The Communist Party of Canada is warning that the federal government’s 75% wage subsidy to business is more likely to add to the profits of the biggest corporations than to help stabilize workers’ wages and living standards.
“There are no guarantees that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) funds will be transferred in full to workers,” read the Party’s April 2 statement, “as the Prime Minister has stated that the government is working with corporations on the basis of ‘trust.’ That’s an open door for massive giveaways to big business.”
In its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the government has consistently and deliberately framed its emergency measures in a manner that places corporate profit and stability ahead of people’s needs. It has also avoided any reforms to current health and social programs or the Employment Insurance system, which the pandemic has clearly revealed as inadequate and insufficient.
In contrast to the government’s timid, temporary and pro-corporate measures, the Communist Party is demanding aggressive emergency measures that are part of ongoing comprehensive reforms which reflect working people’s needs.
“The government should do the right thing and fund all workers directly by expanding EI to cover 90% of previous earnings, for the full duration of unemployment. The government should also double the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and extend its life until a Guaranteed Annual Livable Income can be rolled out across the country.”
The Party is further calling for workers already laid off to be guaranteed the right to recall, stating that corporations “must not be allowed to use the pandemic as an excuse to slash jobs and undermine collective agreements.”
Corporate executives and their allies in government argue that business needs massive public bailouts in order to survive the economic recession triggered by the pandemic. Some have even argued for a triage system which prioritizes those businesses that are “too big to fail.”
The experience of the 2008-09 financial meltdown suggests that these claims and demands by large capitalists are unfounded and completely opportunistic. Data from Statistics Canada indicate that within 15 months of that collapse, corporate profit in Canada had recovered and passed pre-crisis levels. In 2018, just ten years after the meltdown, quarterly corporate profit reached historic highs that were nearly 100% over what it was before the collapse. Over that same ten-year period, average hourly wages increased by only 8% when adjusted for inflation.
Clearly, large corporations have sufficient profits and capitalization to carry them through this crisis. The Communist Party argues that “the government should require them to keep their employees on staff, and to pay sick pay and quarantine benefits at 100% of earnings while they are at home during the pandemic.”
The statement contrasts big business to small business, arguing that aid to the latter “is a different matter and should include immediate and long-term measures including direct subsidies, a freeze on taxes and rents, as well as measures to expand credit using the Bank of Canada. The government must strictly enforce a policy of no evictions and no foreclosures. Small business owners, farmers, fishers, and other self-employed and single-proprietor businesses should also be able to access EI and the CERB to get them through the pandemic.”
The crisis has also exposed the weaknesses – and dangers – of cutbacks and privatization within the health care and health industry sectors. The inability to provide healthcare and other frontline workers with the supplies and equipment they urgently need, to keep them safe and to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, is directly connected with both underfunding of public health and profiteering by private corporations.
The Communist Party insists that healthcare is an essential service and a human right, not a commodity, and demands government policies that reflect this. “Emergency action should include a public take-over and expansion of operations producing medical supplies and equipment, and heavy penalties including jail time against theft or profiteering on the production and sale of medical supplies and equipment. The pharmaceutical companies, long-term care corporations, producers of medical equipment and supplies, and others that are vital to public health and an economic recovery benefiting the public, should be put under public ownership and democratic control.”
The Party is also demanding that public health services be expanded to include workers employed to take touchless temperatures at public venues like grocery stores, drug stores, public transit hubs and other places where people must necessarily continue to gather throughout the pandemic. This kind of action was taken in China, with mass public screening for virus symptoms, and proved effective for containing the pandemic and saving lives.
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