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Liberals and Conservatives will pay party operations staff with federal pandemic wage subsidy

Liberals and Conservatives will pay party operations staff with federal pandemic wage subsidy
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OTTAWA—The governing Liberal Party of Canada and Opposition Conservative Party are using the federal emergency wage subsidy to pay their staff.

The parties confirmed when asked by the Star Friday that they have sought — or are already receiving — public money to cover up to 75 per cent of their staffs’ wages, after the federal New Democratic Party disclosed it applied for the program Friday to avoid staff layoffs during the pandemic.

The federal Greens have also applied for the program, the party confirmed, making the Bloc Québécois the sole political entity with representation in Parliament not to have sought government aid to support wages for its staff. A Bloc spokesperson told the Star the party has no plans to apply.

The federal wage subsidy program is open to businesses, charities, non-profit organizations and other groups that have seen revenues decline by 30 per cent during the pandemic, compared to the same time last year. Recipients can get up to $847 per week for each employee from March 15 to Aug. 29.

The parties that are already receiving or are seeking the subsidy say the donations they typically rely on for party operations have dropped and fundraisers have been cancelled as the COVID-19 pandemic hammers the economy.

In an email to the Star Friday afternoon, Liberal spokesperson Braeden Caley said the party led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “has met the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy in recent weeks and received that support.”

Conservative party spokesperson Cory Hann also confirmed the party that holds Official Opposition in the minority House of Commons has applied and been approved to receive the wage supports.

“Like many Canadians, organizations, and not-for-profits, COVID-19 measures are having an impact on our team, party, and operations, and we’re doing our best to adjust to this new reality,” Hann wrote. “We want to do everything we can to maintain regular operations and continue to avoid layoffs.”

In an interview by phone, NDP national director Anne McGrath said the pandemic has hit organizations all over the country, and that she felt it was her responsibility to apply for the subsidy to avoid laying off any of the 17 full-time and 20 part-time staff that work for the party.

Since March, when health restrictions shut down businesses and governments urged people to avoid close contact with others, the party has cancelled all in-person fundraisers and doesn’t have any scheduled.

McGrath said the NDP will still cover the portion of its employees’ wages not covered by the subsidy. She added that the NDP has applied to receive the support for the entire eligibility period that spans from March 15 to Aug. 29.

“This will go to pay the salaries of workers at the party. This is not going to anything else. And we’re abiding by all of the criteria that (NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh and the party have been pushing the Liberals on,” she said.

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“It’s the responsible thing to do, and I knew that we should do it, and it was to protect the employment of the people who are working with us, who believe in us.”

As of May 18, more than 228,000 organizations had applied for the federal wage subsidy and the program had disbursed $5.7 billion, according to statistics published by the government.
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