Today marks the end of week six of isolation and many constituents are asking when is this going to be over. Any decision to relax some of the measures will be made by Premier Kenny and the provincial cabinet. Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health continues to report increasing numbers of positive tests. The Premier has indicated restrictions will not be relaxed until there is a definite trend downward or a flattening of results for a period of time. It should be noted however that while Albertans have been very patient in dealing with this virus, much of the increase in positive testing has been in long term care and “hot spots” such as the two major meat packing plants in the province. The southern zone has also had 6 times the amount of positive cases as reported in Edmonton. The decision to relax some of the restrictions will be the Premier’s to make but judging by the emails I am receiving, Albertans patience is getting strained.
The tragedy in Nova Scotia this past weekend has dominated media coverage this week and as a result the Prime Minister has pulled back on major announcements of new programs. He did announce a $9 billion program for students. Post secondary students will be eligible for a $1,250 per month payment from May to August whether they had a summer job lined up or not. More details are here. I will let you know in my future updates when applications have opened. This new program is in addition to the announcement last week in which the government is picking up 100% of the minimum wage for the Canada Summer jobs program. I want to thank the many community organizations or companies who have contacted my office regarding the expanded Summer Jobs program. We have submitted a list of additional summer employers to Service Canada. The final decision of which applicants get approved will be made by Service Canada.
Applications for the CEWS (75% employer wage subsidy) open Monday. To apply or for more details click here.
Many business owners have shared their frustrations with me about the fact that all the support for business does not do anything for those that are not paid as regular employees, such as the self-employed, contractors, or those that pay themselves in dividends. The Finance Minister has reiterated his position that these businesses are “ways in which individuals manage their own tax situation” and therefore not the type of groups the government wants to support. We have been pointing out that nothing could be further from the truth. Medical professionals, sports trainers, interior designers, travel agents, realtors, and many other groups all oftentimes work in contract situations, and are equally worthy of support. We will continue to make this point, but for now it seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
The House of Commons resumed for one day on Monday. A reduced number of MPs from each party were in attendance to ask the Prime Minister and his ministers questions. The Conservative opposition was calling for a similar arrangement on at least a minimum two day per week basis. All other parties voted in favor of meeting for one day and then having a virtual Parliament for an additional day per week. This will present a series of challenges for the House speaker to coordinate.
As I mentioned in an email to you a few weeks ago, our view as the opposition is that it is our responsibility to ensure that our democratic institutions remain functioning and intact during these unprecedented times. You can rest assured that we will not be looking to “play politics” while the House is in session in this different format, despite the assertions that the Prime Minister has made to the contrary this week. What we are looking to do is to continue to take forward the grassroots concerns and suggestions that constituents have raised with us. I want to thank the many of you who have emailed questions or suggestions. I know oftentimes I do not have a good answer for you, but your comments are taken forward, tabulated alongside the comments other MPs are hearing, and we are asking the questions we get most often or raising the situations that we know have been overlooked and are causing the greatest amount of challenge. I have created another tabulation of these questions and the government responses which you can review here.
It is our belief that this approach is what makes our role as opposition the most honorable and the most effective in these times.
As always, I look forward to your replies, and continue to hope this email finds you and your family well.