Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Liberals throw down challenge, make COVID-19 aid bill a confidence matter

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit expired on the weekend

Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez says proposed legislation for new COVID-19 aid programs will be a matter of confidence in the minority Liberal government.

The move appears to dare the opposition parties to bring the government down as the pandemic surges across the country.

The risk of that happening is low, given NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has already said his party will vote for the bill because the Liberals agreed to increase benefit payments and expand eligibility for paid sick leave.

The Liberals and NDP together have a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit expired on the weekend. The benefit was introduced in the spring to provide up to $500 a week to Canadians who lost their jobs because of COVID-19.

The new bill seeks to replace the CERB with a revamped employment insurance system, and three separate benefits for self-employed and gig workers, parents and caregivers, and people who are sick.

The bill adjusts the hours needed to qualify for EI and sets a minimum weekly benefit payment for the first time.

There are also three new benefits for those who still wouldn’t qualify for EI, including self-employed workers, people who need to say home to look after a child or someone else who needs care due to COVID-19, and a new sick leave benefit.

Originally the Liberals sought to set the minimum weekly amount for EI and the three separate benefits, at $400 a week, but increased that to $500 on the urging of the NDP, who wanted ensure the same level of support provided by the CERB.

The Liberals also agreed to change eligibility for the sick leave benefit so not only people who test positive for COVID-19 can access it. The new bill adds people who have to stay home because of underlying health conditions or other illnesses, like the flu, that make them more susceptible to COVID-19.

Rodriguez moved Monday to fast-track the bill so that it can be passed in a single day after just 4.5 hours of debate.

ALSO READ: Federal child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis

With the support of New Democrats, the Liberal government won a vote Tuesday to limit debate on Rodriguez’s motion. A vote on the fast-tracking motion itself is expected to take place Tuesday night. New Democrats have already indicated they’ll support it.

If the motion passes, as expected, debate on the actual bill will follow, with a vote occurring in the wee hours of the morning.

While the New Democrats are backing the government to get the aid bill through — and in the process allowing the Liberals to avoid an election — the NDP joined with the other opposition parties to draw further attention to Liberal ethical lapses.

All motions and debate on the aid package were delayed for two hours Tuesday, while MPs debated a motion from Conservative MP Michael Barrett, to force former Liberal Joe Peschisolido to apologize to the House of Commons for breaching conflict of interest rules when he was still an MP.

Ethics commissioner Mario Dion issued a report eight months ago saying Peschisolido repeatedly failed to disclose his private interests, including assets, loans, his marriage and the fact his B.C. law firm was taken over by the Law Society of British Columbia.

Barrett said it was just another example of Liberals ignoring the rules.

Prince Edward Island Liberal MP Wayne Easter said the matter should get properly debated but that “today is not the day.” Liberals accused the opposition of playing politics ahead of the needs of people, thousands of who are anxiously waiting to see if the new benefits will be approved.

Barrett shot back that if the Liberals wanted this dealt with quickly they should not have “slammed the door on Parliament” by proroguing in August.

NDP MP Charlie Angus said the priority for Parliament has to be dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, though he said corruption in Parliament must also be addressed.

Barrett’s motion passed easily with all opposition parties supporting it.

Mia Rabson and Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

CoronavirusLiberals

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

Just Posted

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Alberta eases some COVID-19 restrictions

Salons, barbershops and other personal and wellness services will be open by appointment only

File Photo
UPDATE: Missing female has been found

Hope Tivendale was last seen on January 12 in Blackfalds

Environment Canada issued a wind warning for parts of central Alberta on Jan. 13, 2021. (Black Press file photo)
Wind warning issued for central Alberta

Environment Canada said strong northwesterly winds will develop in the morning and weaken in the evening

A total of 16,300 lab tests Thursday showed an eight per cent positivity rate for Alberta, the chief medical officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Twitter on Friday. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
5 new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone– 38 deaths provincially a new daily record for Alberta

Two of the most recent deaths were in Red Deer, two in Camrose

Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn. (Facebook)
Kenney kicks Pat Rehn out of UCP caucus after municipal complaints

Rehn had been criticized by municipal leaders in his constituency

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

A Suncor logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 2, 2019. A worker is missing after a dozer broke through ice on an inactive Suncor tailings pond in northern Alberta.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Worker missing after dozer breaks through frozen tailings pond in northern Alberta

The worker was an employee of Christina River Construction

File Photo
‘You took away some real joy,’ Sylvan Lake Winter Village turned off after vandalism

Sometime during the night of Jan, 12 the light display at the pier was vandalized and damaged

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID clarity: Feds say 42-day gap for 2-dose vaccines OK as provinces race to immunity

‘Realities on the ground’ means that provinces, territories will have difficult choices to make

(Pixabay photo)
Alberta surgeon who hung a noose in a hospital found guilty of unprofessional conduct

College of Physicians and Surgeons says sanctions will be determined at a later hearing

Most Read