COVID-19 Update May 29 2020

Dear Constituents,

Deeper in debt and little to show for it might soon become the Liberal government’s motto. On Monday of this week the Prime Minister announced his intention to implement ten paid sick days leave for Canadian workers. This announcement was a blatant capitulation to the NDP for supporting the Liberals proposal that Parliament not sit again until September.

Resumption of Parliament

When the House of commons reconvened in mid-April, after a five-week shutdown, the purpose was to review and approve government proposals to deal with the pandemic.  As such, rather than Parliament in its usual structure (where the opposition has some say of what is presented and when), an agreement was reached to have parliament meet in a special COVID committee until the May long weekend. This committee met in person, with a limited number of MPs in attendance, once per week and twice weekly virtually. All business and questions during those sessions has to be related to COVID-19 and the opposition has no real control over what is discussed.  In the name of expediency, this committee gives the government nearly exclusive control over the parliamentary agenda.

A limited number of MPs gathered in Ottawa again on Monday for the resumption of Parliament and debate next steps. As you might expect, Liberals do not want Parliament to sit using the normal procedures of business, but rather proposed, through a motion, that the committee structure stay in place until a June adjournment for the summer. We have been advocating that Parliament sit four days per week, with a reduced number of MPs in person, meeting all health guidelines, so that we can deal with the issues of the day, including getting an update on the country’s financial situation.

Initially, it looked like this might be something that the minority government would agree to.  However, the NDP decided to throw the government a lifeline, and agreed to support the motion, in return having the government advocate with the provinces for the ten days paid sick leave proposal.  Proving that there is little difference between the Liberals and NDP these days, the government jumped at this chance.

The result is Parliament will sit four days a week in committee dealing only with COVID-19 issues until June 17, adjourn for the summer and then normal sittings would resume in September. If you would care to read some of the debate access Hansard here.

Our caucus is circulating a petition, sponsored by MP Cathay Wagantall, which calls on the Prime Minister to immediately reconvene normal sittings of the House of Commons.  We would appreciate it if you would take a moment to sign it online here.

Liberal Paid Sick Leave Proposal 

The Prime Minister, in an obvious capitulation to the 24-member NDP caucus, has promised to “advance talks with provinces to ensure every worker in Canada who needs it can access 10 days of paid sick leave annually.” Like most government announcements, no details were provided such as who will pay for such an expensive undertaking and what qualifies as “sick”. The Prime Minister said that in the fall when flu season arrives “I don’t want people with sniffles worrying about not getting paid if they don’t go to work.” Provinces are in no position to pick up the tab for this undertaking. If small businesses are forced to endure these costs it could mean the final “nail in the coffin.” That will probably mean some form of financial assistance from the federal government adding to an already monstrous debt load.  We will continue to monitor this in the coming weeks.

Conservative Party Receiving the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program (CEWS)

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program (CEWS) providing a 75% wage subsidy to employers, is available to any private sector business as well as non-profit and charitable organizations. There has been considerable coverage this past week regarding four political parties, Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Greens receiving the subsidy. When learning that the Conservative party office staff in Ottawa were being paid with the subsidy I did not agree and made my views known to the Leader. In speaking to many of my colleagues they feel the same way. Leadership candidates Erin O’Toole and Peter MacKay have condemned the practice. While technically eligible, I believe the optics are bad and it doesn’t pass the smell test.

Conclusion

I know that many of you feel that we need to be doing more to push back on the government’s policies and decisions.  I agree.  As always, I offer these updates to try to provide you with some context for the challenges we are currently facing.  I look forward to your thoughts.

Ron