Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government will be announcing some form of an extension this week to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which is set to expire for many Canadians next month.
Mr. Trudeau made the pledge during his daily news conference on Monday, but said details will come later in the week.
“If you’re having troubles finding a job, you shouldn’t also be worrying about whether you’ll hit the limit of your CERB benefits. So, right now, we’re working on a solution to extend the benefit for people who can’t return to work yet,” Mr. Trudeau said Monday.
The comments came after NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party will not support the government this week during a vote on spending estimates unless the Liberal minority government agrees to extend the CERB. Mr. Singh said behind-the-scenes negotiations on the details are continuing ahead of Wednesday, when the House of Commons is scheduled to meet for one day to approve the spending estimates after no more than four hours of debate.
Votes on spending estimates are generally considered to be confidence votes, meaning a government defeat could potentially trigger a federal election. A snap election is highly unlikely, however, in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Some business groups have expressed concern that as the economy reopens, employers face challenges in convincing workers to leave the CERB and return to work. The Liberal government failed last week to convince opposition parties to support a government bill that would have included new penalties for CERB fraud and stronger language requiring individuals to accept work if it’s available.
Mr. Trudeau urged employers to consider using the temporary federal wage subsidy program, which subsidizes employee pay through company payroll systems.
“The CERB was designed to keep everyone at home and allow us to get through the initial wave of this pandemic. Now as we move into the recovery phase, we’re seeing more and more companies take on the wage subsidy, which is a good thing,” said Mr. Trudeau.
“But even with the economy reopening, we know there are many jobs that aren’t going to be coming back in the short term and that’s why we are looking at continuing to help people who are on the CERB who can’t find a job.”
The CERB provides $2,000 in taxable income per month for up to four months. But millions of Canadians who began collecting the benefit in March will reach the $8,000 maximum in early July.
As of June 4, the federal government distributed $43.5-billion in CERB payments to 8.4 million applicants. The federal government’s most recent estimate is that the CERB will cost $60-billion under the existing terms.
“The major thing that we’re calling for is an extension of the CERB," Mr. Singh said. “There’s a number of things that we want to see happen, but right now that is a first and foremost step that needs to happen. There’s going to be millions of Canadians that have no support in just a couple of weeks and they need to know that there’s going to be help for them.”
Mr. Singh added that his party is not looking to trigger an election and his conversations with the government have been positive.
“I think we’re going to find a way to move forward,” he said.
A report this month from the C.D. Howe Institute, authored by Jennifer Robson, a Carleton University Associate Professor of Political Management, estimated that as many as two million CERB recipients will exhaust their benefits in early July, with another six million to follow in the months ahead.
Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.