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Deal on paid sick leave for all Canadians should avert snap elections

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Ottawa (AFP)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday reached a deal with the opposition leftist New Democrats on paid sick leave for all Canadian workers during the pandemic, avoiding possible snap elections.

The minority Liberal government earlier this week had in a so-called throne speech proposed sweeping new measures to help Canadians weather a second Covid-19 wave.

But its agenda and a bill to enact key parts of it faced possible defeat in parliament, as the Tories and Bloc Quebecois withheld their support and the New Democratic Party (NDP) made demands for increased social spending to prop up the government.

With the defeat of the bill -- and its agenda -- the government would have fallen.

In a last-ditch effort to gain NDP support, the Liberals boosted a weekly benefit for those unable to work during the Covid-19 outbreak, including to care for children or relatives.

And it agreed to NDP demands for the two week paid sick leave for workers who must isolate after being exposed to the new coronavirus.

In exchange, the NDP said it would back the bill as well as support the government's agenda in a confidence vote that is expected to follow in the coming weeks.

"If this agreement is reflected in the bill," NDP leader Jagmeet Singh told a news conference, "we will support the bill, and we will also support the throne speech."

The bill is to be presented to parliament on Monday.

Singh would not disclose the specific amendments to it, except to say Liberal concessions will mean "millions rather than thousands" more Canadians will have access to paid sick leave.

Singh called the agreement a "historic moment" and "a major victory for Canadian workers."

"People who are worried about getting sick in this pandemic will now know when this legislation passes, that there will be paid sick leave for them," he said.

Liberal House of Commons leader Pablo Rodriguez also touted the agreement with the NDP, saying in a Twitter message the bill "will deliver the help that Canadians need."

"We are entering the second wave and millions of Canadians are still struggling to make ends meet," he said. "It's by working together that we will get through this pandemic."

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