Canada Emergency Student Benefit Act

An Act respecting Canada emergency student benefits (coronavirus disease 2019)

Sponsor

Carla Qualtrough  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment authorizes the payment of Canada emergency student benefits to students who lost work and income opportunities for reasons related to the coronavirus disease 2019.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 2:45 p.m.
See context

Delta B.C.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough LiberalMinister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Deputy Prime Minister.

I am pleased to participate today in this debate on Bill C-15, an act respecting Canada emergency student benefits. We are here to discuss how we can best support Canada's students.

For over six weeks, Canadians have been adapting to the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is affecting our country and the entire world.

In order to support Canadians during this crisis, our government has taken significant action and implemented Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan, which provides $146 billion in support.

A key element of this plan is the Canada emergency response benefit, created to support Canadian workers facing unemployment due to COVID-19. The benefit is now providing eligible workers with temporary income support of $500 a week for up to 16 weeks.

When we launched the benefit on April 6, some Canadian workers expressed concerns about eligibility. We listened, and on April 15 we made it more inclusive. Now workers, including the self-employed, can earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the benefit. The benefit also applies to workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefit payments and are unable to start working again because of COVID-19.

To give the House a sense of the scope of this effort, public servants have now processed over 10.15 million applications to date under the Canada emergency response benefit. This figure is a reflection of the real need of Canadians during this time and of our public service's dedication to our country.

We know that more support is needed for Canadians. Young people are facing a serious set of challenges in this difficult time, be it interrupted studies, reduced work opportunities or disruptions to summer co-op or internship plans.

Many Canadian post-secondary students are wondering how they will be able to pay their tuition, buy groceries and cover their rent if they cannot find a summer job.

It is estimated that over a million post-secondary students may not be eligible for the Canada emergency response benefit.

Students are a valuable part of our communities and are ready to bring innovative solutions and a helping hand to our workforce in response to COVID-19.

Last week the Prime Minister mentioned Felix, a recent engineering grad from Carleton University. Felix has experience working on communication satellites, and a few weeks ago he talked to a local manufacturer about what they could do in the fight against COVID-19. Now they have started designing and creating reusable face shields for front-line workers.

Felix is not the only one stepping up. Young people from all over Canada are pitching in and doing their part.

This proposed legislation before us is how we are supporting them in turn. If approved, this framework would provide financial relief to students during the important summer months through a temporary income support benefit worth approximately $5.2 billion. I will focus on the largest piece of this framework, which is the Canada emergency student benefit.

Last week our government announced a four-month Canada emergency student benefit. Students who are not receiving the CERB and meet the criteria for this new benefit will be able to apply to receive $1,250 per month between May and August. Students with permanent disabilities and students with dependants would receive an additional $750 per month, for a total of $2,000 a month.

Students will be able to work part time and still receive the benefit, which is part of our effort to keep Canadians connected with the labour market.

Like the Canada emergency response benefit, the Canada emergency student benefit will not have to be repaid.

The CESB would be available to students who are enrolled in a post-secondary education program leading to a degree, diploma or certificate, or who ended their studies no earlier than December 2019. This means that students who are enrolled in a post-secondary education program or who just recently ended their post-secondary studies would be eligible. It would also be available to high school graduates who will be joining post-secondary education programs in the coming months.

The Canada emergency student benefit will also be accessible to both current CEGEP students and those who recently completed their CEGEP studies and plan to go back to school in the fall.

Our government has also committed over $75 million to enhance the assistance offered to first nations, Inuit and Métis students.

Students would be able to begin applying for the CESB in May via a simple online form on the CRA website under My Account.

Finally, I would like to highlight what our government is doing to address the concerns of students with disabilities during this pandemic. We recognize that some groups are significantly and disproportionately impacted by this crisis. For some Canadians with disabilities, underlying medical conditions put them at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19. Others face discrimination and barriers in accessing information, social services and health care.

We know that students with disabilities as well as students with dependants could have additional expenses during this public health crisis. As such, Canadian students with disabilities and students with dependants would be eligible to receive an extra $750 per month on top of the basic CESB benefit.

The uncertainty may feel overwhelming for many students, but in Canada we look out for each other. We value education, service and hard work. These measures will help Canadian students get through these difficult times so they can build their career and future they have been working so hard for.

Putting forward this legislation is a key step in our delivery of support for students. I thank all the members of Parliament who are providing feedback and bringing forth the thoughts and concerns of their constituents.

The passage of this bill is a key step in the government's offer of assistance to students. I thank all members who gave feedback and shared their constituents' ideas and concerns.

May is fast approaching and students are counting on us to help them get through these trying times.

Together, as members of Parliament, we have the opportunity to support Canada's students in a way that will be felt for years to come. On the other side, when the economy comes back, they will define our path forward, a path toward a better, more equal society.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for acknowledging that students are hurting right now.

People think of my community of Oshawa as an automotive town, but it is quickly becoming a student town, with three post-secondary institutions: Ontario Tech University, Durham College and Trent University.

As we work through this as a Parliament, Conservatives are putting forward some ideas to improve the government programs. I was wondering if the minister could comment on the idea we brought forward of expanding a program, doubling the Canada summer jobs program and positioning it so that students be be matched, through a job bank, with jobs in our agriculture sector, especially now when there are super concerns about disruptions in our supply chain. Employers need the labour and students can be available. Is the minister open to considering our positive enhancement for supporting students?

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. minister for the good work she has been doing. Part of the problem we are seeing with students, though, is that we have a patchwork of programs that is not quite working. I love the Canada summer jobs program, but it is very often taken up by high school students.

The minister is aware that a northern Ontario medical school has offered to put medical students on the front lines in northern hospitals, yet the only option we have is to take the Canada summer jobs program and to try to fit them into it, when it would be a game-changer for all of our northern communities if the minister would agree to get northern Ontario medical students into hospitals in northern communities to help in those rural regions. This would give them the employment they need. It would also ensure that the Canada summer jobs program does the job it is supposed to be doing. This would be a game-changer for our front-line medical services in the north.

Is the hon. minister willing to work with us on this?

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was very excited when the member put forth his proposal to me in recent days. In fact, just this morning I met with my officials to move that proposal forward so we can indeed respond to the needs of northern Ontario through the use of medical students and not in any way encroach upon the Canada summer jobs program.

Absolutely is my answer. I believe I will have a solution for him within hours, if not within the next days. I am very excited about this proposal.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to highlight what a great exchange that just was. It was a great idea from the member for Timmins—James Bay and a great response by the minister. Let us see that happen.

My concern is a gap that we are seeing that affects tens of thousands of international students in Canada. We know that an international student can apply for the CERB, but if that international student did not earn $5,000 last year, they cannot apply, so we have a gap. For anyone watching and wondering why we are worrying about international students, thinking they can go home, many of them cannot go home right now for quarantine reasons. Moreover, they bring over $20 billion to our economy every year. The international students program employs over 170,000 Canadians as a result of our having international students. Therefore, I am looking for a solution here.

One solution would be to change the definition under the Canada jobs program to make it open to those who are not Canadian citizens. Another would be to change Bill C-15 to say that an international student is included. Yes, international students can apply for CERB, but they are really not being taken care of in a comprehensive way.

Will the minister have any proposals for us in the coming days?

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 3 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, that again is another example of our collaboration as we have been going back and forth on the issue of international students.

One of the things we made sure of when we created the CERB was that the criteria would include the requirement that someone had to be resident in Canada, so international students as well as temporary foreign workers could apply. When we embarked upon our process of thinking of how we could support students, we looked at our existing student policy, which focuses on Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Mirroring our existing policy around Canada student loans and Canada summer jobs, the current Canada student benefit is focused on Canadian citizens and residents of Canada.

What we have done for international students is to relax the restriction on the number of hours they can work, which is particularly important for international students studying in medical fields right now.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 3 p.m.
See context

University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis. Our government knows that Canadians and businesses are going through very trying times. That is why we acted so fast. We have implemented programs to support all Canadians affected by the pandemic.

This unprecedented crisis demands an unprecedented response. Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan is among the largest in the G7. We have introduced measures for workers, parents, students and for businesses, large and small. We are making sure that no one is left behind. Let me provide a few examples.

The Canada emergency response benefit is a major part of the government's COVID-19 economic response plan. It is meant to help stabilize the economy by supporting Canadians as they pay for essentials, like housing and groceries, and will help businesses across the country to pay their bills and keep their doors open. The emergency response benefit provides $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who have lost their incomes because of COVID-19. More than seven million Canadians have already received money through this essential benefit.

We are also boosting the Canada child benefit by $300 per child for over three million Canadian families. That is an extra $550 per family on average. We are supplementing the GST credit with a special payment for low- and modest-income families averaging about $400 for single people and $600 for couples. Many people have already received their money.

We are also continuing to work with the provinces and territories to share the cost of a temporary wage top-up for low-income workers deemed essential in the fight against COVID-19. That includes Quebec and British Columbia, where the provincial governments have already implemented direct wage support for those workers.

We are also helping Canadian employers and employees deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the government hopes to prevent further job losses and encourage employers to rehire workers previously laid off because of COVID-19. The idea is to ensure that Canadian businesses are well positioned to fully resume their operations after the crisis. The emergency wage subsidy covers 75% of employees' earnings, up to $847 a week, for employers who suffer a drop in gross revenues of at least 15% in March, or 30% in April or May.

In addition, the Canada emergency business account provides up to $40,000 in interest-free loans to small businesses, including non-profit organizations. Since the second week of April, small business owners have been able to apply for assistance through the Canada emergency business account at their bank or credit union. Businesses can access this account through their primary lender, with which they already have a business relationship.

Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our economy and, really, of our society. They give our communities their character, provide good jobs and support families across the country. That is why I am pleased to report that the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance will give eligible small businesses affected by COVID-19 another break. It will lower their rent by 75%. We are able to offer this support thanks to an agreement in principle that our government reached with all provinces and territories last week. That is team Canada at work.

The Government of Canada is taking strong, immediate and effective action to protect Canadians and Canadian businesses from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures I have outlined today will help Canadian employers retain or re-hire their employees, as many have done already. This is the key to our response plan. By being able to hold onto their workers, Canadian companies will be in a better position to bounce back quickly after the crisis and many more Canadians will have the security of knowing that they still have a job.

Another aspect of our response that is really important is that we have not and will not hesitate to make adjustments to enhance our programs. We want to make sure that everyone is protected and we are working to ensure that people and businesses do not fall through the cracks. Our response has been guided by principle that speed trumps perfection and that making useful modifications as we go along is a feature and not a bug.

That is why we are offering assistance to students and recent graduates affected by COVID-19. A few weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of students across the country were getting ready to start a summer job. For some of these young Canadians, this would be their first opportunity to take on challenges and succeed in the workplace. For others, this job would be a bridge to their career.

Today, these same students are having a hard time finding meaningful employment. Many are worried, and they are wondering how they can pay their rent and save for school.

In March, the number of post-secondary students who were employed dropped by 28% compared to February 2020. Some of these students are eligible for the Canada emergency response benefit. These young people are at a pivotal time in their lives and we must do what we can to give them a promising future. The government intends to do something about that.

We are proposing the new Canada emergency student benefit as part of Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan. This benefit would provide eligible Canadian students with $1,250 a month from May to August. Eligible students with dependants or disabilities will receive a higher amount.

The government also intends to launch the Canada student service grant to encourage students to volunteer. This service grant will provide up to $5,000 to support recipients' post-secondary education costs in the fall.

We also need to look beyond this summer and improve existing financial assistance programs available to students. That is what we intend to do. Our plan includes doubling Canada student grants for all eligible students in 2020-21 to $6,000 for full-time students and up to $3,600 for those studying part time.

The government recognizes that many families will have a tough time setting money aside in 2020 to help their children go to school, and we want to support the next generation of Canadian leaders. We plan to enhance Canada student loan programs by increasing the maximum weekly amount available from $210 to $350.

Overall, the measures I have just described represent nearly $9 billion for post-secondary students and recent graduates.

During these unprecedented times, we will continue to carefully monitor all COVID-19 related developments. Protecting Canadians' health and meeting their immediate needs remain our priorities. Once this crisis is over, we will be ready to work with Canadians and kick-start the economy in order to build an even stronger country.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question I am going to put to the minister comes from a woman in my riding.

We are often asked where we get our questions from. In this case, the manager of a fruit and vegetable store wrote to me on my Facebook page. After the government announcement concerning financial assistance, that is, the Canada emergency student benefit, she contacted a former employee, who is a student, to ask her if she wanted to return to work. This employee told her that she did not want to work more than fifteen hours a week because she wanted to be eligible for the new Canada emergency student benefit.

This woman asked me to ask the government how it intends to solve this problem. This is a problem that business owners, farmers and companies will have to deal with in the summer months. It is a major issue.

Therefore, I am passing on this question to the government. All MPs, whether Conservative, NDP, Bloc Québécois or Green, are receiving many questions from their constituents. I am certain that is the case for the Liberals as well.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I would like to start by sharing a personal experience. As the daughter of a farmer, I worked on the family farm during the summer. Obviously, I worked without pay, because it was the family farm. I am well aware that it is in the interest of farms to hire students, as this benefits both farm owners and students.

We firmly believe, and I think all members would agree, that Canadian students want to work. The problem is that many students will have a hard time finding work because of COVID-19.

That is why this program is so important. We also need to make sure that it does not act as a deterrent to students. We will keep a close eye on that.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yves-François Blanchet Bloc Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Deputy Prime Minister.

I cannot resist the urge to mention that I put myself through school by working on a farm. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge my boss, Robert Corriveau, and his daughter, Mylène, who took over the business.

The government and the opposition parties are looking for the right formula to balance students' need to access a basic income with the jobs available considering the number of foreign agricultural workers that will be allowed into Canada.

I understand that finding the specific wording for a formula requires more time than we have at our disposal today. In the spirit of co-operation, will the government commit to considering measures for Quebec and Canadian students to ensure that the net income of students who do find work will be adjusted based on the number of hours worked, and that this measure will apply to recipients of the existing CESB and CERB?

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his excellent question and observation.

The answer is obviously yes. The government analyzed the structure and the short-term impact of the CESB on students, to ensure that the measure meets its objectives while still encouraging students to work. Students are encouraged to work so that they can earn an income, and adjustments will be considered, as required.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time with the member for Kenora.

Thank you for giving me a chance today to speak about this new measure, the Canada emergency student benefit. As a political lieutenant, I would like to state that this is an important measure that will help students across the country and across Quebec. Sadly, for various reasons, these students are also being affected by this pandemic, along with workers and seniors.

The government has announced this important measure, which will provide $1,250 a month to students affected by COVID-19. This bill shows the government's desire to also support young people who will be doing volunteer work to help people who are directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19. We look forward to getting the details in order to find out how this measure will be rolled out and how the number of hours will be determined. Checks will have to be done to prevent abuse. However, the government's intentions are clear. I also commend the idea of enhancing loans and grants for more vulnerable students who have a harder time making ends meet.

However, people are very concerned about the process of reopening the economy. Some people are downplaying the important role students will play in the labour force as we reopen the economy. During a press conference, I heard the Prime Minister answer a question from Philippe-Vincent Foisy about why he did not set up incentives like Quebec did to help and motivate young people to go out and find jobs instead of handing them cash directly. Some students might decide to stay home so they can collect the benefit.

The intent is there. We all want to help students and not pigeonhole them. We want to help them and all other Canadians. Earlier, I spoke to the minister about one of the dozens of cases that have been brought to my attention and to the attention of members of all political stripes. The owner of a fruit and vegetable store said that she had called a former student to ask her to come work, as she had every year. The student told her that she was able to come back, but not full time, as she had all of the other summers. This is a busy time for merchants. The student would be penalized because she would earn more than $1,000 a month. She would have made too much money to receive the $1,250 benefit. In some cases, these measures deter students, and we still have not received specifics from the government. What will be done? What will be the measures, the criteria and the oversight to ensure that students are not deterred from working?

I would like to draw my colleagues', Canadians' and Quebeckers' attention to what the Prime Minister told a journalist who asked why there were no incentives in the Canada emergency response benefit to encourage young people, and I would add adults to that as well, to join the labour force. The Prime Minister said that, after analyzing the situation, it was determined that, unfortunately, there are not enough jobs for all young people.

I did a fairly simple calculation and I would like to tell everyone here about a measure that the government could put in place fairly quickly that could help many young people earn money to pay for their university or CEGEP tuition, their books, their rent, and their groceries, or in other words, all of the basic necessities that every student has to pay for. I called my Conservative colleagues from Quebec, the nine other members who work with me, to talk about the following.

As part of its student employment program, the government decided to give subsidies of 100% rather than subsidies of 50% as it did in the past and to allow farm, business, NPO and municipal employers to apply for funding. Contrary to what the government is suggesting, the budget has not increased. It is the same budget. That means that, if jobs are subsidized at 100% rather than at 50%, then fewer jobs will be created.

I talked to all the Conservative Party members from Quebec so I could calculate the number of applications submitted by businesses and farmers in our ridings. The federal government's current summer jobs budget will not meet demand.

Quebec's 10 Conservative members alone reported 1,442 applications for existing summer jobs. Those applications were submitted by businesses, farmers and non-profits when the government was offering a 50% subsidy. Now the government is offering a 100% subsidy. I have a B.A. and a master's degree in administration and math education, so I applied the rule of three to that data to extrapolate the results for all 338 MPs here in the House.

According to my calculations, some 48,740 jobs will not be covered by the Canada summer jobs program. These are existing jobs for which employers have submitted applications, but they will get no help from the government even though these jobs would enable young people to work rather than collect the $1,250 CESB on top of income from part-time jobs. Also, students will steer clear of full-time minimum wage jobs because they do not pay enough.

Canada has 48,740 job openings for students. Officials told us that subsidizing each of those summer jobs would cost about $4,000, which adds up to $194,960,000, or a little less than $200 million.

Compare that to the $9-billion overall envelope the government is providing to help students through loans and bursaries, the Canada emergency student benefit and the service grant, if a paid service can still be considered volunteer work. The total amount of $194,960,000 represents roughly 2% of the government's total $9-billion aid package. That amount would allow the government to immediately meet the needs of businesses without having them compete with one another and would not require new programs to be created. What is more, students would be able to make a living and pay their bills while at school.

If the opposition parties could have worked proactively, that is the type of solution they would have proposed. I hope the government will seize this opportunity. It could increase this envelope without changing anything else. That way, roughly 50,000 students in Canada, in every single riding, could have a job instead of receiving the CERB, which could be used to help people who need it even more.

The Conservative Party is pleased to see that the government agreed to make changes to the bill to make it more acceptable, fairer and more equitable and to ensure businesses do not have to compete as much. It is rather impressive to see the number of emails, calls and comments on social media relaying to MPs the adverse effect of this measure on recruiting employees. That is the sense we are getting on this side of the House and we get the impression it is a bit ideological.

We are pleased that the government agreed to require that all applicants contact Employment and Social Development Canada to obtain information about available student jobs. We are pleased that the government agreed to our request for parliamentary review of the bill and the Canada emergency student benefit in order to find ways to mitigate the unintended disincentives to work that we are currently seeing. Finally, we are pleased that the government agreed to a deadline so that it cannot unilaterally extend this benefit through regulations. We are pleased to see that the Conservative Party's efforts have enhanced the bill to help students across the country.

I encourage the government to stop with the empty rhetoric. While it says that it wants to help everyone, the fact remains that this measure also has unintended consequences. Even though this measure is intended to help students, it will nevertheless hurt the economy if controls are not put in place. If the government were to demonstrate political goodwill, jobs could be quickly filled, just like that.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, Conservatives are proposing that the government create a new program to match student and youth employees with jobs in the agriculture and agri-food sector, and we heard that was part of the unanimous consent motion that we adopted earlier.

Could the member tell us what impact, if any, this will have in his own riding? Will this be a welcome program?

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her excellent question.

The Conservative Party did indeed propose an amendment calling on the government to match students looking for work with employers in the agriculture and fishing sectors, specifically. I am thinking of Maritimers who are suffering the consequences of this decision, which many employers might not welcome.

I think this proposal just makes sense. I would like to point out that it aims to help students. We all want to help students. It would be wrong to suggest that any member from any political party does not support students.

In this recovery, we must work hard to help our economy. This is a public health crisis, yes, but we are also experiencing an economic crisis at the same time. Depending on the government's decisions, we will also face a public finance crisis in the future. It will be a huge challenge for the next government, which I hope is Conservative, to get our public finances back on track before the next crisis hits, whatever that may be.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2020 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question.

He mentioned that all MPs have been fielding a lot of questions from their constituents since the start of this crisis. My office has heard about the needs of workers who have lost their jobs and the multiple needs of business owners, and I was very pleased and reassured to be able to address those needs through the measures announced by our government every day and every week.

I would like to know whether my colleague has had similar comments from his constituents. Have they appreciated or had any comments about our government's measures?