of income.
People whose EI had run out were not qualifying but had no prospect of finding work. What were they to do?
Small business owners in Elmwood–Transcona were being excluded because of how “income” was defined, yet these are the very people we want opening up their shops and rehiring employees when it’s safe to do so.
These stories informed my approach to negotiations around emergency legislation. In that way, people in Elmwood–Transcona have had a big impact on people across the country experiencing similar challenges.
We were able to get the government to expand their definition of income, allowing CERB recipients to earn income without being cut off and extend the CERB to anyone whose EI runs out.
These are examples of the success we’ve had in broadening support programs, but I know that there are still too many people being left behind.
That is why, when I got to ask our party’s first question of the Prime Minister in a virtual parliament, I pressed him to offer direct financial support to seniors and people living with disabilities.
Driven by the stories of people here in the riding, I will continue pushing the government to do right by vulnerable people across the country and advocate for approaches that help people now and positions us to build a better normal for Canadians coming out of the crisis.
Elmwood-Transcona constituency report
Daniel Blaikie is the NDP MP for Elmwood-Transcona.