Parliament resumes today with debate on the Speech from the Throne

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The fate of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal minority government hangs in the balance as Parliament resumes normal activities today for the first time in six months.Opposition parties will give their official responses to Wednesday’s Speech from the Throne, but they have already signaled that Trudeau cannot count on the support of any of them to survive the eventual confidence vote and avoid plunging the country into an election in the midst of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Conservatives have been unequivocal: they will not support the throne speech.

The Bloc Québécois was almost as categorical. Bloc MPs will not consider supporting the Speech from the Throne unless Trudeau agrees to pay at least $ 28 billion more each year in unconditional transfer payments to the provinces for health care, such as the the prime ministers unanimously asked last week.

Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet is leaving the government only a week to comply with this request, in the hope that the vote of confidence on the Speech from the Throne will take place next week.

This leaves New Democrats as the Liberals’ most likely dance partner, but NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has his own terms – a law ensuring that Canadians unemployed due to the pandemic will not see their emergency benefits reduced and that Canadians who fall ill will benefit. paid sick leave.

Government could meet NDP conditions by introducing promised legislation to cut unemployed Canadians from the $ 500 per week Canada Emergency Response Benefit and return to a more flexible and generous EI program .

Liberals say EI bill will be available soon

Last month the government promised to ensure that unemployed Canadians continue to receive $ 400 a week as part of proposed reforms to the employment insurance program.

He also promised to introduce three new temporary benefits, including the Canadian Recovery Benefit of $ 400 per week for those not usually eligible for Employment Insurance, as well as the Canadian Recovery Sick Benefit, which must provide $ 500 per week to two weeks for workers who become ill or have to self-isolate due to COVID-19.

There must also be a Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit to provide $ 500 per week for up to 26 weeks to people unable to work because they have to care for a child or other dependent due to the closure of schools, daycares or other health care facilities due to a pandemic.

Government officials say legislation authorizing EI reforms and new benefits will be introduced very soon. They also suggest that the details are being negotiated with the opposition parties – giving him a chance to broaden the perks on offer to ensure he meets the NDP’s conditions to support the Speech from the Throne. .

The Peace Tower is seen on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on September 21. The opposition parties will give their official responses to Wednesday’s Speech from the Throne today. (Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press)

The Speech from the Throne promised to do everything in its power to protect the lives of Canadians and provide them with financial support for as long as the pandemic rages, including extending the emergency wage subsidy of 75 percent until next summer and by making a “significant, long-term and sustainable investment” in a Canada-wide child care system.

He also pledged increased emergency loans for businesses and targeted financial support for industries hardest hit by the pandemic, including travel, tourism and hospitality.

Longer term, the speech promised to work with provinces to establish national standards for long-term care facilities, where more than 80% of COVID-19-related deaths in Canada have occurred, and to put in place a universal pharmacare program. .

And he pledged to make action on climate change the “cornerstone” of his plan to create a million new jobs.

6 days of debate required

The government must have six days of debate on the throne speech, but it does not have to be consecutive days. Blanchet said he and Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, both currently in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, were to join the debate on Tuesday.

No date has yet been set for the vote, but when the time comes, the government will need the support of at least one of the main opposition parties to avoid being defeated.

Besides brief sittings to pass emergency aid legislation, parliament has been suspended since the country went into lockdown in mid-March to curb the spread of COVID-19. These modified sessions gave opposition MPs a chance to question the government, but did not allow for the full range of normal parliamentary operations, such as opposition days and private members’ bills.

Under a motion passed unanimously on Wednesday, all parliamentary functions are now restored, albeit with a new hybrid model of the House of Commons.

Until at least December 11, only a small number of MPs will be physically present in the room while the rest will participate virtually, including participating in roll-call votes by video conference.

The At Issues discussion group breaks down Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s message into the Speech from the Throne and his ensuing national speech. The panel also discusses reactions from opposition parties and whether the NDP will support the government. 11:10 a.m.

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