FILE – A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Monday, May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

FILE – A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Monday, May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Feds weigh cutting COVID-19 sickness benefit for Canadians who have travelled

Questions about the sick-leave benefit were first raised over the weekend

The federal Liberal government is weighing whether to bar people who have travelled overseas from a new sick-leave benefit that pays up to $1,000 to Canadians who have to quarantine due to COVID-19.

The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit was launched in the fall to help Canadians who are unable to work because they must quarantine during the pandemic. It pays $500 per week to a maximum of two weeks.

But Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough says the government is “actively looking at all options” in the face of questions over whether Canadians who have travelled abroad should be allowed to collect the money.

The benefit is designed “to provide workers with a paid sick-leave option where one might not be available through their employer, so that workers did not have to choose between going to work and putting food on the table,” she said in a statement.

“The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit was never intended to incentivize or encourage Canadians to not follow public health or international travel guidelines. … We are actively looking at all available options to address this issue.”

Questions about the sick-leave benefit were first raised over the weekend by Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, who said it was “absurd in most cases” that anyone able to leave the country would need government support to quarantine.

“If someone is travelling because it is essential for their work, you might think they won’t lose income,” he added in a statement in French. “And if someone is traveling for pleasure, they are already being advised not to travel.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, whose party pushed the Liberals to create the benefit, welcomed the government’s review, saying Canadians were “rightly upset those who can afford to go on a vacation could get $1,000 to stay home when they come back.”

Yet he also warned Canadians would continue to leave the country as long as non-essential travel was allowed.

“We need to make sure they have all the tools to stay home when they come back,” he said. “We look forward to (the government) coming back to parliamentarians with a solution that doesn’t create a bigger health risk.”

The emerging debate over what to do with the sick-leave benefits comes as Canadians have been buffeted over the past week with revelations that some politicians have ignored their own government’s advice and engaged in non-essential travel abroad.

Those include Rod Phillips, who resigned as Ontario’s finance minister after a holiday trip to the Caribbean exploded in controversy, as well as a number of Alberta MLAs who Premier Jason Kenney has declined to punish.

READ MORE: More Alberta MLAs travelled over holidays, despite advice to avoid unnecessary trips

The federal NDP also stripped Manitoba MP Niki Ashton of her duties as the party’s transport critic and deputy critic for women and gender equality after she travelled to Greece this month. Ashton says she left to be with her ailing grandmother.

Those trips have come even as millions of Canadians face government-imposed lockdowns across the country aimed at curbing the second wave of COVID-19 infections, which included thousands of newly reported cases on Sunday.

That includes nearly 3,000 new positive tests in Ontario over the past 24 hours and more than 7,600 new cases in Quebec since Thursday, with hundreds of people hospitalized in both provinces.

In a rare bit of good news, however, Nunavut reported that the territory has no known cases as all 265 residents who have previously tested positive are now recovered. The territory has logged one virus-related death over the course of the pandemic.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirustravel

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A person experiencing homelessness in downtown Nanaimo last week. (News Bulletin photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Change approach to combatting homelessness

Letter writers express frustration with status quo

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Nanaimo area this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Nanaimo City Hall. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo councillors like new sustainable buying policy

Finance and audit committee recommends council approve new procurement policy

Action at the Nanaimo Curling Centre. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo sports organizations qualify for COVID-19 relief funding

Province announces support for curling, rowing, gymastics, softball, rugby, squash, football clubs

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

SD62 bus driver Kerry Zado said it’s common to see drivers lose their patience and pass by his bus while he’s picking up students during the morning commute. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Concerned Island school bus driver says people still pass while red lights flashing

All buses in Sooke School District outfitted with stop sign cameras

The cost of potentially counting deer regionwide was among the issues that prompted Capital Regional District committee members to vote against pursuing a greater CRD role in deer management. (Black Press Media file photo)
Expanded deer management a non-starter for Greater Victoria

Capital Regional District committee maintains current level of support

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Most Read