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

Crown Lease secured for land for new Loon Lake fire hall

Construction on hall to replace one destroyed in 2017 expected to start next year

Psalm 23 Society gives hope to people, gives back to community

‘When someone reaches out we want to be there for them’

Save Our Summer concert tour coming to Ashcroft, Clinton, Lytton

Los Borrachos embarks on first Canadian tour to bring free concerts to B.C. communities

Masks will be mandatory on all BC Transit buses from Aug. 24

New rule will apply to community bus serving Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and Clinton

Fire and pandemic haven’t derailed Clinton store’s three year plan

Hunnie’s Mercantile, which started in 2017, is ‘dead on target’ with its plans to expand

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

High-volume littering at Cape Scott draws ire from hiking groups

Popular Vancouver Island hiking spot not closing, but frustration about crowding grows

SFU to drop ‘Clan’ varsity team name

The ‘Clan’ name is shortened from ‘Clansmen,’ and was introduced roughly 55 years ago

New Tory leader must build a strong team in Commons and for the campaign: Scheer

Scheer marked his final day in the House of Commons today as leader of the Opposition

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

We were a bit tone deaf: Hobo Cannabis renamed Dutch Love after backlash

Hobo Cannabis has various locations in Vancouver, Kelowna and Ottawa

Man accused of killing Red Deer doctor says he does not remember attack

Appearing before a judge, Deng Mabiour, 54, rambled about being sick and needing a doctor

Most Read