The Trudeau government’s bill, which includes imposing penalties for fraudulently claiming the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, has no support from main opposition parties, in a June 10, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

No apparent opposition support for feds’ latest pandemic emergency bill

Liberals need support of one opposition party

OTTAWA — The non-partisan spirit that has allowed Parliament to swiftly pass emergency legislation during the COVID-19 pandemic seems likely to come to an abrupt end today.

And that could leave in limbo a number of promised measures, including benefits for disabled Canadians and expansion of the wage subsidy program to include seasonal workers and some additional businesses.

The Trudeau government’s latest bill — which would also impose penalties for fraudulently claiming the Canada Emergency Response Benefit — appears to have no support among the main opposition parties.

Without unanimous consent, the government will not be able to pass the bill this afternoon after just a few hours of debate, as it has done with four previous pandemic-related bills.

The NDP is balking at the prospect of Canadians who fraudulently claim the $2,000-a-month CERB being fined or sent to jail — despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assurances that the punishment is aimed at those who deliberately defraud the government, not those who make honest mistakes.

The Conservatives are holding out for a full resumption of House of Commons business.

And the Bloc Quebecois is demanding three conditions be met before it will support the bill: a fiscal update this month, a first ministers’ meeting before September on health care transfers to the provinces and a ban on political parties accessing the wage subsidy to avoid laying off staff.

Negotiations were continuing behind the scenes late Tuesday and were expected to go down to the wire today.

But Liberal insiders conveyed less willingness to make concessions this time and concede an impasse is a distinct possibility.

The minority Liberals would be able to proceed with the bill with the support of just one opposition party but that would take days or weeks longer. And even that seemed like a long-shot.

Government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said the government will, if necessary, find other ways to deliver on some of the measures that are included in the bill, although that could entail delays.

In particular, they said the government will follow through on the promised one-time tax-free payment of up to $600 for Canadians with disabilities, announced by Trudeau last week.

The bill includes a provision to allow Revenue Canada to share information so that the benefit can be delivered to Canadians who are eligible for the disability tax credit. Officials said a different delivery mechanism can be found if necessary.

The bill also includes changes to the CERB in response to concerns that the benefit is discouraging people from returning to low-paying jobs. People would be cut off if they fail to return to work when “it is reasonable to do so” and their employer has asked them to come back, or if they are able to work but decline a reasonable job offer.

As well, it would allow people to make claims for the CERB for a two-week period, rather than the current four weeks. That is intended to help Canadians experiencing short-term job loss or having to take time off work to quarantine themselves or care for someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

It would also protect Canadians from penalties for missing deadlines in legal matters due to the pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2020.

Federal Government

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

Just Posted

Gord Bamford serenades Sylvan Lake at sold out concert

Gord Bamford played for a sold out crowd at a drive-in concert Sept. 19 in Sylvan Lake

Snake Lake Brewing takes home gold in the Canadian Brewing Awards

Central Alberta breweries Hawk Tail Brewery and Blindman Brewing also brought home top accolades

Central Alberta rancher-turned-writer brings life experiences into fiction

J.L. Cole explores the complexities of relationships in debut novel Silver Heights

UPDATED: Red Deer has nine active COVID-19 cases

Number of cases increased by 107 Friday

“My world exploded,” says Bentley-area farmer who’s swather was struck by a motorist

Dennis Duncan was a mile from home when his swather was struck by another travelling at high speeds

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

Lacombe beekeepers give the buzz on winterizing hives

Winterizing a honeybee hive is not a simple task, local apiarists say

Six injured, man in custody following BB gun incident in Alberta, RCMP say

Airdrie’s downtown core was told to shelter-in-place, while others nearby were asked to stay inside

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Wetaskiwin RCMP make arrests for Hit and Run to residence

Damage estimates are expected to be in excess of $20,000.

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Most Read