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

Tofino welcome sign. (Westerly file photo)
Housing proposal highlights capacity concerns in Tofino

Water supply, school and hospital all cited as council urges caution in growth.

Developer Andrew McLane, right, digs a shovel in the ground of Lot 13 as mayor Mayco Noel cheers on the idea of bringing more housing to West Coasters. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet council approves development permit for 33-lot housing project

“Mr. McLane, we wish you nothing but luck and we are counting on you.”

Beach fire remains, like charred driftwood, have long been a point of contention in Tofino, but the town’s municipal council isn’t ready to ban beach fires just yet after receiving an unprecedented response from community members opposed to a prohibition. (Westerly file photo)
Blaze of opposition prompts Tofino’s council to delay beach fire ban decision

“The period of the year where this challenge is most acute is behind us now.”

Thaddeus Lenover kisses his mushroom picking partner Teagan Evans on the cheek after a rainy day out in the woods harvesting wild mushrooms. (Nora O'Malley photo)
Mushroom pickers say it’s less busy this year

Mushroom picking partners Thaddeus Lenover and Teagan Evans spent the better part… Continue reading

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Environment Canada has issued a snowfall advisory for parts of Vancouver Island for Thursday and Friday.(File photo)
Snowfall expected in parts of Vancouver Island this week

Environment Canada has issued a snowfall advisory for north, east and inland Vancouver Island

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Lower Mainland man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after buying electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

The Anonymous YVR is an Instagram page that reviews restaurants and other establishments around B.C. based on how well they adhere to COVID-19 rules. (Instagram)
Anonymous Instagram page reviews COVID-19 safety measures at B.C. businesses

There are a number of public health orders various types of establishments must follow to slow virus’s spread

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

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Most Read