COVID-19 benefit bill will be a confidence vote: Liberal House leader

Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez says the Liberals’ recently introduced COVID-19 economic package bill will be a vote of confidence, putting the minority government to the test.

Bill C-4 would introduce a series of new COVID-19 benefits for Canadians to ease their transition from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

“We are in the [second] wave of #COVID-19, but we have a plan. Our bill on sick leave and support to families is at the core of it. We will consider the vote on the legislation as a matter of confidence,” Rodriguez tweeted Tuesday morning.

“Canadians can’t wait. We need to move forward. Together.”

This means the Liberals’ minority government could face its first make-or-break test of the fall sitting as early as tonight. The first scheduled confidence vote had been the upcoming vote on the speech from the throne; the Conservatives have said categorically that they will not support the speech.

C-4 makes multiple key changes to the federal government’s suite of pandemic benefits and makes the rules on qualifying for employment insurance more flexible. Last week, the government secured NDP support for the bill by boosting the value of the weekly benefit for self-employed or gig workers to $500 from $400.

The New Democrats’ support would all but guarantee the bill’s passage and avoid a snap election. 

The Liberal government has been asking Parliament to fast-track the legislation, infuriating opposition critics who accuse the government of ducking another debate after it prorogued Parliament in August.

The legislation also would set up three new benefits for Canadians who won’t qualify for EI but are still affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

They include the Canada Recovery Benefit for self-employed and gig workers who still won’t qualify for EI, expanded sick leave and caregiver benefits for workers who have to stay home because they or someone they care for has to temporarily isolate because of COVID-19.

The House held its first virtual vote last night, which was delayed due to technical glitches.