Economic development minister says parliamentary process too slow for coronavirus response

Melanie Joly, Canada’s minister of economic development, says the sweeping legislation the Liberals are set to propose on Tuesday is necessary because the parliamentary process is too slow to adapt to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“We have to be reacting very fast, and our parliamentary system sometimes is longer, and so we wanted to make sure that the minister of finance had… that power,” she told Global News on Tuesday morning.

The original version of the legislation, as first reported by Global News, would have given Finance Minister Bill Morneau the power to spend money and raise taxes without parliamentary approval.

An amended version of the legislation removed that clause but retains the ability for cabinet ministers, with Morneau’s approval, to dispense “all money required to do anything” in the event of a public health emergency.

“People are moving fast, governments are moving fast because the pace of this pandemic is very high, and so that’s why we need to adapt,” Joly said via Skype from Montreal.

The legislation was criticized by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in a statement.

“We will not give the government unlimited power to raise taxes without a parliamentary vote,” the statement read.

“We will authorize whatever spending measures are justified to respond to the situation, but we will not sign a blank cheque.”

Joly said the Liberals would work with opposition parties during the pandemic.

More to come.

— With files from Global News’ Mercedes Stephenson, Amanda Connolly and David Lao

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