When Parliament returns to work in the coming weeks, one of the Liberal government’s first orders of business will be a fall economic statement. Expectations include such big-ticket items as national childcare, likely bankrolled by a proposed three per cent tax on financial institutions and insurance companies. But the biggest question for the new government may be how long it intends to maintain pandemic-support payments, and whether it will go even further, towards a more permanent version of annual income support — a guaranteed basic income, as the NDP has been advocating. For 18 months now, unemployed Canadians have received unprecedented amounts of government money. First, Ottawa shelled out $74 billion for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) from March to September 2020. The program then morphed into the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), which cost another $26.1 billion as of September 2021. Finally, the government extended the CRB until Oct. 23 of this year, for an additional $2.2 billion. All this cash did more than keep people afloat. It also transformed the labour market. Across Canada, employers began reporting worker shortages.