Saskatchewan

Sask. artist says it's 'ridiculous' she's ineligible for federal aid due to lack of capacity restrictions

Saskatchewan remains the only province or territory ineligible for the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB), cutting off workers still affected by reduced work hours from financial aid.

Monika Kinner says she’s lost all streams of income that involve large gatherings

Monika Kinner, a Saskatoon textile artist, is ineligible for the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit because Saskatchewan doesn't have capacity restrictions. (Submitted by Monika Kinner)

Saskatoon textile artist Monika Kinner is caught in limbo. 

A majority of her income comes from selling her work in galleries, boutiques and other venues that have reduced operations or cancelled events due to the latest COVID surge, yet she's ineligible for a federal COVID support program because Saskatchewan doesn't have formal capacity restrictions in place.

Saskatchewan remains the only province or territory ineligible for the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB), cutting off workers in the province still affected by reduced work hours from financial aid.

CWLB provides $300 a week before taxes to employed and self-employed people in regions where governments have introduced capacity restrictions of 50 per cent or more, if they've lost 50 per cent or more of their income.

Kinner said she has lost about 80 per cent of her income since the pandemic began. Before the pandemic, she relied on multiple streams of income to guarantee she'd make ends meet to support herself and her two children. Those included displaying her art in galleries and boutiques, going to schools to teach art, holding workshops and selling art online.

"Unfortunately, all of the streams of income involved large gatherings. So it's all been gone except for direct sales," she said.

Although the Saskatchewan government hasn't implemented any gathering or capacity restrictions amid record COVID-19 cases, some businesses are operating on slowdowns or nearing closure because of sick employees and short staffing. 

For example, Kinner's artwork is currently being displayed at City Perks Coffeehouse, but she said it's a lost opportunity for sales because the coffeehouse recently announced on Facebook that it moved to takeout and curbside pickup only after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

Several Christmas markets were also cancelled, along with a workshop she had planned in the spring. She fears more opportunities will be postponed or cancelled in the coming days and weeks.

"It's all been put on hold so that's really hard because, like I said, the smart thing to do was have lots of streams of income, then you're always guaranteed [that] you can pay your rent and pay your bills and buy food. No one could have foreseen this would happen," Kinner said.

Kinner said she felt some relief when she heard that artists in other provinces were receiving support from the CWLB, but then discovered Saskatchewan was the only region in Canada where workers aren't eligible due to a lack of restrictions.

"That was disappointing because everything's getting locked down anyway, even without restrictions, just because workers are getting COVID and businesses are restricting regardless of what the mandates are," Kinner said.

"It's just such a ridiculous thing because it's such a simple solution. Our premier just has to make the call." 

The Opposition NDP and Saskatchewan Federation of Labour have also called on the province to implement capacity restrictions to support workers. 

However, the provincial government said it will not add any new provincial health orders at the moment, despite a warning from the chief medical health officer that people in the province should not see anyone outside their household indoors unless it's for school or work. 

In an emailed response, the government said Saskatchewan workers have benefited from various supports such as the Canada Recovery Benefit — which ended in October 2021 — and changes to Employment Insurance (EI).

Kinner said she's ineligible for EI since she's self-employed. 

"I'm just going to have to keep making art and hoping it keeps working out for me," she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yasmine Ghania is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan, currently based in Saskatoon.

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