IN THE NEWS 10,000 in New West receive CERB, but that’s not enough: MP

An estimated 10,000 New Westminster residents are receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), says New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian.

That’s a big figure, but even that’s not enough for Julian, who says many people with disabilities are being unfairly left out of much-needed funding.

Burnaby South MP and federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Julian have been leading the charge to have more people with disabilities qualify for CERB. Right now, people who don’t qualify for the federal disability tax credit also don’t qualify for CERB, Julian said.

“What they’ve come up with has too many holes,� Julian told the Record in an interview on Wednesday.

Julian outlined what the past few months have been like in politics. These days, Julian works up to 20 hours a day trying to negotiate changes to government programs being rolled out since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes having to take part in calls at 4 a.m. due to the time difference on the East Coast.

Singh, as party leader, sets out the direction the NDP wants to take as far as changes and Julian leads the negotiations with the federal government, as well as the other major political parties.

Singh and Julian have been pushing for things like wage subsidies and rent rebates for commercial tenants.

“My meetings usually start with the Liberals telling why they can’t do something,� Julian said. “Then we negotiated from there.�

New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian, right, has been appointed by federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh as NDP house leader. - Contributed

The latest battle was to get the federal government to extend CERB longer. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government is extending the program by eight weeks. The 16-week program was due to end the first week of July. The extension means the $2,000 monthly payments are now set to conclude after the last full week of August. The prime minister has not offer a cost estimate of the extension.

Instead, he said the hope is that fewer Canadians will need to tap the CERB as the economy opens up across the nation.

The federal Liberals proposed a bill last week that would call for CERB recipients to certify they are actively searching for work while accepting benefits. The legislation also proposed fines for those who fraudulently applied for the benefit. The bill fell apart when it was not able to find support within the minority Parliament.

Julian said that the minority Parliament has been a blessing because it’s allowed the NDP and other parties to push for changes by using the “leverage� of their votes.

“The minority government makes such a difference with this,� Julian said.

The NDP is also pushing the feds to drop their goal of fines through the CRA, saying fraud can be pursued through other legal channels.

“People are already struggling enough without CRA coming after them with draconian penalties,� Julian said.

With files from Tyler Orton, Business in Vancouver