OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced his government intends to move forward on talks with the provinces and territories on ensuring that every worker in Canada who needs it can access 10 days of paid sick leave a year.
This announcement comes after the NDP made its support for Monday’s motion on how the rest of the spring session will be structured contingent on a more robust commitment to paid sick leave for all Canadians.
“To come out of this crisis, our country needs workers… more than ever,” Trudeau said. “Nobody should have to choose between taking a day off work due to illness, or being able to pay their bills.”
The prime minister also spoke to the commercial rent relief program which launched Monday morning, offering commercial property owners forgivable loans to cover 50 per cent of three monthly rent payments if they reduce their tenants’ rent by 75 per cent.
Trudeau said that landlords with up to 10 eligible tenants and who are located in Atlantic Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, or Quebec can apply today.
Landlords in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and the Territories, who also have up to 10 eligible tenants, can apply tomorrow, while landlords with more than 10 tenants will be able to apply later this week.
As the prime minister holds his press conference, a small number of MPs have begun debate in West Block on the government’s new proposal for how to continue to meet as parliamentarians amid an ongoing pandemic, while keeping in mind the necessary public health precautions. There will also be a question period Monday afternoon, which Trudeau will take part in.
HYBRID HOUSE PROPOSAL
Rather than actually resuming the full House of Commons, the government is suggesting that MPs continue the current meetings of the special all-party committee focused on COVID-19. The committee has been holding two virtual meetings a week, and one in-person meeting.
Now, the Liberal minority is suggesting the committee meet four days a week — Monday through Thursday — in a hybrid fashion that would allow some MPs to participate in-person, while others can take part from their homes, though screens set up inside the Chamber.
The proposal would see the committee continue to convene until June 17, at which point, instead of the usual summer adjournment, MPs would hold four additional sittings over the summer.
In addition, the motion — which will be advanced by Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez — includes a new ability for committees to conduct studies, including allowing the House affairs committee to dive deeper into an evaluation of how a formal hybrid House of Commons session could occur, with the implementation of new tools like remote voting.
OPPOSITION PARTY POSITIONS
In order to see the motion pass, the government will need the backing of at least one other recognized party.
Now that the government has spoken to the NDP’s main sticking point, they are likely to come on side.
“We’re in a pandemic. No Canadian should have to choose between going to work sick or staying at home not knowing if they can pay the bills,” Singh said in drawing his caucus’ line in the sand in advance of Trudeau’s address.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet is less concerned about the fine print of the motion, and is happy to let the other parties wrestle over the proposal, saying his focus is on how COVID-19 is impacting real people.
“We will probably get on the bus when it comes but we will not negotiate the hour at which it will come, or who will drive the bus,” Blanchet said.
The Conservatives have been opposed to the current House meeting structure and have long been calling for a more robust resumption of sittings with up to 50 MPs, suggesting Parliament be declared an essential service. Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has made the argument in recent days that with some businesses being able to reopen and offer their services to Canadians, MPs should be able to get back to parliamentary business in person, rather than via video conference.
Scheer has said that his caucus is confident a way forward that allows for more accountability on the massive government policies being rolled out over the last two months can be found while respecting the health and safety of all on Parliament Hill.
“This is not a partisan issue. This is about whether or not a country like Canada can have a functional Parliament during a crisis. The other parties don’t seem to understand that,” Scheer said last week.
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