FILE – A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Monday, May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

FILE – A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Monday, May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Feds weigh cutting COVID-19 sickness benefit for Canadians who have travelled

Questions about the sick-leave benefit were first raised over the weekend

The federal Liberal government is weighing whether to bar people who have travelled overseas from a new sick-leave benefit that pays up to $1,000 to Canadians who have to quarantine due to COVID-19.

The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit was launched in the fall to help Canadians who are unable to work because they must quarantine during the pandemic. It pays $500 per week to a maximum of two weeks.

But Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough says the government is “actively looking at all options” in the face of questions over whether Canadians who have travelled abroad should be allowed to collect the money.

The benefit is designed “to provide workers with a paid sick-leave option where one might not be available through their employer, so that workers did not have to choose between going to work and putting food on the table,” she said in a statement.

“The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit was never intended to incentivize or encourage Canadians to not follow public health or international travel guidelines. … We are actively looking at all available options to address this issue.”

Questions about the sick-leave benefit were first raised over the weekend by Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, who said it was “absurd in most cases” that anyone able to leave the country would need government support to quarantine.

“If someone is travelling because it is essential for their work, you might think they won’t lose income,” he added in a statement in French. “And if someone is traveling for pleasure, they are already being advised not to travel.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, whose party pushed the Liberals to create the benefit, welcomed the government’s review, saying Canadians were “rightly upset those who can afford to go on a vacation could get $1,000 to stay home when they come back.”

Yet he also warned Canadians would continue to leave the country as long as non-essential travel was allowed.

“We need to make sure they have all the tools to stay home when they come back,” he said. “We look forward to (the government) coming back to parliamentarians with a solution that doesn’t create a bigger health risk.”

The emerging debate over what to do with the sick-leave benefits comes as Canadians have been buffeted over the past week with revelations that some politicians have ignored their own government’s advice and engaged in non-essential travel abroad.

Those include Rod Phillips, who resigned as Ontario’s finance minister after a holiday trip to the Caribbean exploded in controversy, as well as a number of Alberta MLAs who Premier Jason Kenney has declined to punish.

READ MORE: More Alberta MLAs travelled over holidays, despite advice to avoid unnecessary trips

The federal NDP also stripped Manitoba MP Niki Ashton of her duties as the party’s transport critic and deputy critic for women and gender equality after she travelled to Greece this month. Ashton says she left to be with her ailing grandmother.

Those trips have come even as millions of Canadians face government-imposed lockdowns across the country aimed at curbing the second wave of COVID-19 infections, which included thousands of newly reported cases on Sunday.

That includes nearly 3,000 new positive tests in Ontario over the past 24 hours and more than 7,600 new cases in Quebec since Thursday, with hundreds of people hospitalized in both provinces.

In a rare bit of good news, however, Nunavut reported that the territory has no known cases as all 265 residents who have previously tested positive are now recovered. The territory has logged one virus-related death over the course of the pandemic.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirustravel

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Terrace city staff are in the process of reaching out to local and Indigenous governments in the northwest to form a lobby group to pressure the provincial government to fix the city’s growing social issues crisis. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Province urged to fix Terrace social services ‘crisis’

City wants to form regional lobby group

The report prepared by Independent Investigations Office of BC said that no offence was committed by the police officer from Lisims/ Nass Valley RCMP detachment while responding to a stabbing incident that led to an in-custody death. (Black Press file photo)
Nass Valley RCMP officer cleared in October 2020 police-involved death

Independent Investigations Office of B.C. concludes no offence committed by police officer

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Back Row, Left to Right: Laura Archibald, (teacher), Sarah Engdahl, Victoria Cho, Bronwen Bennett, Briana Simms, Jalynn Gibson, Sydney Harris, Braya Kluss, Valentina Protheroe, Isabella Gibson, Emily Hart, (teacher). Front Row, Left to Right: Collin Maillet, Hannah Hansen, Layla Loutitt, Isabella Kossler, Zadie Kietzmann, Izzie Croot, Deanna McDicken, Hope Misner. Missing: Brianna Onstein, Makenna Harris. (Submitted Photo/Tracey Hart)
Terrace’s Art in Motion Dance earns accolades at Prince George Dance Festival

The group earned a total of 21 trophies during the competition

A temporary fix to erosion problems on Lanfear Hill has been approved. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
City to spend $360,000 on temporary hill fix

Will restore pedestrian and cycle use of Lanfear Hill

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. sees 873 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, decline continues

Hospitalizations up to 377, two more deaths for 1,515 total

FILE – People hold signs during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver on Saturday, August 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. to request federal exemption for simple drug possession

Announcement comes on 5-year anniversary of B.C.’s first public health emergency

(AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, FIle)
Rare blood clots ‘may be linked’ to AstraZeneca vaccines: Health Canada

One case of the adverse effect has been reported in Canada

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Two men walk past a sign on Main Street in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calls for government transparency in COVID data continue as B.C.’s 3rd wave wears on

Social media, where both information and misinformation can spread like wildfire, has not helped

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Observers ‘gutted’ as pair filmed removing red dresses hung along B.C. highway

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Indigenous Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

A grey whale off the coast of Vancouver Island is being monitored by Canadian and U.S. researchers, as it has developed lesions after being tagged last year. To try and prevent systemic infection from developing, the team administered antibiotics to the whale on March 31 and April 1. (Photo from the NOAA Fisheries website)
Grey whale off Vancouver Island develops lesions after being tagged, researchers monitor its condition

Canadian and U.S. whale experts administered antibiotics to the animal on March 31, April 1

Sharis Carr, a nurse at the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service Center in Clarksdale, Miss., holds a box containing doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, April 7, 2021. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
EXPLAINER: What’s known about COVID vaccines and rare clots

These are not typical blood clots – they’re weird in two ways

Most Read