Opinion: Give Jagmeet Singh the credit for movement on paid sick days

Chris Campbell

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government “will continue discussions with the provinces without delay” to secure paid sick leave for Canadians.

Ottawa will be looking to ensure workers can land 10 paid sick days a year, Trudeau said Monday.

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In reaction, people are praising Trudeau for this, but it’s really Burnaby MP and federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh who deserves the credit for lighting a fire under this issue.

Singh has been relentless on this file and made it one of the deal-breakers for the NDP as the federal Liberals looked for support in order to suspend full sittings of the House of Commons through the summer. Equally relentless has been New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian. 

“Every worker should have access to paid sick leave,” Singh tweeted Monday. “We will continue to push the government to deliver for all Canadians & to work with provinces to make paid sick leave permanent so that no one needs to make the impossible choice between going to work sick or paying their bills.”

The back and forth over paid sick leave Monday came as a small number of MPs debated a Liberal government motion proposing to waive "normal" Commons sittings in favour of expanding the special COVID-19 committee that has acted as a stand-in for the past month.

Because they hold only a minority of seats, the Liberals need the support of at least one of the main opposition parties to pass this motion. With the Conservatives demanding the resumption of Commons sittings and Bloc Quebecois not involved in negotiations - that leaves the NDP.

Shortly before debate started on the floor of the House of Commons, Singh laid out his conditions for supporting the Liberal motion by demanding real action on paid sick leave for all Canadians and support for people with disabilities struggling with the COVID-19 crisis.

Singh said the promise fell short of the NDP's demands.

"We've seen a positive announcement today by the prime minister, but it is not enough," Singh told the House of Commons. "We need to see the action as well. And we are hopeful though that action will be coming."


The NDP leader had previously suggested the federal government use the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or employment insurance to deliver paid sick leave immediately and work with the provinces to secure two weeks of leave even after the pandemic is over.

The government must also make good on a promise to provide more support to Canadians with disabilities who are struggling during the pandemic, Singh said.

The question now is how the two sides might bridge that difference — and if not, what other options might exist.

Trudeau complimented B.C. Premier John Horgan for bringing this issue up weeks ago, but make no mistake, Singh is the one driving the bus and wielding the most leverage.

- With files from the Canadian Press

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.



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