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Conservative finance critic says coronavirus programs amount to ‘freakonomics’

Coronavirus outbreak: Conservative MP calls for changes to benefits for businesses
Conservative MP calls for changes to benefits for businesses.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre took aim at the Liberals’ coronavirus stimulus programs on Sunday, saying that while his party supports compensating Canadians amid the pandemic, the measures are not working as intended.

Coronavirus outbreak: Conservative MP says reopening of economies up to provinces, feds must provide supplies to help
Coronavirus outbreak: Conservative MP says reopening of economies up to provinces, feds must provide supplies to help

Initiatives such as commercial rent relief and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) discourage people from working — or businesses keeping their doors open — in order to meet eligibility requirements that are too strict, he said.

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“These massive programs will be like a gigantic experiment in freakonomics because in many cases they are having the opposite of their intended effect,” he told reporters.

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CERB, which pays out $2,000 a month to those who’ve lost their jobs, allows recipients to earn up to $1,000 per month under eligibility criteria that was expanded earlier this month.

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The government’s business loan program — which Poilievre also criticized for shutting out some business owners — is another area where the Liberals have recently expanded eligibility criteria.

The rent relief plan, Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance, is open to businesses that have lost 70 per cent of their income — which Poilievre said was too high — or have shut their doors completely.

Could Canada implement universal basic income?
Could Canada implement universal basic income?

Imagine a program that forces workers to stop working and forces businesses to go out of business,” Poilievre said.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not speak with reporters on Sunday but has been repeatedly asked about making benefits universal or extending eligibility for various programs.

Coronavirus outbreak: Conservative MP says Trudeau should apologize to Canada’s top doctor, not Derek Sloan
Coronavirus outbreak: Conservative MP says Trudeau should apologize to Canada’s top doctor, not Derek Sloan

Trudeau says his government’s approach has been to try to target its emergency financial assistance in stages to those who need it most, rather than to everyone at once, including those who don’t need it.

“There are millions of Canadians who need help. There are others who do not need help,” he said Wednesday.

“We feel that targeting the maximum amount of help to the people who needed it quickly was the right way to begin to get through this process.”

Poilievre’s press conference came days after Tory MP Derek Sloan faced strong criticism — including from some Conservatives — for questioning whether Canada’s top doctor Theresa Tam  is “working for China.”

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READ MORE: Rookie Belleville, Ont., MP gets blowback for ‘racist’ comments against Canada’s top doctor

Poilievre was asked if he condemns the rookie eastern Ontario MP’s comments, but he did not do so.

The guy who should really apologize to Dr. Tam is Justin Trudeau,” he said. “He keeps blaming her for all of his mistakes.”

—With files from The Canadian Press