Lib­er­als, Tories, NDP all seek­ing wage sub­sidy

Steep drop in do­na­tions forces hand

National Post (National Edition) - - CANADA - CHRISTO­PHER NARDI

OT­TAWA drop in do­na­tions dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­demic, the fed­eral Lib­er­als, Con­ser­va­tives and NDP have all ap­plied for the Trudeau gov­ern­ment’s wage sub­sidy.

The in­for­ma­tion first be­gan trick­ling out pub­licly on Fri­day af­ter­noon when Karl Bélanger, for­mer NDP na­tional di­rec­tor and now con­sul­tant and ra­dio colum­nist for Gatineau’s 104.7 FM, re­vealed that his for­mer party had ap­plied for the sub­sidy.

“I’m not sure I would have made the same de­ci­sion, but at the same time, I un­der­stand why they’re mak­ing it. If they are in­deed fac­ing the sit­u­a­tion where they would have to lay off em­ploy­ees, then their own work­ers shouldn’t be ex­cluded be­cause of who they work for,” Bélanger later said in an in­ter­view with the Na­tional Post.

When later ap­proached by me­dia, the Lib­eral Party of Canada and the Con­ser­va­tive Party of Canada also con­firmed that they had also ap­plied for — and started to re­ceive — money from the Canada Emer­gency Wage Sub­sidy (CEWS).

Only the Bloc Québé­cois said it had not ap­plied for the fed­eral pro­gram, nor did it plan on do­ing so.

None of the par­ties re­sponded to the ques­tion how much they are el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive from the sub­sidy.

Launched on April 27, the CEWS cov­ers 75 per cent of el­i­gi­ble em­ploy­ers’ pay­rolls — up to a weekly max­i­mum of $847 per em­ployee — for up to 12 weeks start­ing March 15.

To be el­i­gi­ble, an or­ga­ni­za­tion’s rev­enue must have dropped by at least 30 per cent in one month since the be­gin­ning of the COVID-19 pan­demic. Pri­vate busi­nesses and most non-prof­its, which would in­clude po­lit­i­cal par­ties, are el­i­gi­ble.

All four fed­eral par­ties said that the can­cel­la­tion of in-per­son fund­ing events and a drop in do­na­tions as mil­lions of Cana­di­ans lost their jobs led to a significan­t fall in rev­enue over the past two months.

“As an or­ga­ni­za­tion, we rely heav­ily on the do­na­tions of in­di­vid­u­als, es­pe­cially for our day-to-day op­er­a­tions which are 100 per cent funded by our donors,” Con­ser­va­tive spokesman Cory Hann said. The party em­ploys about 60 peo­ple both full and part-time.

“We un­der­stand that many Cana­di­ans are not able to give at the moment, which is why we’ve been tak­ing a dif­fer­ent ap­proach on do­na­tion asks and op­er­a­tions that take that into ac­count,” he con­tin­ued, adding that re­mote work has also led to “un­ex­pected ex­penses.”

“The health and safety of Cana­di­ans is al­ways our top pri­or­ity, and all in-per­son fundrais­ing events were paused as of early March,” Lib­eral party spokesper­son Brae­den Ca­ley wrote in a state­ment. “The Lib­eral Party of Canada has met the el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria for the Canada Emer­gency Wage Sub­sidy in re­cent weeks and re­ceived that sup­port.”

“Sup­port was def­i­nitely stay­ing strong fol­low­ing the elec­tion and into this year. And then in March, when the pan­demic was de­clared and ev­ery­thing kind of shut down, we saw a drop in our num­bers in March, and then a more significan­t drop in April. We an­tic­i­pate the same for May and for the next lit­tle while,” NDP Na­tional Di­rec­tor Anne McGrath said in an in­ter­view.

Her party was the only one to de­tail how much its rev­enue had dropped since the be­gin­ning of the pan­demic.

Ac­cord­ing to McGrath, the party col­lected ap­prox­i­mately $297,000 in March 2020, com­pared to $375,000 in the same month last year.

The de­crease was steeper in April, when the party reg­is­tered $275,000 in do­na­tions, com­pared to $400,000 at the same time last year.

“I wouldn’t iden­tify it as dras­tic, but it is significan­t enough,” McGrath said. “We want to main­tain our staffing lev­els and not lay off peo­ple. Many of the peo­ple on our staff are sin­gle par­ents, stu­dents and peo­ple who are new Cana­di­ans.”

If the NDP’s ap­pli­ca­tion is ap­proved by the Canada Rev­enue Agency, the money will pay the party’s roughly 35 full and part-time em­ploy­ees.

As is the case for all po­lit­i­cal par­ties, MPs’ and their po­lit­i­cal staff’s salaries are not el­i­gi­ble to be cov­ered by CEWS be­cause they are not em­ployed by their party. They are paid through an in­de­pen­dent bud­get from the House of Com­mons.

“The pro­gram is there to pre­vent lay­offs, right? And ev­ery­body is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a down­turn in their rev­enues. And so I think it makes sense (for po­lit­i­cal par­ties to ap­ply). From my point of view, it’s the re­spon­si­ble thing to do,” McGrath added.

JEAN LE­VAC / POSTMEDIA NEWS FILES

Launched on April 27, the CEWS cov­ers 75 per cent of el­i­gi­ble em­ploy­ers’ pay­rolls — up to a weekly max­i­mum of $847 per em­ployee — for up to 12 weeks.

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