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Liberals promise revamped employment insurance program in new bill

Last Updated Sep 25, 2020 at 2:18 pm PDT

FILE - Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks during a news conference on parliament hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Summary

The Liberal government is promising legislation and money to address systemic inequities in the criminal justice system

The commitments come amid mounting concerns about unfair treatment of Black and Indigenous people

The throne speech pledges action on issues ranging from sentencing and rehabilitation

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals have introduced legislation that includes a package of three benefits and an expanded employment insurance program to support Canadians through the pandemic, which may be enough to avoid an election.

The legislation includes a plan to increase weekly benefits for unemployed workers to $500 a week, up from the $400 proposed in August. That would bring the value of the payments on par with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which is set to end and matches a demand from the federal New Democrats to not cut the value of benefits.

The $37-billion package also includes benefits for anyone staying home because they’re ill or taking care of a child or family member due to pandemic-related reasons.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the legislation will allow the government to continue to invest in vaccines and other essential medicines.

“This legislation will provide ongoing support for Canada and Canadians as we fight the second wave,” she added.

Freeland said economic health is not possible without public health.

The Conservatives have been vocal about their opposition to the throne speech, which was delivered on Wednesday and made promises of a national childcare system, extension of the wage subsidy, a national long-term care standard, and speeding up the creation of national pharmacare.

Conservative deputy leader Candice Bergen said the party can’t support the throne speech because it fails to address the priorities of the country,

“No real plan to deal with the urgent health care needs of the provinces, no real plan to deal with lack of jobs,” she said.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his throne speech, saying it boosts support for Canadians and businesses, vows to create a million jobs, and promises a national childcare system.

“To continue to have people’s back and the Conservatives would rather vote for an election, right now, rather than support people.”

The Liberals need the support of one opposition party to survive a confidence vote that will likely take place, early next month.

The Bloc Quebecois has also raised its doubts when it comes to the promises outlined in the speech.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said initially the throne speech was full of empty words and broken promises, and that his party will take some time before deciding whether to support it.

On Thursday, Singh said it looks like the Trudeau government’s last-minute boost to supports for out-of-work Canadians are likely enough to secure NDP support.

However, final decision will be made by caucus.

The Liberal government is also promising legislation and money to address systemic inequities in all phases of the criminal justice system.

The commitments come amid mounting concerns about unfair treatment of Black and Indigenous people, who are overrepresented in courts and jails.

The throne speech pledges action on issues ranging from sentencing and rehabilitation to improved civilian oversight of the RCMP and standards on the use of force.

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The measures also include modern training for police and other law-enforcement agencies, as well as broader RCMP reforms that emphasize a shift toward community-led policing.

In addition, the Liberals promise to speed up work on a legislative framework for First Nations policing as an essential service.

Perry Bellegarde, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says zero tolerance on excessive use of force must be among the moves to improve policing.