Politics

Commons to convene Monday to debate wage subsidy extension, disability payments

The House of Commons will meet Monday to debate legislation on extending the emergency wage subsidy and providing one-time payments to Canadians with disabilities struggling during the pandemic — a bill the Bloc Québécois says it intends to support.

Bloc Québécois says it will support the legislation, NDP not ready to commit

The House of Commons is set to be recalled Monday for an in-person sitting to debate legislation on extending the emergency wage subsidy and implementing one-time disability payments. (Sarah Sears/CBC)

The House of Commons will meet Monday to debate legislation on extending the emergency wage subsidy and providing one-time payments to Canadians with disabilities struggling during the pandemic — a bill the Bloc Québécois says it intends to support.

In a statement released Saturday, House Leader Alain Therrien said his party would like to see the legislation implemented quickly and that it is in line with demands the Bloc had previously called for.

Liberal House Leader Pablo Rodriguez has asked Speaker of the House Anthony Rota to recall the Commons on July 20 in order to table the bill. Draft legislation was shared with opposition parties last week.

Rota gave notice on Saturday for the Commons to meet Monday at noon for an in-person sitting.

Wage subsidy changes, disability payments on the table

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has proposed changes to the federal emergency wage subsidy that would see the program extended until the end of the year and expand eligibility for more businesses.

Under his proposal, businesses would no longer need to show that their revenues had dropped by at least 30 per cent in order to qualify — and would receive a subsidy that varies based on how much revenue they lost.

The legislation would extend the program until Dec. 19 and would be retroactive to July 5.

WATCH | Finance minister announces changes to wage subsidy program:

The federal wage subsidy is already supporting hundreds of thousands of Canadian businesses during the pandemic and the government announced it's getting bigger, detailing a major overhaul. 1:59

The legislation also includes a new one-time payment aimed at helping Canadians with disabilities cover costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Those payments were part of a bill that failed to move through the Commons in June after opposition parties did not provide the unanimous consent required to debate it.

At the time, the Conservatives took issue with the Trudeau government's refusal to reinstate regular in-person sittings of the Commons.

The NDP, meanwhile, opposed parts of the bill that would penalize people who fraudulently applied for the Canada emergency response benefit.

NDP House Leader Peter Julian said his party is still examining the draft legislation.

"Our conditions for supporting the bill are: no draconian CERB penalties, that all people with disabilities registered federally receive an emergency benefit and that the wage subsidy no longer has that 30 per cent cliff," Julian told CBC News on Saturday. 

In an interview on CBC's Power & Politics, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said that the disability payment — which originally was only going to benefit Canadians who qualify for the federal disability tax credit — will now also go to those receiving disability benefits from the Canada Pension Plan, the Quebec Pension Plan and Veterans Affairs Canada.

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough told CBC's Power & Politics Friday about the government's new plan to help those with disabilities shoulder costs during the pandemic. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The change would increase the number of people eligible for the $600 tax-free payment from 1.2 million to 1.7 million, she said.

"The announcements that have been made have indicated that the government is following what the NDP leadership has been on these issues," Julian said. "We always do that thorough vetting of a bill because there's a difference between what is announced sometimes and what is actually written down on paper."

Therrien said in his statement that he would have preferred to see the Liberals give up the wage subsidy, but that the Bloc would not reject the legislation in order to help those living with disabilities. 

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