The federal government is focused on getting Canadians back to work.

MyCowichanValleyNow had the opportunity to speak with the Federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough this morning about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Canadians.

We also spoke with her about what the federal government is planning to do to help recover from the financial crisis and hardship the country has seen this year. 

Qualtrough says the main focus of parliament right now is to get as many Canadians back to work as possible.

“We do want people working. We want you to go work if you can and if you have the opportunity.”

“We’ve learned from the CERB and we learned from the challenges we faced in March getting everybody into Employment Insurance and we think we’ve come up with the right balance of support and getting people to work, by getting many people into EI into the end of September and creating a kind of parallel benefits for people who despite the changes to the EI system, won’t get in.”

Qualtrough also says one of her main focuses has been to support the more vulnerable people during the current health crisis. 

“It’s a personal passion of mine that we don’t leave people, particularly vulnerable behind in this pandemic. We’re now at the point where we have legislation in place that creates a supplement for about 1.7 million Canadians with disabilities, whether you’re getting the disability tax credit, you’re on Canada Pension Plan Disability, you’re a veteran receiving disability benefits. If you’re in one of these federal programs, you’ll receive a one-time payment of 600 dollars which is non-taxable and non-reportable.” 

She says while the country has taken some good steps forward when it comes to getting people back into the workforce, there’s still a long road ahead.

“We’ve got a long way to go to get back to pre-COVID unemployment rates. We’ve had some success as a country in getting people back to work. At its highest, there were about 8.5 million people on the CERB and now there’s about 4 to 4.5 million on CERB. So we have evidence to show that about 4.1 million people have left the CERB and gone back to work or had more hours of work,” explains Qualtrough.

She adds that the federal government has heard concerns from citizens about a possible tax hike to help recover financially, but adds that isn’t something that’s on the agenda. 

“Canadians are justified in wanting to know what the plan is and so we’re going to layout that plan on September 23rd and just share our vision for building back better and really signal how we are going to do this. The Prime Minister has said it won’t be done through tax hikes so we’re going to look at how we can do that in a responsible way.”

“The reality is people have to pay their mortgages and their bills and we didn’t want people losing their homes because we asked them to stop working. We didn’t want bankruptcies, we wanted to help as many businesses as possible.”

You can listen to the full interview below.