Government strikes deal on wage subsidy bill

The federal government’s wage subsidy legislation is expected to pass today inside the House of Commons after days of negotiations between the government and opposition parties.

A government source tells CBC News that the House will debate for an agreed upon number of hours starting at 12:15 p.m. ET and that the legislation should receive Royal Assent by the end of the day. The Senate is expected to sit around 4 p.m. this afternoon.

The Conservatives confirm they have agreed to unanimous consent to get the bill through the House today. They also say Liberals have accepted some changes to the bill.

The Conservatives have previously raised some concerns that certain businesses might be left out of the program. 

In a rare move, a draft version of the legislation was shared with opposition parties earlier this week in an attempt to get all parties on board for fast passage of the legislation.

The Conservatives had been pushing the government to agree to more in-person sittings of the House of Commons rather than the virtual sittings the government has proposed and asked the Speaker of the House of Commons to explore.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has raised health and safety concerns over holding regular meetings in a time of physical distancing. 

Around 20 MPs are expected to participate in the unusual Saturday sitting, the minimum number of parliamentarians needed for quorum.

The prime minister will be in attendance today, as will the leader of the Official Opposition Andrew Scheer and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

Scheer, Singh and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet will deliver remarks before the debate.

In a departure from his daily briefings outside his Rideau Cottage home, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will instead address Canadians from within the Commons. 

Bill designed to prevent layoffs

The multi-billion-dollar program, called the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), is designed to help companies avoid laying off employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused many businesses to shut their doors as the country comes to a standstill. 

The CEWS is intended to encourage companies to rehire workers by offering a 75 per cent wage subsidy over the next three months to businesses that have lost 30 per cent of their revenue due to the crisis.  Companies will need to reapply for the program each month.

It is estimated to cost the federal government $73 billion.

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