Singh says proposed sick leave will be 'temporary' but will cover 'millions of workers'
OTTAWA -- NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the proposed sick leave plan his party negotiated into a Liberal bill in exchange for their throne speech support is only temporary — though he says his party will fight to make the measure permanent.
"What's before Canadians right now with the legislation we've secured is going to be temporary and it's something that we want to fight to make permanent," Singh told CTV Question Period Host Evan Solomon in an interview airing Sunday.
"We believe it should be permanent, we believe that all Canadians should have this now and forever, and we look at this as a first step."
It's the first glimpse into the murky details of the proposed sick leave plan hammered out in negotiations between the NDP and the Liberals. The Liberals were vying for the NDP's support of their throne speech -- a bid that concluded with a deal Friday evening that would see Canada dodge a fall election.
The NDP had two sticking points when it came to the throne speech: they wanted to see the Canada Emergency Response Benefit's replacement beefed up from $400 per week to $500 per week, and they were looking for an enhanced sick leave benefit.
On Friday evening, the NDP and the Liberals eked out a deal securing both changes -- though few details emerged about what exactly this new paid sick leave benefit would entail.
While Singh did say the deal will be "temporary," he offered few other details about the benefit. He did, however, say the NDP had forced the liberals to "broaden" the benefit, "so that more Canadians can make use of it."
"To put it in a straightforward, simple way, the Liberal proposal was going to cover thousands of workers, we ensured that it would cover millions of workers," Singh said.
While he didn't say whether the proposed sick leave benefit would support Canadians who find themselves home sick with an illness other than COVID-19, the number of Canadians Singh said the benefit will cover implies that’s a possibility.
To date, there have been just shy of 150,000 cases of COVID-19. If this benefit covers "millions" of workers, it's possible that means it will provide sick leave for workers suffering from something other than COVID-19 — though these kinds of details will not be made public until the bill is tabled.
When pressed on how much the planned benefit would cost, Singh did not say. He did, however, suggest a plan for paying for the proposed sick leave plan.
"It should not be everyday families, and workers, and small businesses that have suffered who pay for this. It should be those have profited," Singh said.
"We know there's been massive profits made by some of the richest, wealthiest companies and Canadians. They should be the ones that pay for this pandemic, that pay this recovery, they've profited off it."
While the Liberals have not provided the financial details on the program either, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told Solomon that it’s in the "economic interest" of Canadians to help those who the pandemic has hit in the pocketbook.
"It's not only in the economic interest of the country to protect people who've lost income, but it's in the public health interest of the country to have things like paid sick leave, like access to income replacement, so that people don’t feel a pressure to go to work when perhaps they may feel ill or it would be unsafe to do so," LeBlanc told Solomon in an interview for Sunday's episode of CTV Question Period.
And with a debate on the bill looming, the Conservatives have hinted that they may support the legislation — though not without scrutiny.
"Conservatives have consistently, through this pandemic, done two things: we've supported measures that help Canadians, but we've also held the government to account," Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen told Solomon in an interview, also airing Sunday.
"We will not get in the way of Canadians getting the help that they need, but we will do our job. We think that the bills should have some scrutiny."
The bill will be debated in the House of Commons on Monday.