WINNIPEG — The Liberals will add another seven days to paid sick leave benefits for federally regulated workers, leader Justin Trudeau pledged from the campaign trail Friday.
Trudeau’s government created three days of paid personal leave in 2018 for workers who had been in their jobs for at least three months, and this promise would extend that to 10 days.
The Liberal leader says no one should choose between staying safe and paying their bills.
"Too many families, uncertain, (were) racked with extremely difficult decisions," he said.
There are no current plans to extend a federal COVID-19 sickness benefit, which offered up to four weeks of support at a maximum of $500 a week, to workers who had to cut their hours by more than half to stay home due to sickness or needing to self-isolate.
The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit currently expires Oct. 23.
Trudeau made the announcement inside an independent grocery store in Winnipeg Friday, thanking the front-line workers for their dedication and effort in a stressful time. But none of those workers would be eligible for the federal sick days because they only apply to federally regulated industries like banking, airlines, radio and television broadcasting, and Crown corporations including the postal service.
The Liberals said if re-elected they would "immediately" convene the provinces and territories to discuss legislating sick leave across the country, with the federal program as a bar for provinces to try and meet.
"As a government and as this country's largest employer, it’s up to us to set the example," Trudeau said.
The party says the amendments to the Canada Labour Code for the extra days for federal workers would be made within the first 100 days of a new mandate.
Currently there is a mishmash of paid and unpaid sick leave provisions across provinces. Quebec requires up to three days of paid sick leave each year, and Prince Edward Island one. Other provinces introduced temporary pandemic sick leave provisions, such as Manitoba, which offered employers some funding to pay workers who needed time off because of COVID-19.
Sick leave, or the lack thereof, has been a significant problem for many workers during the pandemic, who couldn't afford to take time off if they were showing symptoms of COVID-19, or even to get tested if they'd had a potential exposure.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he'd been pushing Trudeau to offer sick leave for 18 months.
"Every day since then, people went to work sick because they didn’t have another way to pay their bills," said Singh. "Now, he wants us to believe he’ll do it after the election. He's saying the right thing now, but he has no intention of doing it.”
The Liberals also promised another $100 million to help improve air quality in schools, and $70 million to not-for-profits, charities and Indigenous communities to improve ventilation through the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative.
They are also pledging a refundable tax credit for small businesses for 25 per cent of eligible ventilation improvement expenses such as ventilation upgrades.
It would be for up to $10,000 per building, with a maximum of $50,000 per company, available from Sept. 1 to the end of the 2022 tax year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 20, 2021.
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press