This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Christmas Eve. It’s hard to imagine this Christmas will be the kind of event it has been in all our lives. On an individual level there of course have been past Christmas where celebrating was for many reasons not in order. This year however is different. In my lifetime there has not been a year where the idea of being cheery, friendly and happy is hard to effect across an entire population.

Except for kids – I’m sure the tiniest are really not aware of what is happening. Someone whose analysis  of events I follow because he’s one of the most thoughtful people I  know of  did a Youtube video on the subject of how do you answer those kids a bit older and more aware of what the pandemic is about, questions about how Christmas is going to work this year.

In short, you could tell them Santa lives so far way the virus can’t get there. Just to be sure Christmas wasn’t ruined for kids around the world, all the elves wore masks all the time since the spring because they knew how bad it would be if one of them got sick and passed the virus on. And of the millions of doses of vaccine being made, the drug companies set aside the few dozen needed to make sure o North Pole resident was unprotected for the world tour this evening.

And speaking of world tour, yes many countries have closed their borders to certain other countries, but no country has banned travel form the North Pole. This is true, I checked.

Now this year’s haul may not be the dozens or gazillions of presents some children are used to getting, but Santa said he will make it to every house just like always. He won’t be disappointed if there isn’t milk and cookies waiting for him either. He knows that can be risky, and that many families aren’t able to afford it. He said next year kids can put an extra cookie out to make up for it.

Now for the grownups, or growing ups. We all know someone who got sick. Many lost a family member or friend – without even being able to say goodbye. The people who didn’t die are likely to not ever be 100% healthy again. It’s hard to be merry.

But, each of you can also recall, if you try, there have also been bits of good news or good fortune. If you haven’t contracted the virus, that has to be top of the list of good fortune.

Look around you. There may not be as many people in the field of view as past years, but there likely are people there. Most people won’t be as alone as they have set their minds to. You were probably out shopping today, you saw friends and acquaintances. We have phones and email and Zoom (there are alternatives to using the Zoom leaky security application) to connect with others. We aren’t on a distant planet separated by distances euphemistically measured in time units rather than miles or kilometers (for the record, a light year is not a time measurement, it’s a distance measurement).

I hope each of you is able to find a way to be thankful, to have a measure of happiness. We will return back to normal, but for now, find some peace with the fact you and most of those close to you are still here. Find some joy in being able to make a call and hear a voice (or see some video). It could be worse. It can always be worse. This isn’t so bad on the continuum of not so great situations, ask you great-grandparents about that.

We can be happy for the small things in life. Merry Christmas.

CERB Uncertainty

ODAC’s Christine Hager (got the right surname this time, I triple checked), sent a note with some useful information to all artists. It is advice from CARFAC. They are the national association of visual artists and have, over time, done a ton of legwork on legal issues which benefit individual artist.

They participated in a meeting with several other artist unions and organizations and MP Julie Dabrusin, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Canadian Heritage, and policy advisors from the department of Canadian Heritage and the department of National Revenue on CERB issues.

Chiefly, they wanted a change of policy regarding what the government says are over payments and payments to people not qualified – most of whom applied in good faith on the government’s advice and information, which they then changed post money in bank accounts.

They didn’t get a commitment on eligibility or repayment policy change, but there were some important bits of information CARFAC wants to pass on. This is the list:

• Canadians should know that the CRA letter is not a determination of eligibility, rather it was an early warning sign that the government did not yet have enough information to confirm their eligibility for CERB.

• The government always said that recipients’s eligibility would be verified after the program’s conclusion. CRA is at the beginning of this process, which will unfold over the coming months.

• Recipients who received the CRA letter may be eligible for the CERB, and in fact 2020 tax return information will help determine eligibility in many cases, but the CRA has not yet received that information.

• The CRA issued the letters to allow recipients an opportunity to return amounts in case they find themselves ineligible for one or more CERB periods for which they received the benefit.

• The timing of the letter and the December 31, 2020, target for returning funds were chosen to prevent impacts on 2020 tax returns and on other benefits such as the Child Care Benefit or GST/HST tax credit. It is not a repayment deadline.

There will be no interest or penalties assessed as a result of a CERB recipient not repaying ineligible amounts by December 31, 2020.

My guess, eventually the government will come to some middle ground between what they told people back in March and what they said in November regarding eligibility. The number of people from all areas of the arts community still not working is too great to carry the weight of being less than clear on the rules at the outset. There is talk of an election.

In the mean time, you can stop worrying a little and enjoy an extra glass of schnapps.

(Christmas Image by Susan McTavish)

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