OTTAWA — Canada’s three biggest political parties admitted Friday they have applied for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to stave off having to lay off staff amid the COVID-19 crisis.
An admission by the NDP that they have applied for support prompted both the Liberal Party of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada also to confirm they have applied, and have received, the emergency wage subsidy.
Liberals and Conservatives declined to disclose how much support each party has received. The subsidy is designed to provide eligible businesses 75 per cent of employee wages for up to 24 weeks.
NDP National Director Anne McGrath said the party applied Friday, so its application is still under review. The federal party has 17 full-time employees, and 15-20 people working part-time, she said.
“This program is there to ensure that employers don’t have to lay off employees and continue on,” the veteran NDP strategist told HuffPost Canada. “We want to make sure we don’t have to lay off any of our workers, and so we’ve applied for it.”
Watch: Workers can get emergency benefit or wage support but not both, Trudeau warns. Story continues below video.
McGrath said the party saw a drop in revenues in March, when the pandemic prompted the cancellation of in-person fundraising events. That drop in financial support became “more significant” in April, she said, adding that the downward trend will likely continue in May.
The Liberals also cancelled fundraising events in March. Braeden Caley, spokesperson for the party, said they met the emergency wage subsidy program’s eligibility criteria “in recent weeks” and have received the money.
“Beyond that, as always, the party relies on grassroots fundraising support from individual Canadians — in line with all of Elections Canada’s strict limits, rules, and regulations,” Caley said in a statement.
CEWS is a multi-billion dollar government program that’s intended to help employers keep employees working. It provides employees up to $847 per week per worker to help mitigate their employers’ revenue losses as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Administered by the Canada Revenue Agency, payments are retroactive to March 15. The money is directly distributed to employers.
Conservatives said the pandemic has brought on “unexpected expenses” for the party, such as additional resources needed to help employees to “work remotely for an extended period.”
“We have applied and been accepted for the federal wage subsidy, and with staff across Canada that have young and extended families that all rely on our organization, we want to do everything we can to maintain regular operations and continue to avoid layoffs,” wrote spokesperson Cory Hann in an email.
Hann said the party’s daily operations are “100 per cent” funded by donors. “We understand that many Canadians are not able to give at the moment, which is why we’ve been taking a different approach on donation asks and operations that take that into account.”