Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (The Canadian Press)

Senate approves bill on wage subsidy, disability payments for COVID-19

The bill increases the maximum support available to the hardest-hit employers

The law extending the federal government’s emergency wage subsidy for employers hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown made it through the Senate Monday.

The package passed by the House of Commons last week also includes one-time payments for people with disabilities facing higher expenses, and extensions to legal deadlines for some court matters the pandemic has made hard or impossible to meet.

Bill C-20 passed on a voice vote without changes.

The extension to the wage subsidy program is the core of the Liberal government’s plan to help the economy get back into shape through the fall, assisting employers with labour costs so they can operate even if business is slow.

The bill increases the maximum support available to the hardest-hit employers, but starts scaling back subsidies before ending them in December.

The special sitting was also a chance for Conservatives and other senators critical of the Liberal government to criticize its handling of the months-long crisis.

They cited the possibility of fraud in the signature Canada Emergency Response Benefit, a commercial rent-subsidy program merchants have complained is geared to landlords instead of them, and the complex formula underlying the extended wage subsidy.

They especially noted the aborted deal that handed management of a student-volunteering program to the WE organization.

“The Canada Student Service Grant is the proverbial icing on the cake on this series of government fiascos,” said Conservative Sen. Thanh Hai Ngo. “Who designed this program? Did they truly believe that paying students to volunteer was preferable to them actually working?”

Conservative Sen. Larry Smith carried out a dramatic reading of the bureaucratic wage subsidy language, thundering through percentages of revenue declines and maximum top-ups to show how complex the program is.

“Many people in small businesses, they don’t have the technical capabilities, nor the money, nor, I’m not going to say the experience, to be able to do something like this,” Smith said.

“I’ve got a headache, trying to understand this.”

Others were more generous. Sen. Scott Tannas, an Alberta senator who was appointed as a Conservative but is now the interim leader of the mixed Canadian Senators Group, said he commended the government for its work, then paused and joked that he was waiting for lightning to strike him.

The extended wage subsidy provides “a bridge” from pandemic panic to recovery, he said.

“We have lots of opportunity to criticize, but I think this is an important step,” he said.

The Canadian Press

Coronavirussenate

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Conservation Officers seek public assistance

A mule deer buck was poached within Elkford town limits

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

Annual Elk Valley Pride Festival paints the town rainbow

Festivities began with a spirited Pride Bike Parade and flag raising ceremony

City of Fernie installs new railway safety decals

Part of Rail Safety Week, the initiative promotes railway safety at one of Fernie’s busy crossings

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read