Ottawa extends ECPs by four weeks and prepares for transition to EI

Ottawa has devised its plan to continue helping workers deprived of income by the pandemic, once Canada Emergency Benefit (CEP) payments dry up. But the implementation of this plan will depend on the survival of the minority government in September.

The PCU will be available for four additional weeks, for a maximum of 28 weeks, the time to introduce a series of measures, including an easing of employment insurance. These changes to employment insurance will be done with a stroke of a pen. The rest will need a law; the Liberals will then need the support of at least one opposition party.

As of September 27, Ottawa expects three of the four million PKU claimants to switch to employment insurance.

This will be accessible after only 120 hours worked, regardless of the unemployment rate in the inhabited region. The unemployed will be able to receive $ 400 per week, at least, for 26 weeks.

Follow the evolution of COVID-19 in Quebec

These new rules will be in place for a year and will allow 400,000 more unemployed people than normal to have access to employment insurance.

Access to parental leave is also facilitated. Thus, the hours worked will be credited retroactively to March 15, 2020 for new mothers.

“This change alone will make a huge difference,” Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said in a press conference Thursday afternoon on Parliament Hill.

For workers who do not qualify for EI, there will be a new Canada Economic Stimulus Benefit (CPRE): $ 400 per month available for 26 weeks. It will be possible to work while receiving the PCRE. If the annual income exceeds $ 38,000, then the worker will have to repay 50 cents for every dollar of the benefit.

New Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, a regular at talkative non-verbal reactions, vigorously nodded ‘no’ when her colleague Qualtrough was asked if this encouragement to work for new PCRE claimants is a admission that the PCU was wrong.

“We found a way to do it after a lot of work,” explained Ms. Qualtrough. “It’s going to be a better system, closer to that of employment insurance. We couldn’t do it two, three months ago, but we can do it now, ”she added.

Minister Qualtrough estimates that between one million and one and a half million Canadians will obtain the PCRE.

The Canada Sickness Benefit for Economic Recovery is Ottawa’s way of paying workers 10 days of sick leave; $ 500 per week, for a week or two.

It is estimated that approximately 700,000 Canadians will benefit from this measure.

The Canada Caregiver Economic Stimulus Benefit will be used by those who find themselves forced to care for a child whose school or daycare closes. Parents who choose to keep their children at home will not be entitled to the $ 500 per week.

It is believed that there could be as many as 4 million Canadians who will ask for this help at one point or another.

These three new benefits will all be available for a year, provided the Liberal minority government survives the September votes.

Once again, the federal government relies on the honesty of the citizen. An online declaration will suffice to receive the various benefits. No need for a medical certificate, for example, to have the 10 sick days paid.

“Of course we believe that Canadians are honest, but also we will absolutely prosecute those who defraud”, said the Minister of Employment, stressing that it will be necessary to report every two weeks instead of four to continue receiving Ottawa money.

The bill

The three new benefits would cost $ 22 billion. Relaxing employment insurance rules will cost $ 7 billion. Extending the PKU for another four weeks will cost $ 8 billion.

To that must be added $ 2 billion of which the federal government is depriving itself by freezing employment insurance premium rates for two years. “We are very happy to do this,” offered Minister Freeland, encouraging companies to use the money saved to remind their employees to work.

The reactions

The UNIFOR union and the National Council for the Unemployed (CNC) were quick to applaud the changes to employment insurance.

“We understand the realities that people have been confronted with with the crisis, and we do not let them down,” wrote Pierre Céré, spokesperson for the CNC, in a press release.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce was more lukewarm, warning against extending these measures beyond the planned year.

In the Conservative Party, we focused on political maneuvering.

“It is unacceptable that the Trudeau government announced these changes a few days after having blocked the deputies and closed the Parliament”, took offense, via press release, the deputy Dan Albas.

The New Democratic Party for its part welcomed certain measures announced, while deploring that the changes made to employment insurance are not permanent.

In a statement sent in the early evening, MP Daniel Blaikie also denounced the uncertainty that remains since “people must now wait another month to see if what the Liberals promise will ever materialize.”

The political game

Before Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament this week, elected officials were scheduled to sit on August 26. Now parliamentarians do not return until September 23 for a Speech from the Throne which the minority government may not survive.

The two ministers struggled, Thursday afternoon, to explain why it was necessary to make this announced aid dependent on the survival of their government.

“The changes announced today are an integral part of our economic strategy and our social strategy. And we think it’s fair to be clear with Canadians, with MPs, and give them an opportunity to vote yes or no for a plan that will include these changes, ”said Minister Freeland.

“Because it’s part of a bigger vision of our Prime Minister, of our government, because frankly, the world is not the same as it was eight months ago,” added Minister Qualtrough.

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