Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Liberals seek to fast track new COVID-19 aid bill after CERB expires

Government secured NDP support for legislation by hiking amount of benefits by $100 to $500 per week

The Liberal government is asking Parliament to fast-track its latest COVID-19 economic recovery package, prompting a torrent of opposition outrage that government forced this issue by proroguing Parliament this summer.

Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez proposed Monday to limit debate on the legislation, which sets up three new benefits to help workers weather the COVID-19 pandemic, on top of a new, more generous and flexible employment insurance regime.

The minority Liberal government secured NDP support for the legislation last week by hiking the amount of those benefits by $100 to $500 per week — ensuring no one will get less than they were receiving under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which came to an end on the weekend.

They also agreed to an NDP demand to expand the eligibility criteria for the new sick leave benefit beyond simply those workers who contract COVID-19.

Under the newly rewritten legislation, which is now known as Bill C-4, workers who have underlying conditions or are undergoing treatments or have contracted other illnesses that make them more susceptible to COVID-19 are also eligible. So are those who isolate themselves on the advice of their employer, medical practitioner or public health authority for COVID-19-related reasons.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that means workers who catch the flu or a common cold will now be entitled to collect the sick leave benefit.

“If someone gets sick they need … to quickly be able to take time off so they don’t risk infecting their colleagues,” he said Monday.

“What we’re proposing is something that is going to make the response better, make sure more workers are able to stay home if they’re sick.”

In addition to the sick leave benefit, the bill also creates a new Canada Recovery Benefit for self-employed and gig workers who won’t qualify for the more robust EI regime, as well as a caregiver benefit for workers who have to stay home to care for a dependant for reasons having to do with COVID-19.

Because CERB expired over the weekend, the new bill will need to pass quickly in order for Canadians to begin applying for the new benefits. Applications for the recovery benefit are to open Oct. 11 and, for the other two benefits, on Oct. 4.

Rodriguez said Canadians are watching to see if political parties will work together to pass the aid package quickly.

“Canadians need our help now and this is exactly what the motion is attempting to accomplish,” he said Monday as he introduced a motion to fast-track the bill. “Quick action.”

The motion proposes to limit debate on the bill to just 4.5 hours — bypassing the normal lengthy legislative process, including committee hearings — and allow it to be put to a quick vote, likely on Tuesday.

Conservative House leader Gerard Deltell called that a “joke.”

“What we have today is a government who wants 4.5 hours of debate for $50 billion in taxpayer dollars,” said Deltell.

READ MORE: Liberals vow wage-subsidy extension to 2021, revamp of EI system in throne speech

The Liberals prorogued Parliament in August, which prevented any debate or committee work until it resumed last week. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government needed to prorogue in order to bring in a throne speech and get Parliament’s approval for the COVID-19 recovery plan.

But he also did it amid multiple investigations by House of Commons committees about the Liberals’ decision to award a contract to WE Charity to administer a massive student grant program, when many Liberals, including Trudeau, had clear ties to the organization.

Deltell wants to amend the motion to add a committee hearing where the ministers of finance, employment and children all take questions from MPs for 95 minutes each.

NDP House leader Peter Julian said his party will back the motion but only begrudgingly because people need the help. He said the Liberals’ actions mean millions of Canadians are suffering and anxious about getting support.

“Why did they take millions of Canadians right to the precipice before acting?” Julian asked.

The debate came as the House resumed Monday morning for the first full week of operations for the pandemic Parliament, and as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the country’s two biggest provinces.

Debate on the government’s throne speech will also continue this week, with speeches expected by both Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, both of whom have been quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19.

Blanchet was out of his quarantine on Monday, speaking publicly about the Bloc’s proposals for an economic recovery plan, while O’Toole is expected to be out of his quarantine later in the week.

His response to the speech from the throne will be his first statement in the Commons since becoming party leader just over a month ago.

O’Toole’s remarks in the Commons will draw on his experiences waiting to be tested for — and ultimately diagnosed with — COVID-19. But he’ll also use the opportunity to set a tone for how he’ll seek to lead the official Opposition in the coming months and win the country in the eventual next election.

“We’re going to oppose, and we’re going to challenge and hold the government to account,” O’Toole said in an interview last week with The Canadian Press. “But we’re also going to offer some contrasting vision.”

The eventual vote on the throne speech will be test of confidence in Trudeau’s minority government, which it will survive with the support of the NDP.

O’Toole’s Tories came out fast against the throne speech last week, arguing it didn’t go far enough to offer support to Canadians impacted by the pandemic. The Bloc Québécois said absent a federal government plan to transfer billions more for health care to the provinces, they aren’t sure they can support it either.

Joan Bryden, Mia Rabson and Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusLiberalsParliament

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Northern Health saw 14 cases in one day earlier this week, the highest in one day since the beginning of the pandemic. (Image courtesy CDC)
Northern Health sees highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

There have been 23 cases of reported cases of COVID-19 in the Nechako Lakes Health Area

’Herbert’ Shane Hartman with his daughter Isla. (Shane Hartman Facebook photo)
Love for daughter and drumming leads to author’s first book

Shane Hartman spent very spare moment writing and illustrating Isla’s New Drum

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as fake Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Commissioner Austin Cullen looks at documents before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
RCMP lacked dedicated team to investigate illegal activities at casino, inquiry hears

Hearings for the inquiry are set to continue into next week and the inquiry is expected to wrap up next year

Most Read