NDP leader Jagmeet Singh gestures during a news conference Tuesday June 9, 2020 in Ottawa. Singh says it is irresponsible and wrong-headed for the Liberal government to draft a bill that would fine or imprison people who made fraudulent claims under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh gestures during a news conference Tuesday June 9, 2020 in Ottawa. Singh says it is irresponsible and wrong-headed for the Liberal government to draft a bill that would fine or imprison people who made fraudulent claims under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Singh says NDP won’t support Liberal bill that would jail, fine CERB fraudsters

Singh says new criminal penalties will hit poor and racialized people harder

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says it is irresponsible and wrong-headed for the Liberal government to draft a bill that would fine or imprison people who made fraudulent claims under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Singh says a bill the Liberals are proposing would hurt the very people that the CERB was designed to help — vulnerable people who have faced financial hardship because of COVID-19.

He also says it was hypocritical for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a knee on Parliament Hill during Friday’s nationwide anti-racism demonstrations while such a bill was being drafted.

He says the NDP was given a copy of the draft bill on the weekend by the Liberals, ahead of a sitting of the House of Commons tomorrow, and his party can’t support it as is.

Singh says new criminal penalties will hit poor and racialized people harder, and that the tax system should be used to recover funds that should not have been paid, rather than fining or jailing people during a pandemic.

Singh says all parties previously agreed that people should not be unduly penalized if they applied for benefits in good faith.

“They’re effectively opening up the floodgates to retroactively charging people just for applying … That is the opposite of what we should be doing during a pandemic,” he said Tuesday.

“I am outraged at the Liberal government that Prime Minister Trudeau can take a knee on one day while at the same time the Liberal government is drafting a bill that’s going to penalize potentially people who applied in good faith but maybe didn’t meet a certain criteria. That is wrong.”

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre wouldn’t comment on the legislation that has yet to be tabled in the House of Commons, or on whether the Tories support extending the CERB.

He said federal program should focus on encouraging people to get back to work.

“There’s no way you can replace the workforce with a government program,” Poilievre said, in an appearance with the Conservative Treasury Board critic Tim Uppal.

“That’s why the economy needs to open up and people need to have the opportunity to go back to their jobs, to earn a paycheque.”

The most recent federal figures show 8.41 million people have applied for the CERB, with $43.51 billion in payments as of June 4.

The figures surpassed anything the government originally expected, which is why the Finance Department recently updated its spending projections to put a $60-billion price tag on the measure, up from $35 billion.

At the same time, the government is revising downward how much it will spend on a wage subsidy program to $45 billion from $73 billion.

All the spending, and changes in plans, require a thorough review by the federal auditor general, Poilievre said. The Tories are calling on the government to increase the auditor general’s budget by about $10.8 million.

The watchdog has said that’s roughly what it needs to review COVID-19 and infrastructure spending without having other work fall by the wayside.

READ MORE: Payments for CERB top $40 billion as feds open doors for commercial rent help

READ MORE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaCoronavirusJagmeet SinghJustin Trudeau

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

Just Posted

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
‘Horrible’: Number of positive tests in Elk Valley on the rise

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
253 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths in Interior Health over the weekend

More than 1,000 cases in the region remain active

(File Photo)
Fernie Heritage Library plans Family Literacy Day events

The Fernie Heritage Library is hosting a number of programs to get kids excited about reading

The City of Fernie's pilot snow plow program is ongoing through the 2020-21 winter season. (Soranne Floarea / The Free Press)
Changes coming to Fernie snow plow efforts

Curb-to-curb plowing will be the most obvious change after the next snowfall in Fernie

Dustin Denham, Colin Standish, Jennifer Sliva, Jennifer King, and Cindy Sleeman rode to the Montane Hut to celebrate Fernie Fatbike Day. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)
First ever Fernie Fatbike Day gets local tires spinning

The FMBC’s inaugural event spread the Fernie fatbike stoke all over local trails on Jan. 16

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Sunnybank
COVID-19 related deaths at Oliver, West Kelowna and Vernon senior care homes

Sunnybank, Heritage Retirement Residence and Noric House recorded deaths over the weekend

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Most Read