Gov.Gen. Julie Payette gives a wave as she waits before delivering the throne speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Liberals vow wage-subsidy extension to 2021, revamp of EI system in throne speech

Canadian labour market was hammered by pandemic, when lockdowns in the spring led to a loss of 3 million jobs

The Liberals are reversing course on a decision to wind down a federal wage subsidy, vowing in their throne speech to extend the program for businesses harmed by COVID-19 into next year.

Over the summer the government decided to start scaling back the program through the rest of the year by providing a smaller subsidy with each passing month.

The criteria for using the program were also eased.

But the Liberals were warned that small businesses that have used the program would need the help into 2021 as their revenues stayed low while costs remained steady.

Today, the Liberals’ throne speech promised to extend the subsidies to summer 2021, acknowledging the economic situation facing many employers is still fraught.

And for workers who lose their jobs, the throne speech also promises to put everyone under the employment insurance system, making it the only vehicle for benefits for hard-hit workers even if they previously didn’t qualify for the decades-old program.

The Canadian labour market has been hammered by the pandemic, when lockdowns in March and April led to a loss of three million jobs and 2.5 million more workers having their hours slashed as non-essential businesses were ordered closed.

As of August, the country has recouped about two-thirds of those job losses but that recovery has been uneven: Women, youth, low-wage and visible minority workers haven’t rebounded as quickly.

Statistics Canada reported that about one-fifth of the labour force was considered underutilized in August, a combination of people who were unemployed, who were not looking for jobs but wanted to work, and who worked less than half their usual hours – usually due to the pandemic.

The throne speech vows to use federal spending to get back the last million or so jobs, including through direct investments in the social sector and incentives for employers to hire and retain workers. The extension of the wage subsidy is touted as another way to create jobs.

As of Sept. 13, the government had paid out just over $35.3 billion in benefits to 312,750 different companies, although the number of workers covered by the subsidies has fallen in recent weeks.

At the same time, the Liberals plan to wind down the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which has paid out almost $78 billion in benefits to nearly 8.8 million people.

Anyone covered by employment insurance will move to that program with access eased, they say. Those who don’t qualify, such as self-employed and gig workers, will be pushed to a new 26-week “recovery” benefit.

But the throne speech says that new benefit, which Parliament still has to approve, will be a transitional program before moving every worker in the country onto EI.

There is also a pledge in the throne speech to update the government’s technology systems. That will be a must for EI because the core system that delivers payments is more than 40 years old.

ALSO READ: Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

LiberalsThrone Speech

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

Just Posted

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More calls come in for Cullen’s removal as NDP candidate

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs demand Cullen’s removal. Ellis says, There’s no place in B.C. for racism

Martin Holzbauer, independent, Nicole Halbauer, BC NDP, and Ellis Ross, BC Liberal Party, are the candidates for the Skeena riding in the upcoming provincial election. (Terrace Standard/BC NDP)
Skeena candidates talk northwest education

Online learning access and early childhood education were common themes

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals.
‘Where is Annita McPhee?’: Cullen under fire from opening salvo of all-candidates forum

Four Stikine candidates spar during online debate from Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers

David Block, director of development services for the City of Terrace, explains City staff’s new approach to bylaw and official community plan amendments associated with the proposed inland port development. (Jake Wray/Terrace Standard)
City of Terrace changes approach to inland port development process

Keith Estates Neighbourhood Concept Plan to be dealt with separately

Martin Holzbauer, independent candidate for the Skeena riding in the Oct. 24 provincial election, is seen here outside the Terrace Standard office on Oct. 1. (Jake Wray/Terrace Standard)
Learn more about Skeena’s independent candidate

Martin Holzbauer says he wants to bring a unique point of view to the race

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. sees record-breaking daily COVID infections with 499 new cases over weekend

Two people, both in the Lower Mainland, died due to the virus over the weekend

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read