Staff for the federal Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Greens have all applied for a taxpayer-funded wage subsidy while citing financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal subsidy announced by the federal government is designed to help keep employees on the payroll and covers 75 per cent of wages for employees of eligible employers, including non-profit organizations and registered charities.
Aaron Wudrick, the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said Friday that it is not a good look for political parties to be “grabbing taxpayer handouts right now.”
“Many other businesses, including non-profits and charities, are having to scale back their operations,” he said, adding that his organization is a non-profit but it did not apply. “I think it would be better for political parties to do the same rather than to just grab what they can from taxpayers.”
Braeden Caley, the senior director of communications for the Liberals, said his party has met the eligibility criteria for the wage subsidy in recent weeks and “received that support.”
“The health and safety of Canadians is always our top priority, and all in-person fundraising events were paused as of early March,” he said in a statement.
Cory Hann, the director of communications for the Conservatives, said the party has applied for and received the subsidy.
COVID-19 has had an impact on party operations, Mr. Hann said, noting it is doing its best to adjust to the “new reality.”
“This has meant incurring unexpected expenses that ensures our staff have the ability and technology to work remotely for an extended period,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Hann said the Conservatives rely heavily on the donations of individuals for day-to-day operations.
“We understand that many Canadians are not able to give at the moment, which is why we’ve been taking a different approach on donation asks and operations that take that into account,” he said.
The NDP’s national director, Anne McGrath, said the New Democrats applied on Friday because the party has experienced a drop in donations during the pandemic. It has yet to receive the wage subsidy.
The federal assistance will help staff at the party, Ms. McGrath said, adding that New Democrats are being transparent and the program is available for this purpose.
“We have an obligation to make sure that we can try and keep doing the work that we’re doing and keep our employees on the payroll,” she said. “This isn’t about a political party; it is about the people that are working there.”
Supporters are feeling, along with many others, the economic impact of the pandemic, she added, noting it has meant some haven’t been able to donate at the same levels they did before.
While the NDP has faced financial struggles over the past few years, Ms. McGrath said it was rebuilding its donor base and fundraising was on an upswing including during the election campaign and afterward.
When the pandemic was declared in March, the NDP had to cancel all of its in-person events, which resulted at least $70,000 lost over a five- or six-week period, Ms. McGrath said, adding no other fundraising events are scheduled over the summer months.
The NDP is a non-profit organization, she said, adding it has about 17 full-time workers and 15 to 20 more part-time workers.
Green Party of Canada executive director Prateek Awasthi said the party has applied for the wage-subsidy program but it has not received the subsidy yet.
“We have had a drop in donations, and we are a non-profit and take seriously our responsibilities to protect the jobs of our staff members,” Mr. Awasthi said.
The Bloc Québécois said Friday the party has not applied for the subsidy.