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Liberals vow to improve COVID-19 testing, extend CEWS in throne speech

Last Updated Sep 23, 2020 at 5:05 pm EST

The minority Liberal government has unveiled what it calls an “ambitious plan for an unprecedented reality” that pledges to create over one million jobs and massively expand or introduce benefit programs for nearly every sector of society.

But while Wednesday’s throne speech signals that the Liberals intend to follow through on promised efforts to combat climate change, economic inequality and systemic racism, they’re also acknowledging that not much can be done if the COVID-19 pandemic is not brought under control.

“We must address these challenges of today. But we also cannot forget about the tests of the future,” said the text of the speech, read in the Senate by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette.

Direct measures to combat the possibility of a second wave drowning the country include help to boost testing capacity, including the creation of a federal “testing assistance response team” to meet surge demand, and targeted support to businesses forced to close due to local public health orders.

In response to the speech, Premier Doug Ford specifically mentioned the need for additional testing.

In the Speech from the Throne, the government spoke to its commitment to support provinces in testing for COVID-19. As I have repeatedly said both publicly and in conversations with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, the single most important way the federal government can help to improve testing is by approving additional testing methods—the same testing methods thoroughly reviewed and approved by experts in other similar jurisdictions,” Ford said.

“Adding additional testing methods will be a game changer by relieving the growing pressures on the more than 140 assessment centres now operating across Ontario.”

The Liberals are also pledging an expansion of the employment insurance system, including a new benefit to ensure those who don’t qualify for it can still be supported, extending the federal wage subsidy program through to next summer and more money for some of Canada’s hardest-hit sectors.

Meantime, the broader and more detailed Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will be extended through the next summer to help business overcome the burden the pandemic.

The immediate goals of the government to help get the economy back on its feet and support Canadians are matched by the need of the minority Liberals to stay in power.

The eventual vote on the throne speech is a confidence motion and they need at least one of the three main opposition parties in the Commons to back their plan.

Watch the full throne speech here.

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