New benefit for workers only intended for those in 'complete' lockdowns: Qualtrough
OTTAWA -- The federal government intends for the newly proposed lockdown benefit to apply only to individuals whose work is interrupted by a complete COVID-19 lockdown in their region.
In an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday, Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough said the details of the new Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit are still being ironed out, and will depend too on the public health restrictions imposed by provinces and territories.
Asked whether to be eligible for the benefit a worker would have to reside in an area with a full lockdown or one where there is only, for example, capacity restrictions, Qualtrough said “the thinking is a complete lockdown.”
“It will be driven by how a province or a region characterizes, of course, the lockdown.”
The benefit, which replaces the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), is available until May 7, 2022 retroactive to Oct. 24 and provides $300 a week to eligible applicants. It’s open to workers ineligible for Employment Insurance (EI), and those who are eligible for EI so long as they’re not paid benefits for the same application period.
A government website states that it would provide “income support to workers whose employment is interrupted by specific government-imposed public health lockdown scenarios and who are unable to work due to such restrictions.”
It also notes that individuals who are out of work or losing income because of a refusal to adhere to a vaccine mandate would not be qualified.
The Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit was announced last week along with a suite of other updates to now-expired COVID-19 aid programs, all of which come with a price tag of $7.4 billion.
The government is able to prolong the aid until Nov. 20 through regulatory powers, but will require legislation to extend them to their new expiration date.
In the new minority Parliament set to resume on Nov. 22, the Liberals will be looking for voting support from opposition members to get bills passed.
Qualtrough said she has confidence her team will be able to work collaboratively with their colleagues across the aisle.
“We’ve had a lot of practice at doing this. We’ve worked very closely with opposition parties over the past 20 months to make sure Canadians had the benefits. There was no disruption,” she said.
“The prime minister is in conversation with opposition leaders. I’ve actually been reaching out to my critics and I think we can do this.”
In a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period, NDP MP Peter Julian criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for delaying the resumption of Parliament following the election when Canadians are still struggling through the fourth wave of the pandemic.
“Canadian families, that were depending on the CRB were cut off arbitrarily, with only a few hours notice. This is a very cruel and callous act,” he said on a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period.
“Whatever the Liberals are proposing number one has to come to Parliament but number two, the so called workers lock down benefit, no regions qualify for it right now which means 880,000 people are left without means to put food on the table.”
Julian wouldn’t say if the NDP would vote in favour of the new measures but noted that the party has never “blindly” supported the Liberals.
Conservative MP Tim Uppal echoed a similar sentiment, noting that parliamentarians should be in the House of Commons debating income and business support changes.
“We should be there, we should be debating this legislation, taking a look at it, examining it in committee. This is a lot of money,” he said.
“For Canadians sake, we should be going through it with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that we are getting the most value for this money.”
He added that while the party agrees with sunsetting the CRB, they have concerns about other aspects of the proposals announced.