COVID-19 Benefits Survey

The COVID-19 Pandemic has profoundly impacted the arts sector, and CARFAC appreciates the Federal Government’s commitment to help artists through this challenging time. The Canada Recovery Benefit expired on October 23rd. Last week, we urged the Government of Canada to extend the CRB benefit, to ensure that Canadian artists will not be left behind.

Unfortunately, the government confirmed that the CRB will expire and it will be replaced by the new Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit, which is limited to regions under government-imposed lockdowns. This solution does not take into consideration the working realities of most artists, and the closures that may not necessarily be government-imposed.

We encourage visual artists to complete this very short survey to help us better understand what cancelling the CRB means for our community.

We also urge the Federal Government to find a long-term social safety net for our sector. We fully support the implementation of a Guaranteed Basic Income program, and we also believe that CERB and CRB have set a useful precedent for Employment Insurance reform. CARFAC submitted a brief on EI reform, and we look forward to further consultations about how to modernize EI in ways that make the program relevant to the realities of artists.

Modernizing Canada’s Employment Insurance program

A social safety net for self-employed artists and gig workers

A modernized EI program that takes into account these unique labour circumstances is critical not only for the wellbeing of Canada’s artists, but for the sustainability and growth of the sector overall. It must be understood that not all artists may need this kind of support, and it is designed to help people when and if they need it. For some, that need may be seasonal or when they have a bad sales year, for example. Without it, we are at great risk of losing artists to other sectors, and without individual artists our most celebrated cultural institutions, festivals, and organizations would cease to exist. As such, a new EI program should:

  • Insure income, not employment
  • Be accessible to freelance and gig workers, and workers with mixed-employment
  • Be available to those demonstrating a modest level of prior income (i.e. $5,000 in the previous year), and be available without prior individual contribution to the program
  • Act as an effective safety net by providing unemployed, underemployed, and precariously employed workers with income support of $2,000/month. Payment amounts should not increase nor decrease based on the level of the EI recipient’s prior income; this practice perpetuates multiple inequalities experienced by the most vulnerable
  • Include a tax deduction of 10% at source, to avoid confusion about whether or not it is taxable income, and with the understanding that individuals may be required to pay more (or less), depending on their personal situation
  • Encourage recipients to develop and earn employment or self-employment income by allowing for reasonable monthly earnings (i.e $1000) before reducing EI payments.

Modernizing the Employment Insurance program is an essential step in acknowledging and addressing the income precarity disproportionately experienced by artists and cultural workers. Most self-employed and contract-based workers in the arts sector cannot afford to pay into the current EI model.As workers in other sectors return to their jobs, the income potential of artists and gig workers remain highly unstable, particularly as the arts and tourism sectors are expected to take the longest to recover from the impacts of COVID-19. It is estimated that full recovery may not happen until 2028, if ever. Without a modernized support program that acknowledges the realities of labour in the arts and culture sector, many will be pushed to social assistance, and further into poverty, which decreases their chances for positive economic, social, and health outcomes, and is ultimately more expensive in the long-term (i.e., increased public health care costs associated with poverty).

A modernized program that ensures income, and not employment will also address equity, access, diversity, and inclusion in the arts sector, specifically for Canadians who are low-income, and those emerging from intergenerational poverty.

The full brief is available here.

Open letter: Canadian artists urgently need a social safety net

October 19, 2021

The Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

The Hon. Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

The Hon. Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage

Re: Canadian artists urgently need a social safety net

Dear Ministers,

As we are still experiencing a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian artists urge the Federal Government to extend emergency income support for self-employed and gig workers, with a view to finding a long-term social safety net for our sector.

We applaud the Government’s leadership in working with us to best support self-employed workers with the introduction of Canada Emergency Response Benefit and Canada Recovery Benefit during this very difficult time. This support has been a lifeline for many cultural workers, and we appreciate the Government’s commitment to help artists and the cultural industries recover, because as you know: we were among the first to close and we will be among the last to recover. Beyond recovery, we welcome the opportunity to consult with you about much needed reform to Employment Insurance programs, which are often out of reach for self-employed artists when they need it most.

The Liberal Party’s platform includes commitments to implement a transitional support program for out-of-work self-employed artists, and to hold a summit within 100 days to discuss restarting our industry. Meanwhile, 750,000 Canadians are still receiving much needed support from the Canada Recovery Benefit, which is set to expire in just a few days, without that transition plan in place.

Some of them are our members, and we know they cannot wait 100 days to begin discussions about recovery without that support, and so we urge you to extend the CRB until an alternative option is in place.

We hope we can count on the Government of Canada to make this adjustment and ensure that Canadian artists will not be left behind.


Paddy Lamb, National President of CARFAC (Canadian Artists’ Representation) 

Eleanor Noble, ACTRA National President

David Farsi, Président du Regroupement des artistes en arts visuels du Québec (RAAV)

Rhea Tregebov, Chair of the Writers Union of Canada

Sasha Sobrino, General Manager, Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators

Cc: Rebecca Caldwell, Director of Policy, Canadian Heritage

Irene Cheung, Senior Policy Advisor, Canadian Heritage

Simon Brault, Director and CEO, Canada Council for the Arts