Edmonton

Alberta UCP MLA suggests CERB funds used for Cheezies, cartoons and illegal drugs

At a recent town hall meeting, UCP MLA Shane Getson suggested some people are abusing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Opposition calls comments from Shane Getson outrageous and offensive

Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland UCP MLA Shane Getson said his remarks were taken out of context for political gain. (Shane Getson/Facebook)

A UCP MLA is facing criticism after he suggested people receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit were using the funds for Cheezies, cartoons and illegal drugs.

The word "Cheezies" trended on Twitter in Alberta after video of Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland UCP MLA Shane Getson was posted by the Alberta NDP Tuesday.

At a recent town hall meeting, Getson suggested some people are abusing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Getson said the remarks in response to concerns raised by a local business owner about being unable to hire workers because of the payments.

"And I'm going why not?" Getson said. "Well, 'cause they make more on CERB eating Cheezies and watching cartoons, I guess." 

Getson said he had a phone conversation with a friend in Vernon, B.C., who told him the same thing and worried about CERB money feeding drug addiction. 

"So people that were getting $700 a month are now getting $2,000 a month," Getson recounted. "We're concerned about the same thing here. Because now all of a sudden you have this population that has all this extra cash and now their addiction levels are going through the roof." 

Getson also referred to CERB assistance as "funny money."

NDP MLA Christina Gray called the comments "outrageous and offensive." 

NDP MLA Christina Gray called Getson's comments outrageous and offensive. (CBC)

"Using the term Cheezies and cartoons to represent why people access the support is completely out of touch and harmful," Gray told CBC News. "Albertans applied for this program because they needed it. They needed it to put food on their table." 

Gray called on Getson and Premier Jason Kenney to apologize. 

"It's the height of hypocrisy that this UCP MLA is shaming Albertans for taking CERB while at the same time his political party is using a loophole to access the federal wage subsidy that was designed for Alberta small businesses," Gray said.

In response to the criticism levelled on social media by the NDP, Getson issued a written statement. He said his remarks were taken out of context for political gain. 

"Unsurprisingly, the NDP is now attacking me instead of focusing on how we keep our people safe," Getson wrote. 

Through a UCP spokesperson, Getson declined an interview. 

CERB recipients offended by comments 

Edmonton singer-songwriter Dana Wylie has been relying on CERB since the pandemic hit. The 40-year-old mother of two said she lost the vast majority of her income when COVID-19 essentially shut down the country. 

Singer/songwriter Dana Wylie has been relying on CERB since the pandemic hit. (© 2018 Leroy Schulz http://new.leroyschulz.com)

"CERB really made a huge difference for me in terms of being able to navigate and redesign my life within this new world," Wylie said.

"To have financial stability and security through that period and not have to scramble to figure out how I'm going to feed my family is what has allowed me to adapt as an individual to this new world we're all in now." 

Wylie called Getson's comments "absurd."

Dean Demers, an out-of-work personal trainer and bartender in Calgary, said he was offended by Getson's observations. 

"For somebody who represents the public and speaks on the public's behalf, it's uncalled for," Demers said. "I just find it super insulting and embarrassing for those outside of Alberta to have to watch what's going on here." 

Demers, 42, has also been relying on CERB payments since the start of the pandemic. 

"I have no idea when I'll be returning back to work or even if I will return in that sector," Demers said. "I just don't know why a government wants to make the situation worse and create negative conditions when they're already bad enough." 

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