Dear Friends and Neighbours,
Over the last few weeks, my staff and I have heard from hundreds of constituents seeking assistance with travel, Employment Insurance, and much more. We are doing our best to get back to everyone as quickly as possible. I am also focused on sharing as much information with you as I can and keeping you updated on the current situation. I’ll also be sending out more updates like this one in the coming weeks as additional information becomes available. If you or someone you know needs assistance from my office, please make sure to call at (306) 975-6472 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do not come to the office in person as we are not taking in-person meetings.
Today’s update will focus on what has been going on in Parliament and what steps our Conservative caucus is taking to ensure the government is acting responsibly and in the best interest of Canadians.
Earlier this week, the House of Commons was recalled with only a small number of Members of Parliament present to discuss and pass emergency legislation to implement the measures that the Prime Minister had announced to date: relief for Canadians who are out of work and businesses that are struggling or been forced to close their doors. Our Conservative Caucus of course supports such measures, and it is encouraging to see support for such measures from all parties.
However, we were very concerned to learn that the Liberals planned to use this public health crisis to give themselves other powers. Namely, they sought to give themselves the power to raise taxes, debt, and spending without Parliamentary approval until January 1, 2022. As many people have expressed to me, this was unacceptable.
Thankfully, after hours of negotiation, the government agreed to remove the section of the legislation that would have granted them the ability to unilaterally raise taxes, shorten the special warrants for spending to expire on June 23, grant power to the Finance and Health committees to oversee all spending and recall Parliament if any spending abuses are identified, implement sunset clauses in the legislation, and more. With these measures, the bill was passed expeditiously and received royal assent on March 25, 2020.
One of the main measures brought forward was the “Canada Emergency Response Benefit” (CERB). The CERB is a taxable benefit that can provide $2,000 a month, for up to four months, to workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is intended to cover citizens who have ”lost their job, are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or at home because of school and daycare closures.”
This program applies to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI).
Another important aspect is that the CERB program will also apply to “workers who are still employed but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work situation due to COVID-19”.
The details of exactly how that will work in practice are as yet undefined. Once the online application portal is open through a ‘My CRA’ or ‘My Service CANADA’ account, and a yet to determined toll free number, the intent is that eligible applicants would begin to receive their CERB payments within 10 days of application. A CERB payment would be made to applicants every four weeks.
This legislation is also going to mean a temporary increase of the GST Credit and the Canada Child Benefit, a wage subsidy for small businesses, $500 million to provinces and territories for health care, a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) conversion reduction, and more. We do believe that some of these measures could go further and will continue to push for further action. In the meantime, we will be using all of the tools available to us to hold the government to account and put forward constructive solutions to ensure that no one falls through the cracks.
Please remember to continue practicing safe physical distancing, good hygiene and stay home as much as you can. These efforts are helping, and we need to keep it up in the coming weeks.
Kevin Waugh, M.P.
Information on COVID-19:
For further questions regarding services provided by the federal government, or concerns regarding international travel, visit www.Canada.ca/coronavirus.
For more information regarding measures being taken here in Saskatchewan, visit www.Saskatchewan.ca/Coronavirus.
If you’re looking for information related to municipal services or the City of Saskatoon, you can visit https://www.saskatoon.ca/services-residents/fire-emergency/covid-19.
For facts about coronavirus and frequently asked questions, visit the World Health Organization’s website: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses