Friday, September 18, 2009

Musicians, actors, given shaft today (and not in the good way)

So the government survived a confidence test today, propped up by the Bloc and the NDP who had, reportedly, major concessions given to them with regards to EI. My gripe? It's not that we've been subjected by the Conservatives to never ending ads on tv about how evil Iggy would team up with the Bloc and the Socialists to run government who then go ahead and make deals with the Bloc and Socialists to stay alive themselves, (this is a gripe for another blog). It's this:

Where is the bill that fulfills the promises made in the last election with regards to EI for self-employed people, which would include (for those of you reading this blog,) private music teachers, singers, actors, and musicians in general. With all of the talk about extending benefits, we've seen nothing about this integral issue that effects a huge swath of the artistic community.

You see, during last year's campaign the Conservatives swore up and down that EI would be available to those self employed people who choose to pay into it for a pre-determined amount of time, presumed to be six months.

That means that if you taught from home, or taught at a school but not as an "employee," or if you're a performer either on a longer term gig (such as a touring production) or stringing multiple contracts together, and then suddenly lose the work you'd be a little bit covered until you could find another job. You would have to pay into the EI program if you wanted it but when the boom was lowered you wouldn't have to give up your apartment, you wouldn't have to stop buying lunches, and you wouldn't have to sleep on the couches of friends (none of which I've, fortunately, had to do personally, but I do know those who have).

The government and some parties may claim today's Ways and Means Bill as a triumph for EI and for Canadians, but not for us, folks. We were promised protection and got the artists' shaft.

To be fair, the bill isn't yet finished - it will likely be sent to committee next week to be fleshed out. My concern is that although Bloc and NDP support is strictly tied to this bill, no one is talking about this election promise. It's going to take some pushing from politicians to get this safety net implemented for artists and the only way that happens is if we contact them and ask them to. Consider it.

(Full disclosure for this post: I'm a card carrying NDP member.)

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