Week in Review: April 14 – 18
“Unprecedented” has become the word to describe the COVID-19 pandemic. Saturday, April 11 was no exception, when the House convened on Holy Saturday for the first time in Canadian Parliament history. As MP Jenica Atwin attended the House on March 24 to pass the first COVID-19 Emergency Aid legislation, it was now MP Elizabeth May’s turn to travel to Ottawa.
This Saturday brought good news. Bill C-14 passed to expand the wage subsidy from 10% to 75%. When the Liberals first announced the 10% wage subsidy, Green MPs knew it would not be enough and immediately started calling for more. The expanded wage subsidy is not perfect, but it is a huge improvement. Greens were also pleased to support a motion by Unanimous Consent (UC) to include more vulnerable groups in the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The CERB will soon cover ”students, owner/operators, those who continue to receive a modest income from part-time work, royalties and honoraria for volunteer emergency service”, and “essential workers who receive low wages.” Other expansions agreed to in the UC motion concerned Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs): ”support measures for Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises, which will be partially non-refundable, with the primary objective of maintaining jobs and reducing debt related to fixed costs, while maintaining access to liquidity in the form of loans…” You can read the full text of the UC motion here.
During the Saturday sitting, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland thanked MP Paul Manly for connecting her with the CEO of the Harmac mill, in his riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith. Harmac Pacific supplies producers in the United States with crucial materials to make surgical masks. When the United States President Donald Trump threatened to halt the shipping of essential supplies to Canada, MP Paul Manly pointed out that the US needed supplies from Harmac mill. Read more here.
During all of these developments, Green MPs have continued to press for Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI). They have continued to remind their colleagues from other parties that, if GLI had been in place, the people that are currently falling through the cracks would be covered. As well, Green MPs have kept climate change in the conversation during the pandemic. Greens are advocating that bailouts go to oil and gas workers, not the oil and gas industry. Canada needs these workers to help clean orphaned oil wells and transition to a green economy.
When the House was first suspended on Friday, March 13th, MPs planned to resume on April 20th. At the time, it seemed like a lifetime away. Now, it is just around the corner. Clearly, we are still in the middle of the pandemic, and the House cannot resume as per usual. The government and the Opposition are currently in negotiations surrounding reconvening with a virtual Parliament, or resuming a semi-regular schedule with a reduced number of MPs.