Liberals say changes coming to emergency coronavirus funding bill after criticism

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau addresses sweeping new powers proposed in COVID-19 bill'
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau addresses sweeping new powers proposed in COVID-19 bill
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says proposed sweeping new powers to let the government spend money without parliamentary approval are needed because the coronavirus pandemic presents an “exceptional situation.” – Mar 24, 2020

The Liberals say changes were made to a bill set to be tabled on Tuesday that would have granted them sweeping powers to spend money and raise taxes without Parliamentary approval.

In a tweet late Monday night, the leader of the government in the House of Commons, Pablo Rodriguez, said that they were going to make changes to the federal government’s emergency response to the novel coronavirus.

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“We consulted with the opposition and will bring changes to the draft legislation,” read Rodriguez’s tweet. “We will always work collaboratively and respect the fundamental role of Parliament.

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The bill, which Global News has seen a copy of, was later denounced by the opposition in a statement from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on Monday night.

“In a crisis, broad, all-party agreement is essential, especially when the government has a minority in the House of Commons. And we are prepared to have Parliament sit as needed to transact the business of Parliament,” read Scheer’s statement. “But we will not give the government unlimited power to raise taxes without a parliamentary vote.”

“We will authorize whatever spending measures are justified to respond to the situation, but we will not sign a blank cheque.”

Click to play video: 'Andrew Scheer weighs in on proposed $82B COVID-19 relief package'
Andrew Scheer weighs in on proposed $82B COVID-19 relief package

The legislation, which was set to be tabled Tuesday and voted on by a small number of MPs from all parties, would have given Finance Minister Bill Morneau sweeping powers to make changes to spending, taxing or borrowing without the approval of opposition MPs until December 2021.

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Taxation is enshrined by the Canadian Constitution as a power of the parliamentary branch, meaning that the granting of tax powers to the federal cabinet would be highly unusual.

If passed, the Liberal proposal would have essentially allowed the government to spend or change any tax rules related to Canada’s COVID-19 response without getting approval from the House of Commons.

— With files from Amanda Connolly and Mercedes Stephenson

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