The House of Commons has consistently passed enactment approving new benefits for workers left jobless or underemployed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Simultaneously, the minority Liberal government has endured its first pandemic-time certainty test, guaranteeing at least for the present that there will be no election as COVID-19 cases spike across the country.
Bill C-4 passed in the House of Commons before sunrise Wednesday, following a day of political manoeuvring and just 4½ long stretches of discussion on the real substance of the enactment.
In the end, Conservative MPs, who had protested loudly against fast-tracking of the bill and used procedural tactics to hold it up, voted for it. So did Bloc Québécois MPs, who had also opposed fast-tracking.
It must still be passed by the Senate, which is scheduled to gather Wednesday to deal equally quickly with the bill.
Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez had announced earlier Tuesday that the House of Commons vote would be a confidence measure, meaning the minority Liberal government would have fallen if the bill had been defeated.
There was never much chance of that, however, since the NDP had promised to support the bill, having won two key changes to it.
The bill replaces the now-defunct $500-per-week Canada emergency response benefit, which came to an end last weekend after helping almost nine million Canadians weather the impact of the pandemic.
At the behest of the NDP, the government has increased the proposed new benefits to $500 per week from the originally proposed $400, ensuring no one receives less than they were getting under the CERB.
It has also expanded the eligibility criteria for the sick leave benefit so that it applies not just to individuals who contract COVID-19 but also to those with underlying health conditions or other illnesses, including the flu or the common cold, that makes them more susceptible to COVID-19.
Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough estimated the new measures will cost $34 billion. The bill also included $17 billion in another COVID-19-related spending.
The NDP grudgingly agreed to support fast-tracking of the bill in order to provide assurance to CERB recipients that they won’t be cut adrift now that the CERB has been wound down.
But all opposition parties blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for necessitating the speedy approval, without allowing for adequate parliamentary scrutiny.
Photo credit: Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
News source: The Canadian Press