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

Photo: Rose Karges
Blue about snow?

If you have a recent photo to share email it large or actual-size editor@trailtimes.ca

There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

Some amendments have been made to the bylaw since it passed first reading. File photo
Second public hearing set for Rossland chicken bylaw

Amended bylaw would now require electric fencing to be put around yards with chickens

File
Cooperation needed so minority Parliament can function smoothly

“We will continue to work with the other parties to get answers … ”

Katrine Conroy has won for the fifth time in the Kootenay West riding. Photo: Submitted
Katrine Conroy ready to tackle challenges after election

Conroy won the Kootenay West riding for the fifth time

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An elderly woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past an advertisement for a television series in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than half the year

Province has been under a state of emergency for 32 weeks – and counting

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

Most Read