House of Commons Passes COVID-19 Aid Bill

March 25, 2020 – Ottawa - The House of Commons passed Bill C-13: An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19 after our Conservative team secured significant concessions from the government.

The text of the legislation is available here.

Concessions obtained in Bill C-13:

• We removed entirely their ability to raise taxes without Parliament’s approval.

o Parliament’s privilege over taxation was preserved in full.

o This was Part 2 of the original bill. We deleted every word.

• We obtained parliamentary oversight of all spending and new programs.

o Any new spending initiatives for health (Part 3) or stimulus (Part 8) and new benefits under EI (Part 18) will be automatically referred to the Finance Committee for review.

o If the Finance Committee objects to anything, it can recall the House with 48 hours’ notice.

o This was adopted in the March 24 unanimous consent motion.

o As an additional measure, the Health and Finance committees will have weekly meetings to scrutinize all of the government to scrutinize all of the government’s activities with respect to COVID-19.

• We removed entirely their extension of spending by special warrants to September 30.

o As such, the spending power by special warrants will revert to the agreement of March 13 and will expire on June 23.

o Furthermore, any spending under the existing warrants will be scrutinized by the Public Accounts committee and the Auditor General.

o This was part 19 of the original bill. We deleted every word.

• We put a sunset clause on every new government power under this bill.

o Every new power will sunset on September 30, 2020.

• We included an explicit reference to taxpayers’ rights.

o Part 8 now requires the Minister to place special consideration on the rights of taxpayers in all spending under that section.

• We demanded language to specify the intent of spending.

o Part 3 and 8 now have language to clarify the intent of the government’s spending. This will be useful to us in holding the government to account at the Finance committee and in the House.

Previously obtained oversight mechanisms in March 13 agreement:

• The Public Accounts committee and the Auditor General will scrutinize the spending under the special warrants used between now and June 23.

• We retain the ability to recall Parliament on April 20.

Sections we support which provide financial assistance for Canadians:

• Temporary increase to the GST/HST credit

• Temporary increase to the Canada Child Benefit

• RRIF conversion reduction, though we think it should be 100%, not 25%

• Wage subsidy for small businesses, though we think it should be significantly higher

• $500 million to the provinces and territories for health care system funding.