Parliament passes Ottawa’s $107 billion COVID-19 aid package

COVID-19/coronavirus update: March 26, 2020

The government and opposition parties in Parliament have passed an aid package bill worth $107 billion to help Canadians struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic — legislation that will boost access to employment insurance and other programs that will flow money to workers and businesses in need.

The House of Commons passed the legislation early Wednesday morning after a late night of tense negotiations to limit the Liberal government’s ability to spend more money without parliamentary approval. The legislation passed the Senate without any amendments and the bill received royal assent from Governor General Julie Payette Wednesday afternoon.

The Senate heard from Finance Minister Bill Morneau Wednesday, who painted a grim picture of the state of the Canadian economy. Morneau told senators it was essential for Parliament to quickly approve a plan to get money to Canadians in need at a time when hundreds of thousands of workers, including seniors who are still working to make ends meet, are facing unemployment.

As initially pitched, the bill was worth about $82 billion — but Morneau said Wednesday the price tag has increased sharply to $107 billion because the forthcoming emergency response benefit is more generous and will be available to more people.

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 means up to $10 billion could be disbursed. Read more
  • 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. Read more
  • 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. There is also 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.