Senate to pass pandemic assistance bill after MPs leave for winter recess

OTTAWA – The Senate was set to quickly approve a new round of pandemic aid on Thursday after Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland appealed before Christmas to approve the aid and promised the benefits would flow quickly to businesses and workers in need.

Bill C-2 would provide targeted assistance to businesses ordered shutdown and workers sent home, under a local lockdown, as well as wage and rental subsidies to those still recovering from pandemic restrictions previous ones.

Freeland told senators the government created the measures in case there was another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and argued they were even more needed now with the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Just before Freeland’s videoconference appearance in the Senate, the House of Commons voted to speed up legislation in the Upper House as one of its final acts before MPs agreed to leave the nation’s capital for a break winter that will continue until the end. January.

It is not uncommon for the House of Commons to send bills to the Senate after Members recess and for the Upper House to sit longer to deal with any outstanding legislation.

But Senator Scott Tannas told Freeland that it happens too often for his liking and limits the Senate’s ability to scrutinize legislation as it should as a chamber of second thought.

The government is hoping the Senate will pass C-2 and, and a second bill sent to senators Thursday night, C-3, before rising for recess on Friday.

Tannas asked Freeland to persuade the government to “plan a little better, so that we don’t get stuck,” adding a moment later: “We know it’s hard, but it’s – we’re sick of it. that.

The interaction happened over 90 minutes of questioning that Freeland faced Thursday evening to help secure final parliamentary approval on the new round of worker and business aid that the government says will cost $ 7. , $ 4 billion.

Bill C-2 considers a lockdown to occur when a health authority orders the closure of non-essential businesses and non-essential workers stay at home. Freeland said there may be certain regions of the country that apply.

Although she did not set a specific timeframe for the start of benefits, she said the government planned to use existing systems for claims and payments to distribute aid quickly.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation on the ground, as we see provinces and territories in a very appropriate way, let me say, responding to COVID and Omicron, and putting new restrictions in place. She said.

Bill C-3 – which would grant 10 days of paid sick leave to federally regulated workers and crack down on harassment and intimidation of healthcare workers – was also rushed through the House of Commons on Thursday without a call vote nominal, and sent to the Senate.

C-3 passed with several amendments, one of which incorporated a Conservative private member’s bill providing extended, unpaid bereavement leave for parents who have a stillbirth or the death of a child.

Two other changes were intended to address concerns that workers would only slowly accumulate their entitlement to paid sick leave, at the rate of one day per working month, and an employer could require a doctor’s note to validate the leave. disease.

As amended, the bill now proposes that workers accumulate three days of paid sick leave after one month and, after two months, begin accumulating one additional sick day per month up to a maximum of 10 days per month. year. Employers can still request a medical certificate, but only when a worker claims more than five consecutive sick days.

Government House Leader Mark Holland praised opposition parties for being “unbelievably reasonable” and willing to work together to get all of the Liberal priority bills through the House of Commons swiftly passed in less than four years. weeks since the start of the new session of Parliament.

A third bill, banning the traumatic practice of conversion therapy, was approved by both parliamentary houses earlier this month and has already received royal assent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 16, 2021.


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