Conservative House Leader Gerard Deltell arrives at a party caucus meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

The minority Liberal government has reached a deal with the New Democrats over legislation to support workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, likely securing the support needed to remain in power.

“We are entering the second wave and millions of Canadians are still struggling to make ends meet,” government House leader Pablo Rodriguez said Friday on Twitter.

“We now have an agreement with the NDP on a bill that will deliver the help that Canadians need. It’s by working together that we will get through this pandemic.”

The Liberal throne speech introduced Wednesday needs the support of at least one of the major opposition parties for the minority government to survive a confidence vote, or else Canada could head into a federal election as parts of the country are already in a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has spelled out the conditions for earning the support of his party: legislation assuring that Canadians left jobless due to the pandemic won’t have their emergency benefits cut and that Canadians who fall ill will get paid sick leave.

The Liberal government introduced legislation Thursday the NDP said it considered a victory on its first demand, by ensuring that jobless Canadians will continue to receive $500 a week, the same benefit provided under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Now, the NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on the sick-leave part too.

“We have convinced the government to work with us and we’ve massively expanded the number of people who can access the sick days,” George Soule, a spokesman for Singh, said Friday.

“This is an important first step toward getting sick days permanently for all workers across the country,” he said.

“We will work together to pass (the bill) as quickly as possible.”

The agreement is on the legislation known as Bill C-2, which is scheduled for two days of debate early next week, but it also likely means the NDP will end up voting with the Liberals on the throne speech.

The Conservatives have already said they will vote against the throne speech and the Bloc Québécois say they are leaning that way unless the Liberals meet demands from the provinces to add billions to annual federal health transfers by next week.

Joan Bryden and Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

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