Morning light hits the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Parliament resumes full operations today with debate on throne speech

Opposition parties will respond to Wednesday’s speech

OTTAWA — The fate of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberal government hangs in the balance as Parliament resumes all normal operations today for the first time in six months.

Opposition parties will give their official responses to Wednesday’s speech from the throne but they’ve already signalled that Trudeau can’t count on support from any of them to survive the eventual confidence vote and avoid plunging the country into an election in the midst of a second wave of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

The Conservatives were unequivocal: they will not support the throne speech.

The Bloc Quebecois was almost as categorical: Bloc MPs will not consider supporting the throne speech unless Trudeau agrees to fork over at least $28 billion more each year in unconditional transfer payments to provinces for health care, as demanded unanimously last week by premiers.

Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet is giving the government just one week to accede to that demand, in the expectation that the confidence vote on the throne speech will take place next week.

That leaves New Democrats as the Liberals’ most likely dance partner but NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has conditions of his own: legislation assuring that Canadians left jobless due to the pandemic won’t have their emergency benefits cut and that Canadians who fall ill will get paid sick leave.

The government could meet the NDP’s conditions when it introduces promised legislation to transition jobless Canadians off the $500-per-week Canada Emergency Response Benefit and back onto a more flexible, generous employment insurance system.

Last month, the government promised to ensure that unemployed Canadians would continue to get $400 per week under proposed reforms to the employment insurance program.

It also promised to introduce three new temporary benefits, among them the Canada Recovery Benefit of $400 per week for those who don’t traditionally qualify for EI, as well as the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, which is to provide $500 per week for up to two weeks for workers who fall ill or must self-isolate due to COVID-19.

There is also to be a Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit to provide $500 per week of up to 26 weeks for those unable to work because they must care for a child or other dependent due to pandemic-induced closure of schools, day cares or other care facilities.

Government officials say the legislation authorizing the EI reforms and the new benefits will be introduced very soon. They also hint that the details are subject to negotiation with opposition parties — giving it a chance to expand the proposed benefits to ensure it meets the NDP’s conditions for supporting the throne speech.

The throne speech promised to do whatever it takes to protect Canadians’ lives and provide financial support for as long as the pandemic rages, including extending the 75 per cent emergency wage subsidy through to next summer and making a “significant, long-term, sustained investment” in a Canada-wide child-care system.

It also promised expanded emergency loans for businesses and targeted financial support for industries hardest hit by the pandemic, including travel, tourism and hospitality.

Over the longer-term, the speech promised to work with the provinces to set national standards for long-term care facilities, where more than 80 per cent of Canada’s COVID-19-related deaths have occurred, and to set up a universal pharmacare program.

And it promised to make action on climate change the “cornerstone” of its plan to create one million new jobs.

The government must allow for six days of debate on the throne speech but they don’t have to be consecutive days. Blanchet said he and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, both of whom are currently in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, are to join the debate on Tuesday.

No date has yet been set for the vote but, when it comes, the government will need the support of at least one of the main opposition parties to avoid being defeated.

Apart from brief sittings to pass emergency aid legislation, Parliament has been suspended since the country went into lockdown in mid-March to curb the spread of COVID-19. Those modified sittings gave opposition MPs a chance to question the government but did not allow for the full range of normal parliamentary operations, such as opposition days and private members’ bills.

Under a motion passed unanimously Wednesday, all parliamentary functions are now restored, albeit with a new hybrid model House of Commons.

Until at least Dec. 11, only a small number of MPs will be physically present in the chamber while the rest will participate virtually, including taking part in roll-call votes via videoconference.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2020.

Parliament

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

Just Posted

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

How bad is the COVID-19 situation in Alberta? The province’s top doctor… Continue reading

A $2.3-billion expansion of Alberta’s natural gas transportation system has been approved. “This should provide significant benefits — and we need every little bit of economic boost we can get,” says Reg Warkentin, policy adviser for the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce. (Flickr photo)
Red Deer-area to benefit from $2.3 billion gas pipeline expansion project

Project will add 344 km of new pipeline between RMH and Grande Prairie

Dustin Snider was elected the new board president for Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Earl’s Restaurant manager re-elected Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce president

Dustin Snider has been re-elected president of the Red Deer & Distict… Continue reading

Red Deer singer Kayla Williams hopes listeners fed up with the pandemic are comforted by her new song, Stealing from My Youth, which is digitally available for streaming on Friday. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer singer summarizes universal pandemic feelings in a new single

Kayla Williams releases ‘Stealing From My Youth’ on Friday

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer urged Red Deerians to take more pandemic precautions to stem the rising number of local cases of COVID-19. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Red Deer mayor urges citizens to take more pandemic precautions

Active cases are rising at a ‘concerning’ rate

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday February 4, 2020 in Ottawa. The Alberta government is welcoming news that Ottawa has approved an expansion of the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. gathering system in Alberta — while condemning federal delays that it says cost this summer's construction season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta welcomes federal OK of NGTL gas pipeline expansion while criticizing delay

Alberta welcomes federal OK of NGTL gas pipeline expansion while criticizing delay

Cows on pasture at the University of Vermont dairy farm eat hay Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Burlington, Vt. Canadian dairy farmers are demanding compensation from the government because of losses to their industry they say have been caused by a series of international trade deals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lisa Rathke
Trudeau says dairy farmers facing new losses due to CUSMA will be compensated

Trudeau says dairy farmers facing new losses due to CUSMA will be compensated

On Sept. 23, the mayors of Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo gathered in Edmonton to make the case for local EMS dispatch in a meeting with Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard, and Health Minister Tyler Shandro. (Photo contributed)
‘Issue of life and death’, mayors plead with government to halt consolidated EMS dispatch

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer called on Jason Kenney to overturn consolidated EMS dispatch decision

CP Rail locomotives sit idle at the company's Port Coquitlam yard east of Vancouver, B.C., on May 23, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canadian Pacific Railway reports Q3 revenue and profit down from year ago

Canadian Pacific Railway reports Q3 revenue and profit down from year ago

CN Rail locomotives are moved on tracks past cargo containers sitting on idle train cars at port in Vancouver, on Friday, February 21, 2020. Canadian National Railway Co. saw earnings slide 17 per cent for the three months ending Sept. 30, as record-setting grain shipments failed to offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on freight trains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
CN Rail earnings fall to $985 million in Q3 despite record grain shipments

CN Rail earnings fall to $985 million in Q3 despite record grain shipments

The corporate logo of Kinross Gold Corp. is shown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Kinross unveils decade-long gold production plan based on current portfolio of assets

Kinross unveils decade-long gold production plan based on current portfolio of assets

A sign board in Toronto displays the TSX close on Monday, March 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Stock market rally loses steam as hopes fade for stimulus deal before U.S. election

Stock market rally loses steam as hopes fade for stimulus deal before U.S. election

Most Read