Opposition parties want Liberals to reform finance committee to review COVID support bill

Opposition parties say they do not support efforts to speed up federal government proposed legislation to extend pandemic supports to struggling workers and businesses and want Bill C-2 to do subject to full review before the House finance committee.

Talks are underway between the government and opposition parties to speed up the bill, which was introduced last week in the Commons and would provide more than $ 7 billion in additional benefits in the event of a pandemic.

“The government is proposing new spending without accountability,” Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre told reporters on Wednesday. “We are putting conditions on our support for this bill. Those conditions must be met or we will oppose it.”

The Conservatives say they want to see four conditions met before supporting the bill: an independent investigation into reports that organized crime has received support during a pandemic; a full study of the bill in the finance committee – with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland appearing for four hours of questions; amendments preventing those who are likely to be employed from receiving benefits; and amendments to prevent prisoners and criminals from accessing benefits.

The NDP also wants Bill C-2 to go to the finance committee. NDP House leader Peter Julian told CBC News his party will not be supporting the bill in its current form and wants specific amendments to address their concerns.

“We are not supporting C-2,” he said. “It takes the emergency response benefit away and replaces it with a lockdown benefit that no one can access now because no region is locked out at the moment. “

NDP whip Rachel Blaney said another key problem with the bill is that it does not address the clawback of guaranteed income support payments. About 90,000 low-income seniors have their monthly payments reduced because they received pandemic benefits the previous year.

“We certainly hope that the finance committee will be up and running so that they can deal with these issues. And that’s really important because I think for this legislation there are a lot of significant loopholes that the NDP has identified. “said Blaney.

“We want to make sure that this legislation fills these gaps and at the moment this legislation is not doing the job.”

It will be difficult to meet the demands of opposition parties, as no standing committee has yet been struck to consider Bill C-2 – or the other two bills the government wants to pass before the recess. winter. And time is running out.

Pathways to Royal Assent

Sources told CBC News that House leaders from all parties have met regularly to discuss how to proceed. They say two options are on the table to get the C-2 through the Commons as quickly as possible.

The first is to use a legislative committee to review the subsidy program to ensure that businesses and workers in need of help continue to get it – the option favored by the Conservatives and the NDP.

The other option is to bring forward a motion to send the bill directly to what’s called committee of the whole, a procedural step that completely bypasses committee review.

This is the process that unfolded on Wednesday when all parties agreed to expedite the update of the federal government’s bill to ban the practice of conversion therapy. However, we still do not know if this option is still on the table for Bill C-2.

Rarely does a bill go to committee of the whole. This can be done by unanimous consent of the Commons – which sometimes happens when a bill has to be passed in a short period of time. In the absence of unanimous consent, the government may give 48 hours’ notice of a motion to refer to Committee of the Whole; the motion would still be debated and voted on.

liberal optimism

Government House leader Mark Holland said on Wednesday that the Liberals and Conservatives are in talks on Bill C-2 and that these conversations “are constantly evolving.”

“I try to find common ground wherever it can be found to move forward together,” Holland said. “It would be a powerful statement to say as a united Parliament that we stand side by side behind the Canadians who are affected by this pandemic. “

A government spokesperson today described the talks between the parties as positive in tone, but declined to comment further.

Support programs offered by C-2 include wage and rental subsidies for sectors – such as tourism and hospitality – which continue to suffer losses from the pandemic.

The bill would also create a new Canadian worker lockdown benefit to help people who find themselves unable to work in the future due to local lockdowns linked to COVID-19. The new benefit would give affected workers $ 300 per week and last until May 7, 2022.

The law would also extend the Canadian caregiver recovery benefit and the Canadian illness recovery benefit on the same date.

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