Before the pandemic, half of Canadians were already struggling from paycheque to paycheque with little left over for savings, and household debt was at a record high. Few had enough set aside to pay the rent or put food on the table for even a short period of time. This situation wasn’t caused by COVID-19; it reflects changes that have been ongoing for decades. More than a third of the workforce was working in precarious employment — on contract, in temporary jobs, self-employed or working part-time when they would have preferred full-time work.

The economic shutdown that happened in March of this year revealed the inequality and economic insecurity people were already living with, and it has forced us to acknowledge the limitations of our existing social safety net. People displaced from their usual employment turned to employment insurance and learned that fewer than 40 per cent of them qualified for any support. Those who did qualify received payments too little even to pay the rent.