The result of the election last October could have been much different. So too could the Canadian response to Covid-19. If the Conservatives or Liberals had won a majority, the response would have had a more corporate flavor to be sure.
Luckily for Canadians, they voted in a liberal minority government with the New Democratic Party (NDP) holding the balance of power. Anyone with a little bit of Canadian history knowledge can tell you that special things happen when a socialist party holds the balance of power. Universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, and Canada Student Loans, for starters.
Because of the election results, when it was clear that the Coronavirus was going to be spreading among Canadians, I was not as concerned as I otherwise would have been. In times of crisis, particularly when it involves the poor and working class, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has us up front.
The initial Canadian Response to Covid-19 was in the form of a $107 billion bailout bill. At the beginning of the crisis, Singh called for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) of $2000 a month. This was to ensure all Canadians could pay rent and buy food. The Liberal government adopted the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) instead which paid Canadians $500 a week. This became the main part of the bill.
A 75% wage subsidy for businesses was another NDP idea that made it in. It allowed small businesses and/or essential services to remain open, but more importantly, it allowed workers to keep working.
There was in fact four important NDP contributions to the omnibus bailout bill, but unfortunately, no one really noticed. The Canadian mainstream media never elaborated on who was responsible for the specifics behind the bill. Nevertheless, Jagmeet Singh was just getting started.
Singh was eventually able to convince Prime Minister Trudeau to allow students onto the CERB at $1200 a month. An important addition given the job prospects for students this summer is likely to be dismal at best.
It became clear early on that Canada’s elderly was at high risk of contracting and dying from Covid-19. Regrettably, we all found out the hard way. The seniors in our elder care homes we’re devastated by the pandemic. Jagmeet Singh meanwhile has been calling for the government to take control since the begining. It has since become clear as to why.
The Canadian Military, tasked with taking over the privately owned elder care facilities upon their failure, released a report in Ontario. The results of which made even conservative Premier Doug Ford contemplate integrating it into the public health care system. “horrific” and “gut-wrenching” should never be used to describe nursing homes. Profit can no longer be the main motivators behind elder care homes.
Jagmeet Singh also successfully pushed Trudeau to try and get the provinces on board with a ten-day paid sick leave program. “We will continue to push the government to deliver for all Canadians & to work with provinces to make paid sick leave permanent so that no one needs to make the impossible choice between going to work sick or paying their bills” he said.
Right now, Canada has just under 100,000 cases and 8,000 deaths. The outlook is looking more promising, but we have no idea where the eye of this healthcare/economic hurricane is. At the very least, I’m more confident in our government knowing where the real eye of leadership lies.
At the end of the day though, all the hard work Singh and the NDP are doing is helping Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. The governing party have gone up as much as ten points in the polls throughout the pandemic. As for Singh, his party has remained unchanged at 16%.