Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on parliament hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on parliament hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Liberals plan to use regulations to create income support after CERB winds down

Around four million workers will move onto EI next month when the COVID-19 benefit ends

The Liberals plan to use existing tools to quickly create a new support measure next month for struggling workers who won’t qualify for employment insurance.

Some four million workers will move onto EI next month when a key COVID-19 benefit for workers, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, begins to wind down.

Millions more who have seen their incomes crash as a result of the pandemic-related shutdown won’t qualify for the decades-old social safety net program, but the Liberals had promised a new EI-like support for those who will still need the help.

Sources who have been briefed on the government’s plan say that transfer will be done through regulations, rather than legislation that could not be introduced until late September, following the prorogation of Parliament.

The measures are to be temporary and flow through existing programs and tools, the sources say, meaning the Liberals won’t need parliamentary approval.

The sources, who spoke to The Canadian Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the plans publicly, say details will come soon.

The Liberals have agreed on how to extend EI-like benefits to those currently deemed ineligible for the program, as well as a floor on the value and duration of payments.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said he sees the temporary measures as a springboard to a larger overhaul of the federal safety net.

Its weaknesses have been known for years and widely exposed through the pandemic-induced crisis, he said.

“We need to look at these temporary measures and figure out how do we incorporate some of that as permanent measures into the future,” Yussuff said, “because you can’t have a social safety net where a significant chunk of people don’t even have any net.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made clear his intention to reshape a safety net that supports a modern workforce and “gig” economy. The Liberal cabinet is slated to talk about the larger overhaul at next month’s retreat.

David Macdonald, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, noted recently that about 4.7 million people were receiving the CERB at the start of August, with about 2.1 million not eligible for EI under existing program rules.

He added that just over half of CERB recipients at risk of being ineligible for EI are women, and they would also receive less than under the CERB.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called on Trudeau to extend the CERB until the end of September and present a plan to fix EI by the end of this month.

“Millions of people across the country are stressed about how they’re going to make ends meet when the Liberals cancel the CERB at the end of the month,” Singh said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Unemployment is expected to remain high for the rest of 2020, with employment levels not reaching pre-pandemic levels until some time next year, based on Royal Bank forecasts released Wednesday.

READ MORE: 21% of Canadians worried about ‘losing the roof over their heads’ if CERB ends: poll

It makes sense to help people in the short term, but the question for the government will be what to do if a large chunk of the labour force still needs help by late 2021, said Robert Asselin, a former adviser to Trudeau and now former finance minister Bill Morneau.

“If you create a program like EI and say, we’re going to support these people as long as it takes … you basically create a permanent income-support program and it’s hugely expensive,” said Asselin, now a senior vice-president at the Business Council of Canada.

“It’s going to have to be paid for by someone, including employers. You’re effectively putting a tax eventually on businesses, which I think would be very damaging in the current circumstances.”

Modelling done in the latest report on EI premiums showed rates would have to rise by five cents per year for four years in response to a recession like the one the country suffered during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

The estimate didn’t account for any special, temporary economic measures the government could put in place like a rate freeze, or benefit expansion.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

The concept design for the spray park and playground in Pogadl Park. (Photo Courtesy of Canadian Recreation Solutions)
Sylvan Lake spray park tentatively scheduled to open next year

Sylvan Lake Town Council approved the tender of the spray park and playground in Pogadl Park

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

One of the oil paintings stolen from a season home near the boat launch on Kuusamo Krest. (Photo Submitted)
Sylvan Lake RCMP search for paintings stolen from vacation home

Three original paintings were reportedly stolen from a seasonal home

A lone skater practises his shot on a melting outdoor rink recently. As of March 2, all outdoor skating rinks, including the ones on the lake, are closed for the season. (Photo Submitted by Town of Sylvan Lake)
All outdoor skating rinks in Sylvan Lake closed for the season

The Town announced Tuesday morning the rinks on the lake were also closed due to the warm weather

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

hands
The call is out in Rimbey to sign on with a group that is all about building connections

‘Already, we are building a network where we can rely on each other and help each other out’

FILE - Dolly Parton arrives at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Grammy-winning singer, actor and humanitarian posted a video on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, of her singing just before getting her COVID-19 vaccine shot. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee for coronavirus research. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly sings ‘Jolene’ rewrite before shot

The Grammy-winning legend turned 75 this year

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks about the Fiscal update during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday November 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID-19: Wage and rent subsidies, lockdown support to be extended until June

Chrystia Freeland says now is not time to lower levels of support

Many rural seniors are having to travel a long way to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Stettler residents are being told to go to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose. (Black Press file photo).
Rural central Alberta seniors have to travel far to get vaccines

Stettler residents are being directed to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose clinics

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. Photo contributed
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. (Pixabay)
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Muslim women fearful following attacks in Edmonton

So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a news conference in Calgary on May 29, 2020. Shandro says Alberta is considering whether to extend the time between COVID-19 vaccine shots to four months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta may follow B.C.’s lead on faster rollout of first COVID-19 dose

Tyler Shandro says a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision is coming

Most Read