Opposition parties block federal government's latest CERB bill

Jun 11 2020, 6:11 pm

A bill proposed by the federal government to modify the federal wage subsidy and Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), while implementing a one-time $600 payment to Canadians with disabilities, was blocked by all opposition parties on Wednesday, after an emergency House of Commons sitting was called to discuss the matter.

The bill, entitled An Act Respecting Additional COVID-19 Measures, sought to expand the wage subsidy program to include seasonal workers and some additional businesses. It also proposed penalties for Canadians fraudulently claiming CERB.

In a further effort to get the bill moved forward, the part of the bill concerning measures for those with disabilities was separated from everything else in the legislation.

“We are here today with an opportunity to help people with disabilities,” said Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez.

However, the proceedings ended after none of the other parties supported the proposal.

In opposing the bill, Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer said, “Conservatives believe that this House should be sitting, and had we been sitting normally, we could have debated this bill, we could have facilitated the Government House Leader’s request, but of course the government has refused to allow this House to do its work as it normally would.”

Bloc Quebecois Party Leader Yves-François Blanchet said the federal government is “not asking us for negotiations; they are asking us for a rubber stamp.”

The bill is now halted for the time being.

“A little bit disappointing”: Trudeau

Speaking about Wednesday’s proceedings on Thursday morning, a visibly frustrated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “What we saw yesterday was a little bit disappointing.”

“[For] many, many weeks now, Canadians have watched opposition parties work with the government,” he said. “And I know that there isn’t a single member in the House of Commons of any party that doesn’t want to see extra help go to Canadians living with disabilities – that doesn’t think that it’s a good idea to give a little more flexibility to the CERB so that we can be a little more nimble as we move forward in the restart.”

He added, “It’s not on the substance of what we put forward that there were real concerns; it was on procedural and political basis that the opposition prevented from debating and eventually voting on these measures. That’s the disappointment.”

Trudeau also directly addressed Canadians living with disabilities, and said “we will not give up.”

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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