Federal NDP applies for Trudeau’s wage subsidy to pay party workers amid COVID-19
|National Post 22 May 2020 at 15:49|
OTTAWA — Facing a significant drop in donations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal NDP has applied for the Trudeau government’s wage subsidy in order to keep the party’s staff employed.
The National Post has confirmed information first revealed on Friday afternoon by Karl Bélanger, a former NDP national director and now consultant and radio columnist for Gatineau’s 104.7 FM.
“I’m not sure I would have made the same decision, but at the same time, I understand why they’re making it. If they are indeed facing the situation where they would have to layoff employees, then their own workers shouldn’t be excluded because of who they work for,” Bélanger later said in an interview with the National Post.
“But politically, it sends the message that you are still in financial trouble,” he added.
He was referring to the fact that the party . In 2018, the party took out a $12 million mortgage on the Jack Layton building, its national headquarters in downtown Ottawa.
At the end of the fall 2019 election, the party had $7 million in debt. At the time, it promised to pay off all loans by the end of 2020.
If the NDP’s application is approved by the Canada Revenue Agency, the money from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) will serve to pay the party’s roughly 35 full and part-time employees, and not MPs and their political staff. The latter are paid through an independent budget from the House of Commons.
According to sources, members of the NDP’s caucus were advised two weeks ago that the party was seriously considering applying for the program.
But questions remain as to whether the party is even eligible for CEWS.
Opened on April 27, the CEWS covers 75 per cent of eligible employers’ payrolls — up to a weekly maximum of $847 per employee — for up to 12 weeks, backdated to March 15.
To be eligible, an organization’s revenue must have dropped by at least 30 per cent in one month since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Private businesses as well as most non-profits are eligible. The NDP as a party falls under the latter category.
But CEWS does not apply to “public institutions,” such as schools, universities and hospitals, which are mainly funded through taxpayers’ money. Eligible political parties are in large part funded through donations, but also receive money from the government in the form of election expense refunds, for example.
“If they are considered non-profits, then they will meet the criteria set out by the government. Some could argue that they are more of a public institution, but fiscally, political parties are considered non-profits,” the NDP’s former national director analyzed.