By Alexis J.
The PEI government, which now has confirmed 18 cases, is doing relatively little for the working-class, and many more will suffer before the crisis ends. Many people in PEI are fearing unemployment, debt, and evictions, yet the government response is just more testing and social distancing.
Ernie Hudson, the Minister of Social Development and Housing has announced a $1,000,000 fund for renters and that no evictions will take place till June. Although these policies will help some and the banning of public gatherings and reducing store hours are a good start to slowing the COVID-19 spread, the immediate needs of many working-class people are being ignored.
The anarchic neoliberal free market has completely failed to respond to the virus and in fact, one could argue that our capitalist system even created this disaster.
For years now provincial governments have been cutting healthcare programs while keeping wages down low. Creating a toxic relationship between a profit-driven healthcare system and a large section of workers who cannot afford not to work, even during a pandemic.
Ottawa has announced an Economic Response Plan to COVID-19 that offers $27 billion in direct support for workers and small businesses. Yet, in reality, this relief will not be sufficient in protecting Canadians from job loss, illness, and debt.
The Employment Insurance (EI) benefits only cover workers up to 55% of their wages. However, a large section of the working class will not even qualify for EI, such as part-time workers, recent graduates and ‘gig economy’ workers.
Already, in 2019 a poll conducted by BDO Canada Affordability Index found that 53% of Canadians were living paycheque to paycheque and 27% were struggling with daily expenses. If this is already the reality for millions of Canadians and the government’s response is sluggishly giving people up to 55% of their wages, many more Canadians will be forced into unsafe precarious situations.
On top of that, while offering very little to the Canadian working-class, Ottawa’s emergency plan involves a bailout of $500 billion to the banks, keeping them in business, ready to make superprofits off of a desperate working-class who will be forced to take on loans to survive.
However, out of the failures of the state, mass working-class mobilizations have been initiated and revolutionaries across Canada are organizing.
In Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Masses Against Capitalist Oppression has been leading the struggle to organize tenants for a general rent strike.
The campaign is attracting attention and the movement gets stronger every day. The past several days have seen radical graffiti all over the city as well as a phone zap action. The phone zap was called to put pressure on local politicians to agree on a moratorium on rent, mortgages, and evictions.
In such tense times, the PEI movement is signaling an impressive step forward for class-conscious politics in Eastern Canada.
It is clear that the COVID-19 crisis has only just begun and many more proletarians across Canada will be put in tough positions in the coming weeks. Communists are on the ground, organizing, and preparing to fight.
Charlottetown is occupied territory of the Wabanaki Confederacy and Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey Nations.