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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his party will oppose imminent government legislation to scale back COVID-19 benefits unless the Liberals agree to changes, a stand that creates uncertainty as to how the re-elected minority Liberals will obtain parliamentary approval for the $7.4-billion plan it announced last month.

Mr. Singh made the comments to reporters on Monday as members of Parliament returned to the House of Commons for the first time since June. MPs started by re-electing Ontario Liberal MP Anthony Rota as Speaker by secret ballot.

The House was almost entirely full Monday, with only a small handful of empty seats on both sides of the aisle.

On Tuesday, the government will outline its policy priorities through a Throne Speech. The speech is expected to highlight the main promises of the recent Liberal Party election platform, which focused on areas such as child care, housing and climate change.

The House is scheduled to sit for four weeks before recessing until Jan. 31.

One of the government’s immediate priorities during this brief four-week window is to obtain parliamentary approval for a major policy change Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced in October.

The government revealed at the time that it was ending the Canada Recovery Benefit – which was paid directly to individuals who could not work because of COVID-19 – while extending a more limited version of wage and rent supports for businesses in the hardest-hit sectors of the economy.

Extending the revised business supports through to May 7 is projected to cost $7.4-billion.

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The Sept. 20 federal election produced a Parliament with similar numbers in terms of party standings compared with before the campaign. The minority Liberal government will need the support of at least one other major party to win votes on spending and legislation in the House of Commons, and in the previous Parliament, the NDP frequently provided that support.

There has been speculation in recent weeks that the Liberals and the NDP may reach some form of agreement on key items in the minority Parliament, but Mr. Singh said Monday there is no deal between the two parties. He said the NDP and the Liberals are in “ongoing” discussions about approving measures that both parties support.

“We’re open to looking at ways to speed up the passage of bills that we agree with,” Mr. Singh said, while adding that the NDP will not support the government’s current plan for COVID-19 benefits.

“We’ve seen that this government’s taking an approach to cut help to people, and if they want to hurt people, and they’re going to bring in laws that will make it harder on folks, then they can go to the Conservatives or to the Bloc for support, but we’ll be voting against something that makes life worse for people,” he said.

Government House Leader Mark Holland said in a news conference Monday that immediate legislative priorities include implementing 10 days of paid sick leave for federally regulated workers, enacting a campaign pledge to protect health care workers from threats and intimidation, and reintroducing a bill that effectively bans the practice of conversion therapy. Mr. Holland told The Globe and Mail in a recent interview that he’s in regular talks with all parties in an effort to find support for government bills.

Most of Mr. Holland’s news conference focused on the Conservative Party’s approach to COVID-19 vaccines.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has said all Conservative MPs in the House of Commons will be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or will have medical exemptions.

Mr. Holland said he doesn’t know how many Conservative MPs have exemptions, but he is under the impression that there are a “multitude” in that situation. He did not say how he reached that conclusion but called for increased scrutiny.

“Given that we’re dealing with public health, I’m asking for assurances on that. And to me, that seems pre-eminently logical,” he said.

He also said he wants an all-party agreement on the procedural rules for the House of Commons, including continuing the practice of hybrid sittings in which MPs can participate by remote video link. The Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois are opposed to hybrid sittings.

The Conservative Leader’s office has repeatedly declined to say how many of the party’s 119 MPs are fully vaccinated.

In a statement, Josie Sabatino, acting communications director for the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, said that with the exception of Conservative MP Richard Lehoux, who has tested positive for COVID-19, any Conservative MPs not in the House on Monday were away for reasons unrelated to the pandemic or the House vaccine mandate. She did not elaborate.

Conservative MP and deputy house leader Michael Barrett addressed the issue during a CPAC interview on Monday.

“People have been asked and some people have opted to share that information and others haven’t. And to be clear with you, I don’t know the number,” Mr. Barrett said. “The question that we had for caucus was: Are you going to be able to participate? Have you provided the appropriate credentials to the House? And we received a yes all round from our members.”

The Conservatives and NDP also called Monday for an emergency debate in the House to discuss the flooding in British Columbia.

B.C. Conservative MPs Dan Albas and Ed Fast said in a statement that a debate would allow “for British Columbians to see the House of Commons seized with this crisis and working together on the way forward.”

Mr. Singh, who also represents a B.C. riding, said the debate should focus on the federal response to the “climate crisis,” as well as the need to improve the infrastructure of communities so they are better prepared to deal with the norm of extreme weather.

With a report from Marieke Walsh in Ottawa

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