Senate approves bill on wage subsidy, disability payments for COVID-19

Senate approves bill on wage subsidy, disability payments for COVID-19

OTTAWA — 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.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

Three central Alberta lakes will be off limits to swimmers for at least two weeks

A recommendation not to swim in three central Alberta lakes will last… Continue reading

Sylvan Lake beach crowded but people maintaining distance

‘A quick picture may give you the impression that everybody is crowded together’

Flames ground Jets 4-1 to take series lead, Winnipeg’s Scheifele injured

Playoff animosity didn’t take long to brew in Calgary’s 4-1 win over the Jets

Drive-in music festival continues in Red Deer

The Loco Amigos Mayhem Music Gathering ends Tuesday

A weakened Tropical Storm Isaias lashes virus-hit Florida

‘Don’t be fooled by the downgrade’

Wilford Brimley, ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Natural’ actor, dies at 85

He was on dialysis and had several medical ailments

N.L. Liberals to announce next leader, 14th premier during atypical convention Monday

Only 50 people will be allowed inside the event to welcome the next leader

Despite ‘perfect storm’ of U.S. discord, America’s truths trump foreign fictions

“On masking, it is extremely silly, it’s extremely dangerous”

NHL returns to action 142 after COVID-19 forced suspension of season

It became clear pretty quickly Saturday hockey hadn’t missed a beat

How one Montreal long-term care home managed to keep COVID-19 away

Montreal is the Canadian hotspot for COVID-19

Most Read