House passes bill to extend and reform wage subsidy, introduce disability benefits

Legislation introduced by the Liberal government to change the federal wage subsidy and provide relief to people with disabilities passed the House of Commons today by unanimous consent.

The revised program transforms the wage subsidy into an economic stimulus program: Business Council of Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The Liberal government's bill to reform and extend the federal wage subsidy was passed by MPs. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)

Legislation introduced by the Liberal government to change the federal wage subsidy and provide relief to people with disabilities passed the House of Commons today by unanimous consent. 

The legislation, C-20, expands the number of companies that qualify for the wage subsidy, changes the amount companies can put toward their workers' wages and extends the wage subsidy program to the end of the year.

The bill also sends a one-time payment of $600 to people with disabilities and extends some legal deadlines for court cases.

The original version of the wage subsidy covered 75 per cent of wages, up to a weekly maximum of $847, for eligible companies and non-profits. Companies had to show a 30 per cent drop in revenues.

The revised program pays out on a sliding scale based on revenue drops due to the pandemic, with the hardest-hit businesses eligible for a 25 per cent increase to the previous maximum payment.

The Bloc Québécois indicated early on that its MPs would support the bill, giving the Liberals the votes required to ensure its passage.

An agreement between the parties that allowed the legislation to pass today also provided for getting two more House of Commons committees — the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations — up and running. Conservative MP John Brassard said his party pushed for those committees to re-start.

The Canada-China committee hasn't met since the pandemic began, while the public safety committee has met just twice.

The one-time 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 through the Canada Pension Plan, the Quebec Pension Plan and Veterans Affairs Canada.

The Business Council of Canada welcomed the passage of the bill and the changes made to the federal wage subsidy. 

"The revised program — expanding the eligibility requirements, extending the length of the program, and introducing a sliding scale for the wage subsidy — effectively transforms the [Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy] into a broadly based economic stimulus program," said the council's CEO Goldy Hyder in a statement.

With files from the Canadian Press

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