Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a wage subsidy will apply to small-, medium- and large-sized businesses. (The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a wage subsidy will apply to small-, medium- and large-sized businesses. (The Canadian Press)

Government, opposition parties strike deal to pass massive wage subsidy bill

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the money will begin to flow within two to five weeks

The Trudeau government has struck a deal with opposition parties to swiftly approve a massive $73-billion wage subsidy program aimed at helping businesses and workers survive the economic ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Passage of legislation needed to implement the program was assured Saturday after Conservatives dropped their attempt to tie the bill to the longer-term question of how Parliament should function in the midst of a national health crisis.

At a morning news conference just hours before the House of Commons was to meet for a rare emergency sitting on the Easter long weekend, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said his party had agreed to support passage of the bill and to continue discussions on the future of Parliament later.

Under the bill, which is expected to pass the Commons and the Senate and receive royal assent later Saturday, the federal government will pay companies 75 per cent of the first $58,700 normally earned by employees, up to $847 per week for up to 12 weeks. The subsidy is retroactive to March 15 and will be available to companies that lost 15 per cent of their revenue in March or 30 per cent in April or May.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the money will begin to flow within two to five weeks, with the government working to get it started in the shortest possible time.

Scheer said that Conservatives had won some improvements to the bill over the past week of negotiations and that their support for the wage subsidy was never dependent on settling the matter of how or when Parliament should sit going forward.

That said, Scheer argued that the work of opposition parties to improve the legislation demonstrates how important it is to have the Commons sitting regularly so that the government can be held to account.

“This shows that during times of crisis, Parliament needs to play its role,” he said.

Scheer reiterated his party’s contention that the Commons should sit — with reduced numbers — four days a week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has argued that in-person sittings present a health risk for Commons clerks, administrators, security and cleaners who’d have to come to work at a time when all Canadians are being urged to stay home to curb the spread of the deadly virus. He’s also argued that small sittings — like today’s sitting of just 32 MPs who are primarily within driving distance of the capital — would shut out MPs from all corners of the country.

Trudeau’s Liberals have been promoting the idea of virtual sittings of Parliament. Commons Speaker Anthony Rota has instructed Commons administration to consult with experts about the logistics and technology required for virtual sittings, with the goal of having them up and running within four weeks.

But Scheer said: “We can’t wait that long.”

ALSO READ: Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

He suggested that in-person sittings should be held until virtual sittings can be implemented.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he’s open to discussing either virtual sittings or “limited” in-person sittings. But Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said he would never agree to in-person sittings.

For the past couple of weeks, the Commons finance and health committees have been meeting weekly via teleconference. As part of the deal to speedily pass the wage subsidy bill, government House leader Pablo Rodriguez said more committees — industry, government operations, human resources and procedure and House affairs — will also begin virtual meetings.

The latter committee will be specifically tasked with exploring the best ways for the Commons to function in the weeks ahead.

“We have to be creative,” Rodriguez said.

“On one hand, we can’t tell Canadians, ‘Stay home because that’s the way to fight this (pandemic)’ and then come here every day and meet.”

Both Singh and Blanchet said their parties will support the speedy passage of the wage subsidy bill and claimed credit for making some improvements to it.

Singh, who has been pushing for a universal benefit for all Canadians, said the motion seeking unanimous consent for the wage subsidy will also include a guarantee that the government will close some of the gaps that have left some Canadians without any help from either the wage subsidy or the previously passed Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

And he said he still wants Trudeau to go further and drop all the eligibility criteria for the CERB. Singh said he’s heard from many Canadians who don’t qualify for the emergency benefit, which opened to applicants this week, including people who are still earning a small income, students and those who were unemployed before the pandemic began.

Blanchet said his party successfully negotiated some additions to the bill that will see businesses get help with some of their fixed costs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will address Canadians from the Commons later Saturday, marking his first public appearance away from his home in 26 days.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Victoria police continue to look for missing man Tyrone Goertzen and are once again asking for the public’s assistance in locating him. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police put out another call for help finding missing man

Tyrone Goertzen, 33, was first reported missing June 4

Rachel Rivera (left) and Claire Ouchi are a dynamic art duo known as the WKNDRS. The two painted the new road mural at Uptown. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Artistic mural at Uptown brings creativity, fun to summer shoppers in Saanich

Road installation the largest of its kind in Greater Victoria

Kathy and Doug LaFortune stand next to the new welcome pole now gracing the front entrance of KELSET Elementary School in North Saanich. LaFortune completed the piece after suffering a stroke with the help of his wife and son Bear. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
KELSET school in North Saanich unveils welcome pole on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Carver Doug LaFortune completed pole with the help of his son, wife after suffering a stroke

Colwood council is looking at potential summer weekend closures to traffic of a section of Ocean Boulevard at Esquimalt Lagoon, to allow for more of a park-like setting during summer events such as the popular Eats & Beats event, shown here in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Mayor lobbying for summer weekend closures of beachfront Colwood roadway

Rob Martin to bring motion forward to June 28 council meeting

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

Bernadette Jordan addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on January 14, 2019. Jordan says the government will provide $2 million to allow First Nations to continue to strengthen the marine safety system across Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
First Nations receive federal funds to purchase marine rescue boats

Quatsino, Heiltsuk, and Kitasoo First Nation’s among eight across Canada to receive funding

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Most Read