Premier Brian Pallister is hinting his government may provide direct financial supports to Manitobans hurting from the COVID-19 crisis.
The premier has so far rejected calls for direct financial aid, arguing his federal counterparts are in better financial position to offer that help. But during a conference call on Wednesday with reporters, he appeared to open the door to some form of assistance.
“We want to develop our programs to complement and support what the federal government’s doing, not duplicate what they’re doing,” Pallister said.
“For that reason, we’ll have more to say on this as we’ve gotten greater clarity over the last few hours from the federal government on some of these issues.”
Earlier in the day, the premier told an emergency sitting of the legislature it would be a “waste of money” to introduce provincial programs that would essentially replicate federal relief measures he describes as unclear.
He later told reporters that his government is learning which people are being left out of the federal aid and need help. Pallister said his government will meet with business and trade organizations on Thursday to learn more.
Announcement next week
“I believe early next week we will be able to outline how we’ll underwrite any additional supports here in Manitoba,” Pallister said.
When pressed to explicitly say whether individuals and businesses will soon be receiving direct financial assistance, he was coy.
“If I told you that today then I wouldn’t be able to tell you next week, when details are ironed out.”
For weeks, provincial opposition parties have called for aid programs.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Wednesday Manitoba’s COVID-19 legislation doesn’t go far enough to help the people who are struggling. His party has lobbied for paid leave for workers who must take time off work and income supports for Manitobans who have lost their jobs.
“The government seems to have tried to bring forward everything, except for financial assistance,” Kinew said. “The piece missing was a financial lifeline for people who are on hard times.”
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont told the legislature that time is running out.
“We need support for laid-off workers. We need support for small business to cover their basic costs so they can rebound from this crisis.”
Pallister said Wednesday his government is looking at ways to kick-start the economy once the coronavirus threat begins to subside.
It has established working groups with industries negatively impacted by COVID-19, including the restaurant sector and non-essential health-care services, such as physiotherapists and chiropractors.
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