The Canadian Senate has passed the $82 billion emergency support package introduced by the federal government over the past weeks to support businesses and individuals amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bill C-13, or the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, was fast-tracked through Parliament this week, with the House of Commons approving the proposed legislation in the early hours of Wednesday morning. With Senate approval, the bill is now awaiting Royal Assent, which is expected shortly.
Just before noon on Wednesday the Senate of Canada shared that the bill had been adopted at third reading. Bill C-13 will allow the federal government to spend “all money required to do anything” in relation to COVID-19. It also allows the finance minister to borrow any amount of money deemed necessary.
The passing of the bill comes after Conservative opposition leaders called out the Liberal government over measures in the draft bill that the Conservatives saw as extensive powers to Finance Minister Bill Morneau. On Tuesday, the Liberals rolled back that portion of the bill, and despite delays in the House of Commons yesterday as parties debated, it passed with unanimous consent.
As it currently stands, the emergency response legislation states that Morneau’s new spending and borrowing powers will end on September 30, 2020. The bill will allow for the authorization of payments to some workers who have suffered income loss due to COVID-19. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced updates to that plan on Wednesday morning, noting that Canadians will now be able to access $2,000 a month. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is a taxable benefit that would provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal government is touting the CERB as a simpler and more accessible combination of the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.
The CERB would cover Canadians 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. It will also apply to workers, including those who are contract or self-employed, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI).
The government’s EI program has already received close to one million applications over the past week as companies across Canada are being forced to layoff employees. Canada’s tech community has not been left unfazed. A grassroots database for out-of-work Canadian startup employees has earned more than 1,000 people as of Wednesday. The government noted that the EI system as it currently stands was not designed to process the unprecedented volume of applications received.
Trudeau noted in his daily press briefing that the government is looking to get the money out as quickly as possible, with the CERB system set to be up and running by April 6. Those who apply are set to begin to receive CERB payments within 10 days of application. The CERB would be paid every four weeks and be available until October 3, 2020.
The passing of Bill C-13 means that the federal government will be able to implement the various tax measures for both individuals and businesses that have been outlined in the past couple of weeks.
The federal government has refocused innovation programs and procurement processes to on companies that can aid in the fight against COVID-19. This week, Minister of Industry Navdeep Bains announced $192 million for a new Strategic Innovation Fund COVID-19 stream.
Leaders and organizations in Canada’s tech community have expressed concern over the measures as they currently stand. CEOs and groups like the Council of Canadian Innovators have stated that the current tax and subsidy measures won’t be enough to protect innovation and tech companies from cutbacks and layoffs. In an open letter to federal ministries this week, hundreds of Canadian tech CEOs proposed a number of steps that could be taken that would directly support the community.
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