National Post (Latest Edition)

Liberals want new aid bill fast-tracked

Benefits package would replace expired CERB

- And Mia Rabson Stephanie Levitz

OTTAWA • The Liberal government is asking Parliament to fast- track its latest COVID-19 economic recovery package, prompting a torrent of opposition outrage that government forced this issue by proroguing Parliament in August.

Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez proposed Monday to limit debate on Bill C- 2, which establishe­s more flexibilit­y to qualify for employment insurance.

It would also set up three new benefits for Canadians who won’t qualify for EI but are still impacted by the economic crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Liberals secured NDP support for the legislatio­n last week by raising the amount of those benefits to $500, from $400.

That includes a Canada Recovery Benefit for self-employed and gig workers who still won’t qualify for EI, as well as sick leave and caregiver benefits for workers who have to stay home because they or someone they care for, such as children, have to stay home temporaril­y because of COVID-19.

The $500 a week will equal what was paid out under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which the Liberals introduced last spring as millions of Canadians lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Because CERB expired over the weekend, the new bill will need to pass quickly for Canadians to begin applying for the new benefits. Applicatio­ns for the recovery benefit are to open Oct. 11 and, for the other two benefits, on Oct. 4.

Rodriguez said Canadians are watching to see if political parties will work together to pass the aid package quickly.

“Canadians need our help now and this is exactly what the motion is attempting to accomplish,” he said Monday. “Quick action.”

The motion proposes to limit debate on the bill to just 4.5 hours and have no committee time, allowing the bill to likely pass before the end of the day.

Conservati­ve House leader Gerard Deltell called that a “joke.”

“What we have today is a government who wants 4.5 hours of debate for $ 50 billion in taxpayer dollars,” said Deltell.

The Liberals prorogued Parliament in August, which prevented any debate or committee work until it resumed last week. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government needed to prorogue in order to bring in a throne speech and get Parliament’s approval for the COVID-19 recovery plan.

But he also did it amid multiple investigat­ions by House of Commons committees about the Liberals’ decision to award a contract to WE Charity to administer a massive student grant program, when many Liberals, including Trudeau, had clear ties to the organizati­on.

Deltell wants to amend the motion to add a committee hearing where the ministers of finance, employment and children all take questions from MPS for 95 minutes each.

NDP House leader Peter Julian said his party will support the motion but only begrudging­ly because people need the help. He said the Liberals’ actions mean millions of Canadians are suffering and anxious about what help they will get.

“Why did they take millions of Canadians right to the precipice before acting?” Julian asked.

WHY DID THEY TAKE MILLIONS OF CANADIANS RIGHT TO THE PRECIPICE?

 ?? Blair Gable / REUTERS ?? Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez sought Monday to limit debate on a bill giving more flexibilit­y to qualify for employment insurance. Canadians are watching to see if parties will work together to pass it, he said.
Blair Gable / REUTERS Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez sought Monday to limit debate on a bill giving more flexibilit­y to qualify for employment insurance. Canadians are watching to see if parties will work together to pass it, he said.

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