Max Winkelman is editor for the 100 Mile Free Press.

Max Winkelman is editor for the 100 Mile Free Press.

Finding the right time to pull a band-aid off is a tricky thing

The weekly editorial for the 100 Mile Free Press

On June 25, the B.C. Ministry of Labour announced that the temporary layoff period was being extended to 24 weeks, up from 16 weeks declared in early May. That takes the extension to Aug. 30. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was also extended by eight weeks the week before (June 16).

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated models show Canada is “moving in the right direction.

Work hours and the number of people back to work seem to be slowly increasing. B.C. is in phase three of reopening with many businesses, such as hair salons and restaurants, back open and people can take part in smart, safe and respectful travel within the province.

Things certainly aren’t back to normal yet. People and businesses are largely still engaging in some social distancing, there’s no international tourism and the U.S. border remains largely closed. Many people are still on CERB as well.

When it comes to restarting the economy, that last point is both good and bad. While not a prevalent issue, some businesses (for example restaurants) have had a hard time recalling employees, as reported by Black Press Media reporter Aaron Hinks last week. This can mean reduced hours, fewer sales and other challenges. That’s not to say everyone should be forced back to work; those at high risk or with other challenges may well have good cause to want to stay on CERB.

Temporary layoff extensions may also delay some laid-off employees who are really permanently laid off from moving on with their life. For people who’ve worked for a company for 10, 20 or 30 years, applying for a new job, would mean quitting the old one, likely forgoing any severance they may have received. Consequently, until their layoff is permanent, they’re unlikely to want to do so. However, forcing companies to make those layoffs permanent could also substantially hurt businesses and the economy.

CERB is both a boon and a detractor to the economy. It crucially helps people pay their bills, keeps food on their table and a roof above their heads. However, without any adjustments, it can also slowly become an anchor, as well as hide the real state of the economy and, consequently, substantive analysis of what needs to be done to help recovery.

It’s a band-aid that’s going to need to be ripped off eventually. Ripping it off too soon might mean there’s still an open wound and pulling it off too late might result in infection. Right this moment doesn’t seem like the appropriate time yet but, perhaps, we should be picking at it just a tiny little bit just to see what it looks like underneath.

Max Winkelman is editor for the 100 Mile Free Press.