4 federal parties say they’ve applied for emergency wage subsidy

The Parliament buildings are seen in Ottawa, Monday, April 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Four of Canada’s federal political parties say they’re seeking the emergency wage subsidy to pay staff due to the fundraising challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Liberals confirmed they already applied and received the benefit after CBC reported that the NDP submitted its application on Friday.

The Liberals suspended in-person fundraisers in March. The party has not had to lay off any staff due to COVID-19.

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“As has been reported for other parties as well, the Liberal Party of Canada has met the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy in recent weeks and received that support,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

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“Beyond that, as always, the party relies on grassroots fundraising support from individual Canadians — in line with all of Elections Canada’s strict limits, rules, and regulations.”

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) provides 75 per cent of a worker’s wages (up to $847 per week) to eligible businesses and non-profit organizations that have lost considerable revenue during the pandemic.

The program, which is intended to allow employers to retain or rehire workers, is expected to cost $73 billion. It was originally scheduled to wrap up during the first week of June but has been extended until the end of August.

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The Conservative Party said its application has been approved. A spokesperson said the party was seeking the subsidy in order to maintain operations and avoid laying off staff.

“As an organization, we rely heavily on the donations of individuals, especially for our day-to-day operations which are 100 per cent funded by our donors. We understand that many Canadians are not able to give at the moment, which is why we’ve been taking a different approach on donation asks and operations that take that into account.”

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Prateek Awasthi, the Green Party of Canada’s executive director, said the party applied for the benefit but has not received it yet.

“We have had a drop in donations, and we are a non-profit and take seriously our responsibilities to protect the jobs of our staff members,” Awasthi said in a statement.

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NDP national director Anne McGrath said the party is seeking the wage subsidy to be able to continue its work.

“Like almost every other organization in the country, especially non-profits, we’ve experienced a decline in our revenues as a result of the pandemic,” she said. “We’re continuing to fundraise but we’ve seen a decline because I think many of our supporters are some of the hardest hit by the economic shutdown.”

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The party said it has 17 full-time employees, along with 15 to 20 part-timers.

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The other parties were asked how many staff members they are looking to pay with the aid of the subsidy but did not provide a response.

The Bloc Québécois did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it was applying for CEWS but told The Canadian Press it hasn’t sought the funding.

Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet spoke out against the Tories and Liberals receiving the subsidy, saying that the Bloc has less money but isn’t availing of the benefit.

“Multimillionaire parties like the Liberals and Conservatives are dipping into money from programs meant for companies worried about going bankrupt and their employees, in order to finance their next election campaign,” he tweeted in French on Friday evening. “It’s your money.”

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–With files from the Canadian Press