A small tourist plane passes over downtown Ottawa at Parliament Hill on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

A small tourist plane passes over downtown Ottawa at Parliament Hill on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Parliament resumes full operations today with debate on throne speech

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

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.

READ MORE: Liberals vow wage-subsidy extension to 2021, revamp of EI system in throne speech

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.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusParliament

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

Just Posted

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson Column: If you don’t have anything nice to say…

Dear Sarah, the letter began. I hope you mail a note from… Continue reading

Bhagwan Mayer. (Photo submitted)
Organizer of transporting the World’s Largest Hockey Stick to Cowichan remembered

Bhagwan Mayer a “hard-working fellow who cared about his community.”

Paula Foot narrates a collection of stories to appeal to the imaginations of the young and young at heart with a new album​ ‘Moments with Miss Paula: Stories for Fall and Winter’. (Submitted)
New album of stories from Cowichan storyteller offers children a world of magic

The stories will appeal to six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds

The VIJHL's Kerry Park Islanders' games have been cancelled due to COVID-19.
Isles victorious before league shutdown

The Kerry Park Islanders were able to sneak in one last game… Continue reading

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Most Read