Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is promising to introduce 10 days of paid sick leave for all federally regulated employees within his first 100 days in government if elected.
The Liberals would also immediately convene representatives of the provinces and territories to discuss legislating sick leave across the country.
“Too many people were having to make impossible decisions, choosing whether to go to work or miss out on an essential paycheque. Either keep kids home or send them to school. Too many families are uncertain, racked with extremely difficult decisions. Well now we’re stepping up to do something about it,” he said.
The changes would require amendments to the Canada Labour Code and would allow employees to take sick days in increments, at their choosing.
The promise came on Prime Minister Trudeau’s stop in Winnipeg Friday, on day six of the election campaign.
Prime Minister Trudeau said, if elected, a Liberal government would also dish out an additional $100 million to the Safe Return to Class Fund to enhance ventilation systems across Canada and $10 million to First Nations for on-reserve schools, and $100 million to the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative.
On ventilation, small businesses would be able to tap into a 25 percent tax credit on purchases of up to $10,000 per building location, with a maximum of $50,000 per company. The tax credit will be 50 percent refundable and will only be available from Sept. 1 to the end of the 2022 tax year.
“Whether you have a local restaurant and need help affording a HEPA air filter, or you run a family-owned grocery store that could really do with a better HVAC system – this new support will be there for you and your team,” he said.
The Safe Return to Class Fund was created in August of last year to make sure schools could safely reopen amid the pandemic last fall. The money can be used for purchasing items like hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment as well as providing safety training for staff.
“We have to do everything we can to protect kids, particularly because you’ve stepped up. I mean kids have been there during this pandemic, missing birthdays, missing school days, being there to help their parents,” Prime Minister Trudeau said.
“That’s why it’s so important that we recognize that our kids under 12 are vulnerable in this fourth wave because they can’t yet get vaccinated. That’s why adults need to do their part and go get vaccinated.”
In a statement to CTV News, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh questioned the timing of the sick leave announcement.
“Justin Trudeau has gone through four waves of the pandemic without giving workers paid sick leave. We’ve been calling on him to deliver paid sick leave for 18 months. Every day since then, people went to work sick because they didn’t have another way to pay their bills. Now, he wants us to believe he’ll do it after the election. He’s saying the right thing now, but he has no intention of doing it,” he said.
Mathew Clancy, a spokesperson for Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, also weighed in, pointing to the Tories’ pledge to extend EI sickness benefits.
“Justin Trudeau has no intention of implementing this policy. If he didn’t do this at the start of the pandemic, he is not going to do it now. In contrast, Canada’s Recovery Plan is Erin O’Toole’s plan to secure future including by increasing the duration of EI sickness benefits to 52 weeks,” he said in a statement.
The government introduced the Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit (CSRB) amid the pandemic for employed and self-employed individuals who are sick because of COVID-19 or who have a health condition that puts them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Eligible applicants can receive $500 per one-week period and can reapply each week up to a total of four weeks.
The government announced in late July that the benefit, along with a handful of others, would be extended until Oct. 23.
To date, 1,284,500 CSRB applications have been approved, equaling $642,250,000.
Prime Minister Trudeau has encouraged provinces to legislate their own paid sick leave programs.
“Provinces need to look at the way to deliver sick leave directly through employers, which the federal government can’t do,” Prime Minister Trudeau said on April 27.
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