Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on parliament hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Liberals plan to use regulations to create income support after CERB winds down

Around four million workers will move onto EI next month when the COVID-19 benefit ends

The Liberals plan to use existing tools to quickly create a new support measure next month for struggling workers who won’t qualify for employment insurance.

Some four million workers will move onto EI next month when a key COVID-19 benefit for workers, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, begins to wind down.

Millions more who have seen their incomes crash as a result of the pandemic-related shutdown won’t qualify for the decades-old social safety net program, but the Liberals had promised a new EI-like support for those who will still need the help.

Sources who have been briefed on the government’s plan say that transfer will be done through regulations, rather than legislation that could not be introduced until late September, following the prorogation of Parliament.

The measures are to be temporary and flow through existing programs and tools, the sources say, meaning the Liberals won’t need parliamentary approval.

The sources, who spoke to The Canadian Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the plans publicly, say details will come soon.

The Liberals have agreed on how to extend EI-like benefits to those currently deemed ineligible for the program, as well as a floor on the value and duration of payments.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said he sees the temporary measures as a springboard to a larger overhaul of the federal safety net.

Its weaknesses have been known for years and widely exposed through the pandemic-induced crisis, he said.

“We need to look at these temporary measures and figure out how do we incorporate some of that as permanent measures into the future,” Yussuff said, “because you can’t have a social safety net where a significant chunk of people don’t even have any net.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made clear his intention to reshape a safety net that supports a modern workforce and “gig” economy. The Liberal cabinet is slated to talk about the larger overhaul at next month’s retreat.

David Macdonald, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, noted recently that about 4.7 million people were receiving the CERB at the start of August, with about 2.1 million not eligible for EI under existing program rules.

He added that just over half of CERB recipients at risk of being ineligible for EI are women, and they would also receive less than under the CERB.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called on Trudeau to extend the CERB until the end of September and present a plan to fix EI by the end of this month.

“Millions of people across the country are stressed about how they’re going to make ends meet when the Liberals cancel the CERB at the end of the month,” Singh said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Unemployment is expected to remain high for the rest of 2020, with employment levels not reaching pre-pandemic levels until some time next year, based on Royal Bank forecasts released Wednesday.

READ MORE: 21% of Canadians worried about ‘losing the roof over their heads’ if CERB ends: poll

It makes sense to help people in the short term, but the question for the government will be what to do if a large chunk of the labour force still needs help by late 2021, said Robert Asselin, a former adviser to Trudeau and now former finance minister Bill Morneau.

“If you create a program like EI and say, we’re going to support these people as long as it takes … you basically create a permanent income-support program and it’s hugely expensive,” said Asselin, now a senior vice-president at the Business Council of Canada.

“It’s going to have to be paid for by someone, including employers. You’re effectively putting a tax eventually on businesses, which I think would be very damaging in the current circumstances.”

Modelling done in the latest report on EI premiums showed rates would have to rise by five cents per year for four years in response to a recession like the one the country suffered during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

The estimate didn’t account for any special, temporary economic measures the government could put in place like a rate freeze, or benefit expansion.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Four-storey Oak Bay Avenue development to have rooftop garden

Redfern 35-unit development sent to public hearing

Victoria gets new collegiate baseball team, training facility

Golden Tide coach wants to see as many local kids play for the HarbourCats as possible

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Greater Victoria

Thunderstorm may produce strong wind gusts, large hail and heavy rain, warns Environment Canada

Sooke couple that owned Sooke Harbour House given $4 million after lengthy court case

B.C. Supreme Court rules in favour of Frederique and Sinclair Philip

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cops for Cancer: COVID-19 can’t stop Tour de Rock

‘having the chance to come back and ride this year means everything to me’

People ‘disgusted’ by COVID-19 election call, B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson speaks to municipal leaders from Victoria

Horgan blasts B.C. Greens for refusing youth overdose detention

Lack of support key to B.C. election call, NDP leader says

Most Read