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Federal NDP unveils election-style promises to support small businesses in pandemic

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — Jagmeet Singh is promising that a federal NDP government would provide more support for small businesses struggling during the pandemic, including paying a bonus to companies that hire new employees or bring back those who have been laid off.

Singh unveiled the promises during a campaign-style event in British Columbia on Tuesday, less than a week after he said the New Democrats would not provoke an election as long as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

The federal NDP leader said last week that his party would support the minority Liberal government on confidence votes in the House of Commons during the pandemic. Parties are nonetheless preparing for an election that could come at any time.

The hiring bonus proposed by the NDP would see the federal government cover the portion of employment insurance and Canada Pension Plan contributions normally paid by employers for new staff that are hired or staff rehired after being laid off.

The NDP did not provide an estimate for how much that or any of the other measures announced on Tuesday are expected to cost the government.

However, the government announced in September that it was freezing employment insurance rates for employers for the next two years with the pandemic. The move was expected to save businesses and employees about $1 billion this year.

Singh also promised to extend the federal government’s existing wage subsidy, rent assistance and business loan programs until the end of the pandemic, while also making it easier for businesses to access those relief programs.

The wage subsidy is currently set to expire in June, but the Liberal government has extended it several times since it was first unveiled last April. It also expanded the amount of support following complaints from business and opposition parties.

Singh is also highlighting an earlier promise to impose what he describes as an “excess profit tax” on companies that have benefited during the pandemic, though the NDP has yet to provide details on exactly how that will work.

The federal NDP has unveiled campaign promises on a number of different fronts over the past few weeks as parties prepare for a possible election.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021.

The Canadian Press