COVID-19 Update for March 25, 2020 – 12:00pm
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s daily update focused on Bill C-13, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, that was tabled and passed in the House of Commons at about 6 a.m. this morning after a 14-hour delay. The Act is now being debated in the Senate and is expected to receive royal assent later this afternoon.
A number of modifications were made to the proposed legislation in Tuesday’s marathon session in the House, including removing the government’s ability to raise taxes unilaterally and shortening the period in which the government can take emergency spending measures without Parliament’s approval from two years to six months.
The centrepiece of the aid package is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which provides $2,000 a month, for the next four months to workers who lose their income because of COVID-19.
The benefit also applies to people who are self-employed, sick or quarantined, must stay home to look after children or who still have a job but are not receiving an income.
The benefit combines the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit.
Prime Minister Trudeau said that the government aims to have an online portal live by April 6 and cheques out to Canadians within 10 days of applying.
Bill C-13: The COVID-19 Emergency Response Act
The modifications include removing the Liberals’ ability to raise taxes unilaterally and shortening the period in which the government can take emergency spending measures without Parliament’s approval from two years to six months.
During those six months, the new spending authority is limited to specific categories including income support for Canadians, the purchase of medical supplies, public health-related programs, covering expenses incurred by the government and helping provinces and territories pay for emergency response needs.
Provinces and territories are also receiving an extra $500 million in federal funding.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau is given some new powers, including the ability to authorize the borrowing of money without Parliament’s approval if it is needed for legislatively-approved payments or to “maintain the efficiency of the financial system in Canada.” This authority, too, is only valid through the end of September and requires Morneau to report to MPs within 30 days of any borrowing.
To ensure unanimous consent on Bill C-13, MPs agreed to an omnibus motion that included:
- Adjourning the House of Commons until April 20 with the option to extend longer if it is in the public interest to stay adjourned or to be recalled to consider additional measures.
- Allowing the Standing Committees of Finance and Health to convene (remotely) once a week to review evidence concerning the government’s response.
- Requiring the Finance Minister to report on a bi-weekly basis to the Finance committee.
The House of Commons Finance committee will conduct a study of the Emergency Response Act within six months.
Aid for Journalists and Media
The Prime Minister also announced that the government will be providing additional measures to support journalists and media companies in Canada during the crisis. Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault will make an announcement later this afternoon.
If you have any questions about this update, please let us know.
The Enterprise Team