Feds weigh cutting COVID-19 benefit for travellers as Canada surpasses 600,000 cases


OTTAWA - The federal Liberal government mulled the possibility of barring Canadians who travelled abroad from receiving a sick leave benefit aimed at those who must quarantine due to COVID-19 on Sunday amid fresh admissions of foreign excursions from a growing list of politicians and a national case count that surpassed 600,000.

The Canada Recovery sickness benefit was launched in the fall to help Canadians who are unable to work because they must quarantine during the pandemic. It pays $500 per week to a maximum of two weeks.

But Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said the government is “actively looking at all options” in the face of questions over whether Canadians who have travelled abroad should be allowed to collect the money.

Controversy over the issue mounted on Sunday as two members of the federal Liberal caucus stepped down from their parliamentary duties after disclosing trips abroad over the holiday period, joining a slew of provincial legislators who also flouted widespread public health advice to stay home as COVID cases skyrocketed.

Federal data showed Canada surpassed 600,000 cases of the novel coronavirus on Sunday after going several days without reporting fresh figures.

The national total now stands at 601,663.

It took just over two weeks to add 100,000 diagnoses to the national tally; the country reached the 500,000 case milestone on Dec. 19, before many of the jet-setting politicians left the country.

Qualtrough said globetrotters were never intended as the recipients of the federal sick benefit.