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

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.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

LiberalsThrone Speech

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

Just Posted

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

(File photo)
After several years in limbo, Parkland Manor to be torn down

Rimoka Housing Foundation has received funding and approval for the demolition

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Hinshaw says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

(Photo submitted)
Community Futures brings back Social Media Challenge for 2021

This time the challenge is for non-profits and community groups

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Central Alberta teenager donates filled 20 backpacks to Red Deer Mustard Seed

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County says he ‘just wants to help people’

Most Read