Parliament Needs to Sit Again for More COVID-19 Relief: Trudeau

April 1, 2020 Updated: April 1, 2020

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s planning to call Parliament back for another sitting to pass more measures to help the Canadian economy through the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says approving perhaps the biggest social program in Canadian history needs to be a team effort.

Conservatives have pointed out that the emergency legislation Parliament has already passed didn’t allow for the scale of the wage-subsidy program the Liberals are promising to help employers keep people on their payrolls.

The government has said that all companies will get 75 percent of salaries covered, if they’ve lost 30 percent of their revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s a departure from the original plan to cover just 10 percent of salaries for small businesses.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau is to provide more details on the wage subsidy, including the costs, later today in Toronto, but Trudeau says the money will go to companies that aren’t publicly funded.

He also says companies that receive the cash need to do whatever they can to pay the remaining 25 percent of their employees’ wages.

Earlier today, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called on the government to clear up confusion over who is eligible for the wage subsidy, arguing the legislation as written—and hastily passed by Parliament last week—doesn’t jibe with the Liberals’ pledge about who can get the help.

He says his party is ready to return to Parliament to amend the law if needed but the problem shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

He says Canadians are looking to the Liberals for clarity, and all they are getting is confusion.

“It’s up to the government to decide how to proceed, but if they want to provide Canadians with the program they made in their announcement, they would have to amend their own legislation,” Scheer says.

“It’s up to them to decide whether or not that’s what they want to do or how long they want to wait to do that.”

Trudeau didn’t put a timeline on when MPs and senators will be asked to return to Ottawa to pass any new legislation.

Any worker who receives the wage subsidy can’t at the same time receive a $2,000-a-month emergency benefit aimed at those who have lost their sources of income, Trudeau says.

“It’s one or the other. You can’t get both of these benefits.”

An online application for the benefit will open as planned on April 6, Trudeau says, promising unspecified measures to be put in place to avoid overwhelming federal systems.

More than 1.6 million people have applied for employment insurance benefits within the last two weeks, a number that is dramatically higher than what the program normally sees.

Trudeau says anyone who has already been approved for EI benefits will be moved over to the new emergency benefit when it becomes available.