Feds, provinces pursuing talks ‘without delay’ for 10 paid sick days

Rent relief program also begins accepting applications

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government “will continue discussions with the provinces without delay” to secure paid sick leave for Canadians.

Ottawa will be looking to ensure workers can land 10 paid sick days a year, Trudeau said Monday (May 25) during his daily media briefing outside his home in Ottawa.

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Further details were sparse on what such a program would entail or how much it would cost.

But the prime minister called out B.C. Premier John Horgan as the provincial leader pushing for the introduction of mandatory paid sick leave, acknowledging other premiers are now jumping on board with the idea.

Concerns over paid sick leave have been top of mind for British Columbians as COVID-19 outbreaks have unfolded at various food-processing plants across Metro Vancouver.

“When the fall comes and flu season starts up, we don’t want people who develop a sniffle to suddenly worry that while they really shouldn’t go into work, but they can’t afford to not go into work, and therefore the risk of contributing to a second wave significantly could be a real problem,” Trudeau said.

“These are things that will be essential in our recovery if we are to control the spread of COVID-19. The mechanisms are challenging and that’s why we have to work with the provinces.”

It’s unclear at this point whether the potential for mandatory paid sick leave would apply only to those exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

The prime minister said discussions between Ottawa, the provinces and the private sector remain ongoing.

Meanwhile, applications for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program opened Monday.

Applications are being staggered but B.C., Alberta, Quebec and Atlantic Canada landlords with up to 10 tenants may begin applying for rent relief as of Monday.

Applications open Tuesday for landlords in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the territories.

Those with more than 10 tenants will have to wait until later in the week to go to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s website to apply.

The program sees provinces and the federal government covering 50% of rent for small businesses.

It’s up to landlords, not tenants, to apply for the program.

Landlords that apply are expected to absorb 25% of the rent due, while Trudeau has previously urged small businesses to tap other federal programs to cover the final 25%.

The assistance covers the months of April, May and June and can be applied retroactively.

The prime minister was also pressed on growing concerns about the erosion of human rights in Hong Kong after Beijing put forward legislation last week to tackle what it describes as treason, secession and sedition.

The new security law could see mainland Chinese intelligence agencies setting up inside the semi-autonomous city that had been promised a “one country, two systems” model of governance when the U.K. returned it to China in 1997.

“It’s important to support the citizens of Hong Kong, including 300,000 Canadians who really want to see the one country, two systems approach to Hong Kong and China continue. It is going to be important for the Chinese government to engage in constructive conversations with citizens of Hong Kong to ensure that they de-escalate the tension,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister was later questioned on when his government would be making a decision on whether to allow Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. to provide equipment to develop Canada’s 5G infrastructure.

Various allies have raised concerns that the Chinese technology could be used by Beijing for espionage purposes.

“We have been taking advice from our security officials. We’ve been working with them to ensure [that] what is the right path forward for Canada is followed,” Trudeau said.

“We are working closely with our allies and watching what they do to make sure that we are all doing the things necessary to both create economic opportunities and growth for our country, while making sure that the safety and security of our infrastructures, our businesses and our people is tantamount.”

torton@biv.com

@reporton

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