Economic development minister says parliamentary process too slow for coronavirus response

Melanie Joly says the parliamentary process is too slow to respond to the new coronavirus pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Melanie Joly, Canada’s minister of economic development, says the sweeping legislation the Liberals are set to propose on Tuesday is necessary because the parliamentary process is too slow to adapt to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“We have to be reacting very fast, and our parliamentary system sometimes is longer, and so we wanted to make sure that the minister of finance had… that power,” she told Global News on Tuesday morning.

The original version of the legislation, as first reported by Global News, would have given Finance Minister Bill Morneau the power to spend money and raise taxes without parliamentary approval.

An amended version of the legislation removed that clause but retains the ability for cabinet ministers, with Morneau’s approval, to dispense “all money required to do anything” in the event of a public health emergency.

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“People are moving fast, governments are moving fast because the pace of this pandemic is very high, and so that’s why we need to adapt,” Joly said via Skype from Montreal.

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The legislation was criticized by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in a statement.

“We will not give the government unlimited power to raise taxes without a parliamentary vote,” the statement read.

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

Joly said the Liberals would work with opposition parties during the pandemic.

— With files from Global News’ Mercedes Stephenson, Amanda Connolly and David Lao

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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