Liberals detail changes to COVID-19 aid as they ask MPs to OK new spending - InfoNews

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Liberals detail changes to COVID-19 aid as they ask MPs to OK new spending

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to the podium for a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday June 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
June 02, 2020 - 2:18 PM

OTTAWA - The Trudeau Liberals are detailing to parliamentarians a plan that would shift tens of billions in pandemic-related aid, sending more toward a key COVID-19 emergency benefit for workers after seeing demand skyrocket from original estimates.

The Liberals had expected the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to cost the federal purse about $35 billion this fiscal year, but revised that estimate in recent days after realizing more workers than expected were applying for aid.

The most recent federal figures show that as of Monday, more than 8.3 million Canadians have applied for the relief program, which has paid out nearly $42.6 billion in combined benefits.

The details in supplementary spending estimates released Tuesday are part of an overall package totalling $87 billion in additional measures unveiled since main spending estimates were released in February.

Parliamentarians only need to approve $6 billion in new money after granting the Liberals broad spending powers during the pandemic.

The supplementary estimates will only receive four hours of debate this month under a motion agreed to by a majority of parties to keep the House of Commons on an extended hiatus due to the pandemic.

Parliament's spending watchdog said last week that those four hours would not give MPs nearly enough time to properly scrutinize the government's plans.

The majority of the spending in the documents is driven by the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also includes $481.2 million for the Indian Day Schools settlement and $585.8 million for two new naval support ships.

There is also $14.8 million set aside for Via Rail's proposed high-frequency rail service between Toronto and Quebec City, $24.4 million for an IT upgrade for the asylum system, and almost $13.8 million for measures in response to the national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2020.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the main estimates were released in March.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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