Alberta NDP fires back at UCP MLA who said comments that federal emergency payment recipients ‘make more on CERB, eating Cheezies’ were missing context

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“I expect an apology from people in power who would dare say that what we did, receiving financial help from our federal government, was anything less than survival.”

Eagan Johnston worked two jobs before undergoing surgery at the outset of the pandemic and then relying on CERB during the recovery period.

“I’m farthest from the laziest,” said Johnston, who uses the pronouns they and them.

Johnston said Cheezies, cartoons and doctor-prescribed medication were, in fact, things they purchased while recovering from surgery and unable to work, but CERB went mostly towards paying bills and surviving.

When asked if he would formally apologize at an unrelated Wednesday announcement, Kenney reiterated the government’s position that Getson’s comments had been “torqued” and taken out of context while acknowledging many people needed income support during COVID-19.

“Of course, the vast majority of people are using that support because they have no alternative,” said Kenney, adding that the government needs to ensure it doesn’t discourage people from getting back into the job market and that it doesn’t negatively affect people coping with addictions.

Of the 8.8 million Canadians who collected CERB relief, there were 1,062,640 Albertans, a quarter of whom were between 25 and 34 years old.

Some addiction outreach workers who have criticized the CERB application process have said it created an influx of easily-accessible cash, spurring an increase in tainted street drugs being used more often in isolation.

In his Tuesday statement, Getson also pointed to a July survey from the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses that showed more than a quarter of small businesses were unable to get employees to return to work, with those employees citing a preference for CERB, followed by concerns for their physical health and childcare.

lijohnson@postmedia.com

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