The House of Commons & Senate passed emergency legislation, Bill C-13, on Wednesday to support Canadians affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. The text of the bill can be found here:
• Since the beginning of this crisis, Conservatives have been focused on Canadians and getting them the support they desperately need. We recognize that these are unprecedented times and that urgent action is needed. Almost a million Canadians have already been laid off, stores and restaurants have been told to close their doors, and Canadians have been told to stay at home. We also know that this crisis has hit our economy hard and that the months to come will be difficult.
• When we agreed to the extraordinary suspension of Parliament on March 13, Conservatives insisted that the government be subject to substantial accountability measures including that the Auditor General would audit any new spending, that parliamentary committees would be able to review all of that spending when Parliament resumes, that parliamentary committees could be recalled at any time, and that the government must immediately inform the Opposition of any spending and make it public within seven days.
• We also agreed to bring back the House of Commons this week with only a small number of MPs present. (I was one of 11 Conservative MPs in Parliament.) We were prepared to quickly pass the measures that the Prime Minister had announced to date.
• What we were not prepared for was the government’s attempted undemocratic power grab.
• The Liberals shamefully tried to exploit a public health crisis to give themselves the powers to raise taxes, debt and spending without parliamentary approval until January 1, 2022. But after hours of negotiation, the government backed down.
Conservatives secured the following concessions:
1. We demanded that the government remove the section that would have allowed them to raise taxes without parliamentary approval. The Liberals agreed.
2. We demanded that the government walk back their unlimited spending powers and that focused special warrants expire on June 23, 2020, instead of September 30, 2020. The Liberals agreed.
3. We demanded that the government include explicit reference to putting taxpayers’ rights first. The Liberals agreed.
4. We demanded that the government put sunset clauses in their legislation. The Liberals agreed.
5. We demanded that the government be accountable to Parliament through regular reports to the House of Commons Health and Finance committees and that the Finance Committee have the right to recall Parliament if we identify any abuses. The Liberals agreed.
Sections of Bill C-13 we support to provide financial assistance for Canadians:
1. Emergency Benefits to Canadian workers not covered by Employment Insurance
2. Increase to the GST/HST credit
3. Increase to the Canada Child Benefit
4. RRIF conversion reduction, though we think it should be 100%, not 25%
5. Loans and wage subsidy for small businesses, though we think it should be significantly higher
6. $500-million to the provinces and territories for health care system funding
But more needs to be done, especially for small & medium businesses. (I’ll provide details by the weekend.)
Conservatives will continue to use all of the tools available to us to hold the government to account. And we will continue to use our strengthened Opposition to ask tough questions on behalf of Canadians and put forward constructive solutions to ensure that no one falls through the cracks.