Jagmeet Singh is promising that a federal NDP government would provide more support for small businesses struggling during the pandemic — including a federal bonus for companies that hire new employees or bring back those laid off.

Singh unveiled the promises during a campaign-style event in British Columbia today, less than a week after he said the New Democrats would not provoke an election as long as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. 

The federal NDP leader said last week that his party would support the minority Liberal government on confidence votes in the House of Commons during the pandemic. Parties are still preparing for an election that could come at any time.

The hiring bonus proposed by the NDP would see the federal government cover the portion of employment insurance and Canada Pension Plan contributions normally paid by employers for new staff that are hired or staff rehired after being laid off.

The NDP did not offer an estimate of how much this measure — or any of the other measures the party proposed today — would cost the government.

The federal government announced in September, however, that it was freezing employment insurance rates for employers for the next two years due to the pandemic. The move was expected to save businesses and employees about $1 billion this year.

Singh also promised to extend the federal government’s existing wage subsidy and rent assistance. He also said he wants business loan programs extended until the end of the pandemic and called on the government to make it easier for businesses to access relief programs.

The wage subsidy is set to expire in June, but the Liberal government has extended it several times since it was first unveiled last April. It also expanded the amount of support in response to complaints from businesses and opposition parties.

Assistance for small businesses

Singh also said he wants the federal government to provide universal dental care and affordable housing because both measures would help employees working in small businesses.

The NDP’s plan to help small businesses also calls on the federal government to cap credit card fees charged to small businesses at one per cent. The plan calls for the Canada Summer Jobs program to be expanded. 

The NDP leader also cited an earlier promise to impose what he describes as an “excess profit tax” on companies that have benefited during the pandemic; the NDP has yet to provide details on how that would work.

The NDP’s small business plan will not be followed up with legislation. A spokesperson for the NDP told CBC News that the party would be pressuring the Liberal government to adopt its elements.

The federal NDP has unveiled campaign promises on a number of different fronts over the past few weeks as parties prepare for a possible election.