“This is a major win,” the NDP leader told reporters in Ottawa Thursday, hours after Liberals tabled legislation to increase the value of proposed new benefits for unemployed workers to $500 a week.
Watch: Singh touts ‘major victory for people’
Last month, Liberals said their replacement plan for the CERB — an expanded employment insurance program and three new benefits — would pay out at $400 per week. The NDP blasted the government for seeking to cut help for those in need, and called on the government to extend CERB until a benefit of equal value was in place.
“We fought back and we forced the government to continue that support of $2,000 (per month), which is a big victory for Canadians,” Singh said.
The government’s Bill C-2 seeks to provide:
- A Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) of $500 per week for up to 26 weeks for workers who have lost their income due to COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI, such as contract workers;
- A Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) of $500 for up to two weeks for workers who fall ill or must self-isolate because of COVID-19;
- A Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) of $500 per week, up to 26 weeks, for Canadians who can’t work because they must care for a child or other dependent due to pandemic-induced closure of schools, daycares or other care facilities.
Though the proposed CRSB would appear to meet NDP demands for paid sick leave in the face of a second wave of COVID-19 cases, Singh said New Democrats are still “negotiating” with Liberals over that measure.
Singh said he is optimistic his party will reach an agreement with Liberals on sick leave. “Things are looking good,” he said.
NDP leader won’t say if party will back throne speech
But the NDP leader was not yet ready to say if his party will support the Liberal throne speech and prevent a fall election in the thick of a pandemic, something he has said for weeks is not his goal.
“We don’t have a throne speech vote in front of us right now,” Singh said. “What is in front of us right now is a piece of legislation that we are, right now, in the midst of negotiating.”
Support from the NDP’s 24 MPs would guarantee the Liberal government survives the confidence vote on the throne speech, the date for which has not yet been set.
Conservatives have already said they will vote against the throne speech. The Bloc Quebecois have suggested they will do the same unless Liberals commit to giving provinces $28 billion more each year in health transfers, with no strings attached, as requested by the premiers of Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, and Manitoba.
At an earlier press conference Thursday, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough denied politics was behind the government’s shift from August. She said Liberals have been “flexible from the beginning” in responding to the needs of workers.
“Quite frankly, when we announced these benefits more than a month ago we signalled very clearly we’d be watching closely what was happening in Canada with respect to the pandemic, around the safe return to school, around the job creation numbers,” she said.
“And we signalled very clearly a willingness to be flexible in the amount that we’d be giving for the benefit.”
She said the government expects roughly 2.8 million people receiving CERB support to move to EI, but stressed the “urgency of C-2 clearing the House of Commons at a quick pace because the emergency benefit expires this weekend.
“We’re now rolling up our sleeves to get this past the finish line,″ she said.
With files from The Canadian Press