COVID-19 Benefits Boost May Snag NDP Support for Throne Speech

September 25, 2020 Updated: September 25, 2020

The Liberals announced Thursday that the government is introducing a bill to create three new COVID-19 benefits for unemployed workers—a move that could secure NDP support and survive a confidence vote.

Known as Bill C-2, the proposed legislation seeks to pay out $500 a week, the same amount as the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), instead of the originally proposed $400.

The move was welcomed by New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh.

“This is a major win,” he said Thursday, adding that his next focus is “fighting for” the paid sick leave for anyone who falls ill with COVID-19 that he is demanding from the Trudeau government.

“We are in the middle of negotiation and we are very hopeful we can get that as well,” he said in a video on Twitter.

On Wednesday, Singh said he wants to see “legislation increasing benefits and guaranteeing sick leave” from the Liberals before his party decides whether to support the throne speech.

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh stands during question period in the House of Commons on Sept. 24, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough denied that the Liberals are using the proposed jobless benefit to secure support for the throne speech.

Qualtrough maintained the government had indicated from the outset that it would be flexible about the amount, and took into account the state of the economy and the course of the pandemic.

“We landed here (on $500 a week) because this is where, where the country is now in terms of the support workers need,” she said in a news conference on Sept. 24.

The minority Liberals need the support of at least one of the main three opposition parties to stay in power, as the Conservatives have already made it clear they will not support the throne speech.

Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet said on Wednesday the federal government encroaches too far into provincial jurisdiction.

He gave the Liberals one week to meet Quebec’s demands for increased federal health transfers to the provinces, or else his party will vote against the government’s plan.

Bill C-2 includes:

  • A Canada Recovery Benefit of $500 per week for up to 26 weeks for people who are not eligible for employment insurance, or those who are self-employed but have lost their income due to the pandemic
  • A Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit of $500 per week up to two weeks for workers who fall sick or must self-isolate due to COVID-19
  • A Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit of $500 per week for up to 26 weeks for Canadians who aren’t able to work because they must care for a child or dependent due to closure of schools, care facilities, and daycares caused by COVID-19
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Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre rises in the House of Commons after the government delivered a fiscal snapshot in Ottawa on July 8, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Finance critic Pierre Poilievre pointed out in parliament on Thursday that the interest rates for the federal debt will not stay low forever.

“Unless we believe that the debt will be paid off before the rates rise, we have to believe that we will have trouble down the road. The government is not planning to pay back the debt, ever. In fact, its own projections suggest that the debt will grow every year forever.”

Poilievre stressed that the solution to tackle the deficit is to get workers back to their jobs.

“We need a plan to unleash the free market system to hire people back. Get out of the way and let our mines, plants and factories come roaring back to life,” he said.

“Get out of the way of small businesses by cutting red tape and lowering taxes on those entrepreneurs, so that they can bring our main streets buzzing back to life.”

With file from The Canadian Press