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

Kimberley Minor Hockey players scrimmage with the Dynamiters last year. KMH file
Kimberley and Cranbrook Minor Hockey relationship grows the game for local players

Players can now play to their skill level regardless of city of origin

The KEYSA Indoor Facility is nearing completion as the air-supported dome was raised last week. Trevor Crawley photo.
KEYSA indoor facility project nearing completion

Project remains on budget and set for completion by the end of October

The old Kootenay Springs building on 6th Street in Cranbrook, just off the highway, was on fire Saturday night, Oct 17. Barry Coulter photo
Kootenay Springs building, burns in Cranbrook; other fires still under investigation

Derelict building was on the site of the old Cranbrook Brewery, itself destroyed by fire 95 years ago

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry to the U.S., still placed in Canadian quarantine

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Trail Smoke Eaters forward Jaden Senkoe set up two goals including the game winner in a 3-1 victory over the Cranbrook Bucks on Saturday. Photo: Jim Bailey.
Smoke Eaters even Kootenay Cup series vs Cranbrook

Trail Smoke Eaters bounce back for 3-1 victory over the Cranbrook Bucks Saturday

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ Western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Fort St. John councillor Trevor Bolin (B.C. Conservative Party)
BC Conservatives leader fights back after BC Liberals leak 2018 workplace harassment case

Sexual harassment case was connected to employee being terminated, WorkSafeBC found

Most Read