Tories and Bloc say they supported COVID-19 aid package to help Canadians
Bill C-4 replaces the CERB, which came to an end last weekend
OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois say they supported the Liberal government’s new financial-aid package for workers affected by COVID-19 because Canadians need help, but they remain unhappy with how the legislation was introduced.
The two opposition parties laid out their reasons for voting in favour of Bill C-4 on Sept. 30 after the package, which includes billions of dollars in new pandemic-related relief, was passed unanimously in the House of Commons only hours earlier.
At the same time, they continued to criticize the government as well as the NDP for working together to fast-track the legislation, with the Tories and Bloc taking a particularly hard line with their opposition New Democratic colleagues.
“This is a minority government, not a coalition government,” Conservative House leader Gerard Deltell said. “We have to keep that in mind and I hope that the NDP will continue to do their job. They are there as an opposition party and they have to do opposition work in the House of Commons.”
The bill is now headed to the Senate.
The Conservatives had been vocal in their opposition to the fast-tracking of Bill C-4 and sought to use procedural tricks to delay its adoption on Sept 29. That only added to the surprise when the Tories, along with all other parties in the House, voted in favour of it in the early morning Sept. 30.
“In the big picture, we are talking about Canadian workers,” Deltell said when asked about the vote. “They need some support. Canadian business, they need some support. So this is why we approved the bill at the end of the process.”
Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet echoed that position during a news conference on Parliament Hill, saying “the principles” of the legislation “are pretty good” as he explained why his party also threw its support behind the legislation.
Yet both he and Deltell continued to complain about the fast-tracking, with Blanchet saying the Liberals’ decision to rush the aid package was a blow to democracy, robbing MPs of a chance to analyze and possibly improve the bill.
“We were not given time to proceed with the analysis and the improvements that this law might have received because the government decided for some particular reasons or purpose that … it was important enough for the government to impose the ‘shut-up’ procedure,”’ Blanchet said.
The NDP says it grudgingly agreed to support fast-tracking of the bill to provide assurance to recipients of the $500-per-week Canada Emergency Response Benefit that they won’t be cut adrift now that the support program for workers affected by COVID-19 has been wound down.
But all opposition parties blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for necessitating the speedy approval, without allowing for adequate parliamentary scrutiny.
Bill C-4 replaces the CERB, which came to an end last weekend after helping almost nine million Canadians weather the impact of the pandemic. The CERB is being replaced with a more flexible and generous employment insurance regime and, for those who still don’t qualify for EI, a new Canada recovery benefit.
The bill also creates a new sick leave benefit and another new caregiver benefit for those forced to take time off work to care for a dependent due to the pandemic.
At the behest of the NDP, the government has increased the proposed new benefits to $500 per week from the originally proposed $400, aiming to see that no one receives less than they were getting under the CERB.
It has also expanded the eligibility criteria for the sick leave benefit so that it applies not just to individuals who contract COVID-19 but also to those with underlying health conditions or other illnesses, including the flu or the common cold, that makes them more susceptible to COVID-19.