North 99 Newsletter for July 4

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News This Week.

As the economy opens up, what’s next for Covid-19? Ontario is currently in Phase 2 of reopening, and with cases consistently dropping, Phase 3 isn’t far away. Reopening the economy, though, won’t immediately bring all the jobs back: About 12,00,000 people in Ontario have lost jobs, and unemployment across Canada is at 13.6%. So what’s the plan to rebuild the economy, beyond reopening? We look at what may be on the horizon.

Toronto city council votes in favour of police reform, but against budget cuts. City Council voted on ways to reform the police after calls from the public to defund the police continue to grow. Although the motion to reduce the budget by 10% failed, motions for body cameras and creation of non-police led responses to mental-health related calls without any weapons or violence were passed.

Hazard pay for frontline workers gets cut even as the pandemic continues

At the onset of the pandemic, grocery store workers were deemed essential workers. In order to protect their reputation, Loblaws, Metro and Sobey’s topped up the wages of their employers with a $2 pandemic or hazard pay. But now stores have cut pandemic pay, even though the threat of Covid-19 continues.

Ontario government failing to protect migrant farm workers. Even though hundreds of migrant workers have tested positive for Covid-19 in Southern Ontario, initially asymptomatic farmworkers were allowed to continue working. However, seeing an uptick in cases, Premier Doug Ford revealed a three-point ‘action plan’, which includes mobile testing units on farms, benefits for quarantined workers and new rules for asymptomatic workers. It remains to be seen if these measures can contain new outbreaks.

Majority of Canadians think gig workers should be able to unionize. More than half of Canadian people at 52% think that gig workers should be able to unionize and access benefits. This number, however, rises to 70% among gig workers. 60% of Canadians also agree that companies like Uber should also provide sick leave, medical insurance and retirement plans.

Jason Kenney faces criticism over Alberta’s Covid-19 Recovery Plan. Alberta’s Premier Kenney’s plan to help the province’s economy recover from coronavirus includes cutting corporate taxes to attract new businesses, and creating 50,000 jobs. But, Kenney cut corporate tax when he joined office in 2019 and Alberta actually lost jobs, so why is he reverting to the same old failed policies? Even Conservatives are criticizing the move.

 

Opinions

We can’t rely on the goodwill of employers to fight Covid-19. Coronavirus cases in Toronto and Montreal may be consistently dropping, and provincial economies are slowly reopening, but the threat of the virus is nowhere near over. In fact, farms outside Ontario and meat-packing factories that often employ migrant and racialized workers are seeing a rise in cases.

The CERB has changed my life. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit has helped protect millions of Canadians from financial ruin during the pandemic. One CERB recipient writes on how the benefit has changed his life, and argues it should be transformed into a permanent universal income program.

Covid-19 has demolished a central myth of capitalism. Even before the pandemic struck, economic inequalities between the richest 1% and the average worker were becoming increasingly apparent. But Covid-19 made it evident that neoliberal structures are working for very few people, forcing us to review the treatment of workers.

Policy Corner

Nationalise the pharmaceutical industry

More than half of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque, making us increasingly vulnerable to falling in a debt trap in case of a serious illness. Nationalizing the pharmaceutical industry will be one step towards ensuring all Canadians have access to medicine as a human right. Canadian taxpayers’ money goes towards funding medical research, then why do a private group of players get ownership over the treatments?

Reform employment equity legislation for racial justice

Black people in North America are more likely to be violently treated or killed by cops. Similarly, Black people are twice as likely to be low-income as non-racialized Canadians. In order for true racial justice, we need to revisit the barriers to employment by creating legislative benchmarks for the hiring and promotion of Black employees.

Putting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to use

Canada has a fraught relationship with its Indigenous peoples that needs to be reconciled in a way that truly transforms their lives. The UN’s framework on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, which recognizes their human rights as well as their right to self-determination, may be a relevant document to start implementing.