On January 20, the Mississauga City Council approved a motion put forward by Mayor Bonnie Crombie in favour of supporting small businesses and low-income workers.
The motion emphasized the importance of supporting small businesses that have been negatively impacted by Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. The council urged the provincial government to reconsider the pandemic regulations that are actively contributing to the challenges smaller businesses are facing in Ontario.
The council also requested the provincial government to provide employees with adequate paid sick leave opportunities, as low-income workers are less likely to have access to such benefits.
At a press conference on January 27, Mayor Crombie revealed that while “40 per cent of Canadians have access to paid sick leave, only 10 per cent [of] low-income workers” are provided with the same option.
“The lack of paid sick leave is a glaring gap in our Covid-19 response, and it’s time that we tackle this issue head-on,” stated Crombie. “Dr. Loh, as well as other medical officers of health, have been calling for paid sick leave for months.”
Crombie’s initiative to establish adequate and equal access to paid sick leave is supported by the Mississauga Board of Trade and United Way Greater Toronto, a non-governmental social service organization.
Crombie stated that she found the Canadian government’s Recovery Sickness Benefit program insufficient. Individuals can only apply to receive the benefit after becoming sick and, even then, are not guaranteed the funding.
“It’s only $450 after tax which is below minimum wage [and is] certainly not enough to live on in the GTA,” stated Crombie.
The Mississauga mayor revealed that individuals experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus were still going to work as they did not have access to paid sick leave opportunities, putting even more lives at risk.
Crombie called on the provincial and federal governments to take immediate action to mend this socio-economic disparity.
“Please step up and make this a guarantee for the duration of the pandemic,” said Crombie. “A new system needs to be in place so that workers can make the right choice and stay home without losing their wages.”
While Covid-19 cases have been reportedly decreasing in the Peel Region, the mayor argued that we must keep our guards up and continue to follow Ontario’s province-wide stay-at-home order. With multiple variants of the novel coronavirus emerging across the globe, the possibility of a third wave is more threatening than ever.
We must continue to be vigilant and take preventative measures, including not going to work if experiencing symptoms. However, this is not a viable option for many low-income workers today. By establishing province-wide paid sick leave, employees won’t have to choose between their health or their income.
“It is one of the best investments we can make to help us reopen and begin the long-term economic recovery of the GTA and the entire country,” argued Crombie. “We cannot wait for this any longer.”