Scheer denies Tories are holding up coronavirus aid; says bill can be improved

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says his party isn’t deliberately holding up a new financial aid package for COVID-19 relief.

Scheer says constructive conversations are ongoing between his party and the Liberal government over the legislation to implement a massive wage-subsidy program.

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He says the new package will take at least six weeks to spool up and the Liberals have said the back-end work to implement it is underway.

So Scheer says there is time for the bill that’s behind it to be improved and he’s optimistic a path forward exists.

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The $73-billion wage-subsidy program is the second iteration of the Liberal government’s efforts to cushion the economic blow of COVID-19.

The first piece of legislation introduced to create it launched a lengthy debate in the back rooms of House of Commons as the Liberals sought to give themselves wide latitude to tax and spend for more than a year and the Tories resisted.

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Speaking outside Rideau Cottage on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he believes the legislation is broadly viewed as “the right solution” though other parties are seeking minor amendments.

“But there seems to be a sense from the Official Opposition that this is a moment to define or determine how Parliament will function in the coming weeks,” he said, adding that the Tories are negotiating around the structures.

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The Liberals want to have those conversations, Trudeau said, referencing his party’s proposal that Parliament could meet virtually.

“And we just hope that the Official Opposition will choose to realize that we need to pass this legislation quickly to get the help out to Canadians as quickly as possible.”

—With files from Global News

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