Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (The Canadian Press)

Senate approves bill on wage subsidy, disability payments for COVID-19

The bill increases the maximum support available to the hardest-hit employers

The law extending the federal government’s emergency wage subsidy for employers hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown made it through the Senate Monday.

The package passed by the House of Commons last week also includes one-time payments for people with disabilities facing higher expenses, and extensions to legal deadlines for some court matters the pandemic has made hard or impossible to meet.

Bill C-20 passed on a voice vote without changes.

The extension to the wage subsidy program is the core of the Liberal government’s plan to help the economy get back into shape through the fall, assisting employers with labour costs so they can operate even if business is slow.

The bill increases the maximum support available to the hardest-hit employers, but starts scaling back subsidies before ending them in December.

The special sitting was also a chance for Conservatives and other senators critical of the Liberal government to criticize its handling of the months-long crisis.

They cited the possibility of fraud in the signature Canada Emergency Response Benefit, a commercial rent-subsidy program merchants have complained is geared to landlords instead of them, and the complex formula underlying the extended wage subsidy.

They especially noted the aborted deal that handed management of a student-volunteering program to the WE organization.

“The Canada Student Service Grant is the proverbial icing on the cake on this series of government fiascos,” said Conservative Sen. Thanh Hai Ngo. “Who designed this program? Did they truly believe that paying students to volunteer was preferable to them actually working?”

Conservative Sen. Larry Smith carried out a dramatic reading of the bureaucratic wage subsidy language, thundering through percentages of revenue declines and maximum top-ups to show how complex the program is.

“Many people in small businesses, they don’t have the technical capabilities, nor the money, nor, I’m not going to say the experience, to be able to do something like this,” Smith said.

“I’ve got a headache, trying to understand this.”

Others were more generous. Sen. Scott Tannas, an Alberta senator who was appointed as a Conservative but is now the interim leader of the mixed Canadian Senators Group, said he commended the government for its work, then paused and joked that he was waiting for lightning to strike him.

The extended wage subsidy provides “a bridge” from pandemic panic to recovery, he said.

“We have lots of opportunity to criticize, but I think this is an important step,” he said.

The Canadian Press

Coronavirussenate

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

Just Posted

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Head-on collision Jan. 14 claims one life west of Fort St. James

Jenkins said alcohol, as well as road surface conditions, have been ruled out as factors

Brenda Gouglas. (Submitted photo)
Gouglas and Miller running for seat on Fort St. James council

By-election is being held with advance voting opening Jan. 20

Cedar Valley Lodge, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the LNG Canada Project site in Kitimat. The most recent outbreak among workers at the project site was just declared over. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Second COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site declared over

The outbreak was first declared on Dec. 16, 2020

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Most Read