Time to adjust the CERB - The Orca

Time to adjust the CERB

Jody w Glasses 1

Jody Vance: The relief benefit was the right tool for the right moment. But when it’s keeping people from rejoining the workforce, it’s time to tweak it, and encourage more economic activity.

It’s time to find some middle on the Canadian Employee Relief Benefit.

When the federal government introduced it, things got very real. Canadians quickly came to realize the severity of what was before us. Never had there been such a seemingly immediate switch flip to a basic income for all announced.

Billions spent. In a snap.

With daily global announcements from the World Health Organization ramping up tension — we were all sent home. Off to self isolate and “worry about work later”.

Before COVID-19 came to Canada, we watched as it overwhelmed Wuhan, with whistleblowing doctors begging for help online. It then shifted to Europe, and we watched Italy close — the country, in a day, closed.

That was all shocking and real, but at that time, happening to someone else, somewhere else.

When Justin Trudeau stepped in front of Rideau Cottage to announce EVERY Canadian could collect the CERB, suddenly it was very much happening to us.

Fast forward three months, through isolation, social-then-physical distancing, hand washing, staying home if sick, and now the learning curve of masks — here in BC we are finding true success in keeping COVID-19 at bay.

We wondered how we might survive while assuring one another we’d get through this together. Now, this holding pattern of new reality is starting to set in.

If we keep following health measures, we can hold the line on COVID until there is a treatment or vaccine.

Life could be like this for years.

With all this in mind, we must evolve the CERB or see it become a relief plan that actually kills any chance at economic recovery.

No, my middle is not about slamming the CERB, or anyone who truly needs it – au contraire.

My middle says let it grow. Let people earn on top of it. Don’t tie the relief to living at the poverty line.

With literally millions of Canadians rightfully collecting it, we must ask leaders to see this relief evolve to actually help rebuild.

How many people do you know, right now, who are not working because they’d lose the CERB? Me too. The answer is: LOTS.

Why do we have a basic income in a pandemic tied to NOT working? Scared citizens recognize serious trouble if they work and make too much money while collecting the CERB.

It should come as no surprise that the relief benefit restricts the ability to rebuild; it was explicitly built to make people stay home.

It was the right tool for the right moment in time – but now, we should adjust the CERB in order to rebuild the economy.

Rather than being punished for earning on top of CERB, it should be an opportunity. Spending and supporting local businesses could come with income tax breaks. We need to get creative about inspiring people to get back into the economy, both working and spending.

Would it be so crazy to reward those working for money? Isn’t a tax break better than a penalty for earning more than the poverty rate?

I’m no expert, but I do know service industry workers, care-givers, child care providers, etc, who simply do not “do their jobs” in the name of collecting their relief cheque. They will take the certain dollars over risky business.

We’ve seen our federal government pivot to fix supports for small businesses, adjust to help independent contractors and sole proprietors – so why not one more audible to help the worker-bee? In the long run, tax collectors recoup more and the federal government spends the same – right?

What am I missing?

Perhaps I’m oversimplifying. But watching employers struggle to find people to work because the alternative is free money isn’t the outcome anyone had in mind.

It’s time to allow for wallet padding. Canadians have worked for Phase 3, and we need to be in it for the long haul. To keep moving, we need a chance to get back in our feet.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.


  • Last week, Jody Vance had a remarkable conversation with a remarkable man – former NHL star Georges Laraque – about racism.
  • UnSpun 77 saw George Affleck and Jody get into Canada’s relations with China, the NHL and BC squaring off, and the Vancouver School Board.
  • Mark Milke argues the most potent weapon against disaster is a healthy, thriving economy.