President Finlay COVID-19 Update – December 2021

Dear Members,

This will be the last COVID-19 update I will pen, since my term as President of our Local ends on December 31/21.

Based on the heartfelt and positive member feedback I have gratefully received since the launch of the “update emails”¬† in March 2020, it would seem that many of you appreciated these regular communications, and that truly makes all the work well worth it!

Federal Support Programs

I have some updates on Bill C-2, an Act to provide further support in Response to COVID-19, which has passed second reading. Last Thursday the Finance Committee had a chance to question Finance Minister Christia Freeland about the Bill and the Committee now has a deadline of midnight tomorrow to finish their review and send it back to the House of Commons for the third reading.

Since this sitting of Parliament ends on December 17/21, the pressure is really on to get this bill pushed through; should that fail none of the new support programs and existing program extensions that have been proposed would take effect.

When the House resumed sitting on November 22, the Speaker of the House outlined the Liberal government’s priorities for the upcoming session (as is normal procedure). I was particularly heartened to hear that the Liberals “…are also committed to our election promise to provide support for arts workers and technicians.” Minister Freeland stated recently that Canada’s labour market is 100% recovered, and yet musicians¬† and other performing artists are well aware that work has not returned to pre-COVID levels for many of us. I was pleasantly surprised to know that our still dire (in some cases) circumstances are being acknowledged at least. Freeland was also quoted as saying that proposed programs in Bill C-2 will support workers in the cultural sector and also self-employed workers.

Until Bill C-2 is passed, there is really no way to know what the programs will end up looking like, nor what eligibility rules will be put in place. So all we can do is keep an eye on the proceedings until the end of the upcoming week, when the House session ends for Christmas break.

Here’s a really important fact: The CFM is lobbying vigorously on our behalf. When the CRB program ended in late October, the CFM head office worked together with other members of the Coalition of Canadian Entertainment Unions to immediately deliver a letter to the Finance Minister outlining their concerns as they related to artists and technicians. The letter can be found here (EN) or ici (FR).

Suffice to say, it certainly appears that the Coalition’s concerns have been heard. Now we have to wait and see how that will play out.

CERB Repayment

You may have been hearing about a potential $2000 CERB repayment and if so, may have felt some concern. This topic should ONLY concern you if you received a $2000 advance through Service Canada (not the CRA) when you became eligible to collect CERB. This advance was recouped at a later point in the CERB program when $2000 in benefits was not paid out over two periods. The people affected by this potential situation would be those who had left the CERB program before the $2000 payment suspension/recoupment took place.

So this applies in a very specific circumstance and you can read more about it here (EN) or ici (FR).

GIS Clawback

In Canada, some senior citizens may be eligible to collect the GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) to augment their income should it be below a certain threshold. GIS is a “means tested” benefit based on earnings in the prior tax year, and the more one earns, the less GIS one may be eligible for.

Some seniors were able to collect CERB/CRB if their previous employment income was sufficient to qualify for it. However, many are now discovering that the CERB/CRB income they received has increased their income level to the point that their GIS benefit has been reduced accordingly (“clawed back”). The Liberal Government says this is a complex problem that requires a fair solution that does not treat those who worked and are having their GIS clawed back in the same manner that those who collected CERB/CRB and did not work.

What a headache! If this is your situation I suggest that you watch for news on this.

Local 190 Update

In order to ensure COVID protocols are followed, office visits continue to be by appointment only. In addition, Executive Board and Board Committee meetings continue to be held virtually. General meetings have been held online as well.

Please watch for an upcoming newsletter letting you know about the results of the presidential election and other important matters.

Resources

  • Rather than revisit the numerous resources I listed in past COVID-19 Update emails, I would encourage you to visit the President’s Blog on the MPM website where many of these emails can now be accessed.
  • Your very best bet for financial help (I’ve mentioned the $1000 emergency grant several times) and all kinds of other resources, including mental health counselling, is to visit the Unison Benevolent website (EN) or its French version. It is free, it is for music professionals and it is there to be used!
  • The latest COVID-19 Guidelines for Singers and Instrumentalists has been posted on the Government of Manitoba website. You can access the pdf here.
  • Presently the Manitoba Government website is offering suggestions for caring for your mental health (and the mental health of others) but it does not appear that the virtual mental health counselling option is continuing. You can check out the page here (EN) or ici (FR).
  • Please celebrate the season safely! You can find the Manitoba Government’s guidelines here (EN) or ici (FR)

I wish you robust health and a busy gig calendar long into your future!

In solidarity,

Janice Finlay, President