A new poll shows that nearly half of Canadians can’t afford to miss work and have no benefits on which to rely.
Provincial governments in Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta extends the number of sick leave days people can use in a year in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus.
The additional sick leave, however, is unpaid. In a poll by Postmedia Inc, 47 percent of respondents say that cannot afford to miss work as they have zero benefits or savings to fall back on.
“The income level of these people is simply not going to be there, so the question is how can governments respond to it,” said pollster John Wright.
The Canadian federal government announced last week a “first phase” of an aid package that included a $27 billion stimulus package and $55 billion in tax deferrals for individuals and businesses as the crisis worsened.
“Even with these supports, Canadian households are likely to face cash flow issues,” RBC Economics analysts wrote in a note this week.
About 23 percent of workers across the country are fearful of losing their jobs. Another 35 percent believe the government and their employer are “ignoring their needs during this time,” according to the DART & Maru/Blue poll.
By the end of last week, Statistics Canada demonstrated that more than 500,000 Canadians had applied for employment insurance benefits. That broke the previous record set all the way back in 1957 for jobless claims.
753 adults, all of whom are a part of DART & Maru/Blue’s panel, took part in the poll, which is considered accurate within 4.1 percentage point. It demonstrated that Ontarians are most likely to be concerned about losing their jobs, with 28 percent of respondents in the province showing concern.
The reality of the job losses “is about to set in,” according to Wright. The pressure will continue to mount on governments to provide answers.
“People are now going to start evaluating what this all means to them personally,” he said.
Dart & Maru/Blue asked 1,514 members across the country about their confidence in health and political leaders across the country.
It’s likely Canada’s neighbors to the south face the same conundrum. According to Wendy Mariner, Edward R. Utley professor of health law at Boston University School of Public Health, a few lost days of wages could mean people can’t afford food or pay rent.
“People don’t necessarily have the resources to be able to comply with health recommendations, even when they want to,” she said. “We’ll face this every few years as long as there are new viruses.”