Libs, NDP reach deal on COVID-19 aid, averting election

The minority Liberal government has reached a deal with the New Democrats over legislation to support workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, securing the backing needed to survive a confidence vote on the throne speech.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Friday the agreement now includes widening workers’ access to sick-leave benefits during the pandemic. A component announced Thursday raises the floor on federal benefits for people left jobless by COVID-19 to $500 a week from the Liberals’ planned $400.

“I’ve always said my goal has been to find a way to fight for people, to get help and deliver that help to people and I’m really happy that we were able to achieve that,” Singh said Friday at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

The Liberal throne speech introduced Wednesday needs the support of at least one of the major opposition parties for the minority government to survive a confidence vote, or else Canada could head into a federal election while parts of the country are already in a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Singh had spelled out the conditions for earning the support of his party: a bill keeping weekly benefits at $500 and paid sick leave.

The Liberal government introduced legislation Thursday the NDP said it considered a victory on its first demand, by ensuring that jobless Canadians will continue to receive same benefit provided under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Now, Singh said the Liberals have agreed to expand access to paid sick leave in the legislation as well.

“This will now be accessible to millions, rather than thousands,” Singh said Friday, although he said he could not go into details.

The agreement is on the legislation known as Bill C-2, which is scheduled for two days of debate early next week, but it also likely means the NDP will end up voting with the Liberals on the throne speech.

Singh stopped short of guaranteeing anything on that point, saying the NDP wants to make sure the Liberals put forward the agreed-upon changes to the proposed legislation first. But if they do, he said, New Democrats will back the Liberals in the upcoming confidence vote.

The Liberals also cheered the deal.

“We are entering the second wave and millions of Canadians are still struggling to make ends meet,” government House leader Pablo Rodriguez said Friday on Twitter.

“We now have an agreement with the NDP on a bill that will deliver the help that Canadians need. It’s by working together that we will get through this pandemic.”

The Conservatives have already said they will vote against the throne speech and the Bloc Qubcois say they are leaning that way unless the Liberals meet demands from the provinces to add billions to annual federal health transfers by next week.


(The Canadian Press)

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