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

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Kelowna RCMP investigating unexplained death of cattle

Cattle found dead near gravel road, east of the Kelowna Airport

From right to left: Silverado Socrates (Independent), Norm Letnick (Liberal), John Janmaat (Green) and Kyle Geronazzo (Libertarian). (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Kelowna-Lake Country candidates square off at forum

All candidates in the riding were in attendance except for BC NDP candidate Justin Kulik

Vernon Fire Rescue Services work to put out a structure fire in an abandoned house on Highway 97 and 39th Avenue Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
UPDATE: Vernon house fire under control

Single-lane traffic remains in effect on Highway 97 in both directions

Vernon once again boasts the lowest gas prices in B.C. Oct. 20, 2020. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon boasts lowest gas prices in B.C.

Gas going up, and down, throughout the North Okanagan

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

The Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen is launching an initiative to provide horse-assisted therapy to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic (Black Press file photo)
Community Foundation of South Okanagan Similkameen to provide horse-assisted therapy

Therapy sessions will be offered to frontline workers during ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Brody Peterson said he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Brody Peterson told The Gazette he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks RCMP recommend criminal charges after weekend party

Homeowner Brody Peterson said he’ll dispute tickets for refusing police instructions, alleged COVID violations

Paul Singla walks towards his Penticton home on Heather Road in 2018 after CBSA officers raided it. (File photo)
Singla and Toor make first court appearances on immigration fraud

The Okanagan men had their cases adjourned until 2021

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

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast a ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

A 2018 decision to fly a rainbow flag ended up costing the City of Langley $62,000 in legal fees (Langley Advance Times file)
Human rights win in rainbow flag fight cost B.C. city $62,000

“Lengthy and involved” process provoked by complaint

Most Read