NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says it is irresponsible and wrong-headed for the Liberal government to draft a bill that would fine or imprison people who made fraudulent claims under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
Singh says a bill the Liberals are proposing would hurt the very people that the CERB was designed to help _ vulnerable people who have faced financial hardship because of COVID-19.
He also says it was hypocritical for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a knee on Parliament Hill during Friday’s nationwide anti-racism demonstrations while such a bill was being drafted.
He says the NDP was given a copy of the draft bill on the weekend by the Liberals, ahead of a sitting of the House of Commons tomorrow, and his party can’t support it as is.
Singh says new criminal penalties will hit poor and racialized people harder, and that the tax system should be used to recover funds that should not have been paid, rather than fining or jailing people during a pandemic.
Singh says all parties previously agreed that people should not be unduly penalized if they applied for benefits in good faith.
“They’re effectively opening up the floodgates to retroactively charging people just for applying … That is the opposite of what we should be doing during a pandemic,” he said Tuesday.
“I am outraged at the Liberal government that Prime Minister Trudeau can take a knee on one day while at the same time the Liberal government is drafting a bill that’s going to penalize potentially people who applied in good faith but maybe didn’t meet a certain criteria. That is wrong.”
Recent federal figures say 8.37 million people applied for the CERB, with $43.18 billion in payments as of June 2.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2020.