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House of Commons will sit on Saturday to debate coronavirus wage subsidy

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau promises ‘relaxed’ rules for new wage subsidy
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal wage subsidy program for employers hit by COVID-19 will have looser standards than previously announced. Rather than having to show a 30 per cent decline in revenues, businesses can instead show a 15 per cent decline in March, and can compare their revenues to previous months rather than the previous year, Trudeau announced.

The House of Commons will sit on Saturday to try to pass the coronavirus wage subsidy bill.

An official recall was announced on Thursday saying the sitting would begin at 12:15 PM.

READ MORE: Canada surpasses 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19

It’s not yet clear whether the federal parties could also discuss extending the current suspension or changes to the standing orders governing how the House of Commons does business.

The Senate is also reconvening on Saturday to consider the bill, should it be passed by the House.

All parties agreed last month to suspend the House of Commons for five weeks until April 20.

But with that date fast approaching and the coronavirus spread intensifying across the country, the Liberals have proposed exploring the possibility of virtual sittings to avoid having to congregate people and staff in the facilities.

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Members of Parliament from all parties returned on March 25 to pass an emergency support bill worth $107 billion that contained billions in tax deferrals, emergency response benefits and new powers to let the government spend without parliamentary approval until September 2020.

That bill included the original proposal for a 10 per cent wage subsidy which was set to be rolled out through income tax deductions.

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But when the Liberals changed gears to boost the subsidy to 75 per cent, that avenue for delivering it no longer worked and so the new bill will include the authorizations for their current plan based on direct deposits to employers from the Canada Revenue Agency.

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However, the last bill did not sail smoothly through.

READ MORE: Liberals say changes coming to emergency coronavirus funding bill after criticism

In addition to the coronavirus support measures previously announced, the Liberals also crammed a draft version of the bill with sweeping new powers that would have let them spend without parliamentary approval until 2021.

Those proposals sparked rapid backlash after Global News was the first to report on them, with political and academic critics quickly casting the move as an undemocratic power grab.

READ MORE: Liberal bill on coronavirus would give feds power to spend, tax without parliamentary approval

Several of the proposals were removed but some, including letting the government spend without needing parliamentary approval until September 2020, remained.

It’s not clear at this time whether similar proposals will be included in the wage subsidy bill.