TORONTO, ON – Canada’s new federal budget, unveiled on April 19, contains much good news for working families but one very large concern for entertainment workers. Federal Budget 2021, announced by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, had a focus is getting the country through the remainder of the pandemic while stimulating the economy. There are a number of positives, but there is one very large concern for the IATSE, particularly around live entertainment workers. The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) was set to expire in June and has been extended to September, with the final eight weeks of the benefit reduced from $500/wk to $300/wk.
IATSE International Vice President John Lewis, the IATSE’s Director of Canadian Affairs, stated, “The federal government has made some positive steps forward in Federal Budget 2021, but the IATSE has very real concerns around the reduction and termination of the Canada Recovery Benefit. This benefit has been the only thing keeping many live entertainment workers afloat. Reducing the benefit would be challenging enough for entertainment workers, but we believe that terminating it altogether will be devastating. Expecting that by September live entertainment will be fully back – with packed theatres and events – is quite frankly, unrealistic.”
While the unveiling of a $15 minimum wage for federally-regulated private sector jobs is welcome, there was no announcement of a Universal Basic Income. The budget did contain good news for women. Studies have shown that women have carried the heaviest burden in this pandemic, with one of the largest reasons being affordable childcare. The government has allocated $30 billion over five years towards a national childcare program, with $8.3 billion each year after that. The program will be modelled after Quebec’s system, and aims to bring childcare fees down to an average of $10/day by 2026.
Funding was announced for venues and festivals, including $300 million over two years for a Recovery Fund for the arts & culture and sports sectors, and $200 million in support for major festivals, but there was no clarity how any funding will trickle down to workers. Vice President Lewis added, “The IATSE has lobbied government throughout this entire pandemic to ensure that our members are able to put food on the table. We will continue to fight hard to try and ensure that our members – and all entertainment workers – are not left behind. This will also include participating in any future consultations on EI reform to help address the gaps for self-employed and gig workers.”