Paid sick leave isn’t urgent because its a contest to see who can deliver it first, its urgent because its necessary and right.

There seems to be a rush to claim credit for a program nobody can figure out how its paid for or who’s jurisdiction it is. If you came to me for that answer, sorry, I don’t have it. But what I do have is an idea that might work – if politicians are ready to put aside partisan differences and work across jurisdictional boundaries.

Healthcare is a shared jurisdiction. Labour laws are provincial (in industries that are provincially regulated). Unemployment benefits are federal. Surely there’s enough room to slap together something that can the provinces can deliver that the federal government can pay for. It needs to be a national program though; and spare me the provincial rights lecture. It needs to be federal because at that level, it has national implications that no matter where you live, you can take a day off, sick, and not worry so much about paying rent or groceries. More to the point, the pressure to come to work – risking the health of your co-workers, eases off. The current discourse today is centered around the covid19 pandemic, but this is not the only reason to talk about it.

Yes, there is medical EI – those who lose their work for extended time and apply for EI benefits. But there’s no program for those who lose a day’s pay for a rotten cold, or a flu which wouldn’t ordinarily trigger medical EI. That’s where paid sick leave comes in.

BC has done more and accommodated more than any provincial jurisdiction in Canada; and they’re being torn apart for not making any allowance for paid sick leave. Maybe that’s a bridge too far, financially. BC doesn’t have its own currency and cannot print cash – MMT isn’t possible for a subordinate jurisdiction like a province or an American state. The potential costs for such a program would be pricey, but thankfully the EI fund runs at a surplus – when the federal govt isn’t raiding its funds.

EI is how we pay for it, provincial workers compensation departments are how its distributed so that front line workers in any location never have to worry about going broke because they’re sick.

All that’s left is the political will to get it done.

We’re waiting.

my2bits

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