Parties near tentative deal on Ottawa’s $82 billion COVID-19 aid package

COVID-19/coronavirus update: March 25, 2020

After hours of tense negotiations, the government and opposition parties in the House of Commons are nearing a deal on an $82-billion aid package to help Canadians struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic — legislation that will improve access to Employment Insurance and other programs to provide money to workers and businesses in need.

All parties had agreed on an aid package to help people grappling with the economic ramifications of the pandemic, which has thrown thousands of Canadians out of work. But added provisions by the Liberal government to the enabling legislation to expand cabinet’s unilateral spending powers were bitterly opposed by the opposition.

Despite word that the Liberals had agreed to remove or amend the offending sections, MPs were still waiting to be called back to the House as of 11:50 p.m. ET.

In an email to his caucus sent shortly before midnight, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer told Tory MPs that a final deal has yet to reached between all parties.

The proposed aid package from Ottawa includes:

  • A temporary boost to Canada Child Benefit payments, delivering about $2 billion in extra support.
  • A new Emergency Care Benefit of up to $900 biweekly, for up to 15 weeks, to provide income support to workers, including the self-employed, who have to stay home and don’t qualify for paid sick leave or employment insurance. The measure could disburse up to $10 billion.
  • A new Emergency Support Benefit to provide up to $5 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.
  • A six-month, interest-free reprieve on student loan payments.
  • A doubling of the homeless care program.
  • An extension of the tax filing deadline to June 1. A policy change allowing taxpayers to defer until after Aug. 31 tax payments that are due after today and before September.
  • $305 million for a new Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation communities.