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

BREAKING: Ponoka kidnapping suspect at large, two others charged

Charges laid against three individuals after Sept. 7 incident

COVID-19: Central zone cases down to 32 Wednesday

No active cases in some central Alberta communities

PHOTOS: High School Rodeo action

AHRA D2 Battle River High School Rodeo was held at in Ponoka Sept. 12 and 13

Active cases down in central zone Tuesday

No active cases in some local municipalities

Notley to stay on as Alberta NDP leader for 2023 provincial election

The NDP took almost all of Edmonton but few seats outside of the city

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C., Alberta sending nearly 300 fire personnel by Friday to help battle wildfires in Oregon

Some 230 firefighters, most from British Columbia but including a number from Alberta, will be deployed Friday

Death of mother grizzly a ‘big loss’ for bear population in Banff park: experts

The bear, known as No. 143, spent most of her time in the backcountry of Banff

U.S.-Canadian border closure reportedly could extend through November

The border between the two countries has been closed to non-essential travel since March 21

Threat of fall federal election eases as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

Congeniality emerged as fears of second wave of COVID-19 were heightened after another case increase

Intoxicated male arrested by Ponoka RCMP passes away after fall

Incident remains under investigation by ASIRT

Breton RCMP activate Search and Rescue to locate four overdue adults

Four adults found safely near the North Saskatchewan River.

Most Read