Liberals, NDP reach deal on sick leave, avoiding immediate election

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the Liberal government is willing to boost the number of people who can access sick days, clearing the way for New Democrats to support the throne speech and bypass an immediate fall election.

Singh said the agreement involves a change to the wording in Bill C-2 — the proposed legislation that would transition people from the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) to an employment insurance program with expanded eligibility, or to one of three new recovery benefits —  to significantly expand the number of Canadians who would be able to access paid sick leave.

“If what we’ve agreed upon is reflected in the bill that’s presented on Monday, if all the same elements are still there, then we will be able to support that bill and yes, we will be able to support the throne speech,” said Singh during a news conference this evening.

The NDP’s support for the throne speech would give the minority Liberals enough votes to pass it in the House of Commons and avoid a snap election.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has secured improved sick day provisions from the Liberal government. He will now support the government on an upcoming confidence vote, reducing the prospect of a snap election. 1:54

The details of the sick leave changes haven’t been released yet, but Singh said the change “will help millions of Canadians.”

“Today marks the first step in achieving the first ever, in the history of our country, federal paid sick leave for Canadian workers,” he said

“It’s a first step toward our ultimate goal of insuring all Canadian workers have paid sick leave now and forever.”

Liberal House Leader Pablo Rodriquez tweeted this afternoon that a deal has been reached, but didn’t offer any more details about the sick leave changes.

“We are entering the second wave and millions of Canadians are still struggling to make ends meet. We now have an agreement with the NDP on a bill that will deliver the help that Canadians need. It’s by working together that we will get through this pandemic,” he said.

The Conservatives said flatly they won’t support the throne speech, while the Bloc Québécois said it won’t support it unless the government boosts health care transfers to the provinces with no strings attached.

Canadians faced ‘impossible choices:’ Singh

That made the 24 new Democrats in the House the Liberals’ best shot for securing enough votes to pass the confidence vote on the throne speech and avoid a snap election.

Ahead of Wednesday’s speech from the throne, Singh said his party would need to see the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) extended and paid sick leave offered to every employee across the country to ensure no Canadian has to go to work sick.

Bill C-2 provides for a 10-day sick leave benefit — something the NDP had demanded —  but on Thursday Singh said he still had concerns about how accessible the paid sick leave would be. He refused to explain in detail what he was asking for, saying that negotiations with the government are ongoing and those talks could affect the entire bill.

He said it’s a priority for the NDP because too many people now face what he calls “impossible choices” between staying home or going to work when they’re unwell.

“Many of them have to go into work because if they don’t they’re not going to get paid … and they cannot pay their bills at the end of the month unless they go to work,” he said in an interview of CBC’s The House airing Saturday.

Trudeau had hinted earlier in the day that talks were ongoing with the NDP.

“I’ve heard reflections from the NDP that this should be a permanent feature of Canada’s system going forward and I think that’s certainly something we can have conversations about,” he said.

“But we are very much focused on making sure that into this fall as cold season starts again that people have access to sick leave to be able to stay home and not risk going to work and infect people.”

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