Government could change rules after outcry over aid for quarantining vacationers

People make their way through Montreal–Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, Saturday, December 19, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

A federal cabinet minister hinted that changes could be coming to the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit after an outcry over aid money being given to vacationers who left Canada despite public health recommendations.

On Saturday, Employment and Social Development Minister Carla Qualtrough suggested changes are coming in a statement posted to Twitter.

"The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit was never intended to incentivize or encourage Canadians to not follow public health or international travel guidelines," the statement read. "We continue to strongly urge Canadians to avoid non-essential travel."

"We are actively looking at all available options to address this issue."

The statement came after the Liberal government was criticized by opposition parties as under current rules, Canadians returning from a vacation abroad may qualify for $500 per week if the 14-day quarantine period affects their income. 

Members of the Conservative Party and Bloc Quebecois said they believe that if Canadians decide to defy public health recommendations and go on vacation, the federal government should not subsidize their quarantine when they return.

“Change the rules of the program so that if you go in a trip for your own pleasure you won’t be eligible to get the $1000,” said Bloc Quebecois MP and transportation critic Xavier Barsalou-Duval. “I think it’s as simple as this. The criteria for the program must change and the also the government must clarify its message.”  

On the Canadian government website, the CRSB is described as giving "income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are unable to work because they are sick or need to self-isolate due to COVID-19, or have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of getting COVID-19."

My statement on the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and its eligibility criteria. pic.twitter.com/2lY9ZSPdmU

— Carla Qualtrough (@CQualtro) January 2, 2021

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