Erin O’Toole says that a Conservative government led by him would offer support to people he claims were ignored by the federal programs launched in response to the global pandemic: gig workers.

“Many were left behind, especially gig economy workers,” the Conservative leader said today in Ottawa, adding that 1.7 million Canadians “work in the gig economy.

“We’re talking about everyone, from truckers to graphic designers, from warehouse workers to delivery drivers. Anyone working on a contract or an on-call basis.”

O’Toole said those workers and their families were excluded from many of the benefits announced over the last year and a half. He said they often don’t qualify for employment insurance because they lack the required insurable hours or payroll contributions.

Today, O’Toole announced the party’s “Canada’s Recovery Plan” would require companies that operate within the gig economy to make contributions to portable Employees Savings Accounts every time they pay a worker.

Those contributions would be equal to ones made to the Canada Pension Plan and would grow tax-free. Workers could use the money in the accounts to pay CPP premiums or withdraw them to meet expenses.

In the past, Conservatives have criticized CPP and EI premium increases as taxes on job creation. O’Toole said times have changed.

“The Conservative Party is going to stand up for all workers,” he said. “This is a new part of our economy. The gig economy didn’t exist years ago when EI and other programs were rolled out. That’s why 1.7 million Canadians were missed in a crisis.”

NDP takes aim at Conservative announcement 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was quick to criticize the Conservative plan.

“If Erin O’Toole actually wanted to help people working in the gig economy, he wouldn’t have teamed up with Justin Trudeau to vote against prescription drug and dental coverage for these workers,” Singh said in a press release shortly after O’Toole’s announcement.

“His record shows that he would make life harder for people. Just like Justin Trudeau, Erin O’Toole’s plan gives the biggest corporations a free ride and hurts everyone else.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh responds to questions during a news conference in a park in Winnipeg on Thursday. His party announced it would double the first-time homeowners credit and transform it into a rebate to help make owning a house more attainable. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

While the Conservatives were announcing a plan for gig workers, the NDP announced its intention to help first-time homebuyers by doubling the first-time homeowners credit and transforming it into a rebate – making the money available to people when they move into a newly purchased home, instead of during tax season.

The party also said it would introduce measures to help families lower their mortgage payments.

The NDP’s housing platform is centred on a proposal to build 500,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years.

At a press conference in Winnipeg, Singh said the dream of owning a home is fast becoming unattainable for many Canadians, in part due to big money and foreign investments in the market.

“We also want to build more homes that are within people’s budgets,” he said today. “We’re going to invest significantly, and massively and seriously in building more homes that people can afford.”

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