PM Trudeau announces targeted help for some hard-hit sectors, provinces

By | April 17, 2020

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced range of targeted new financial measures to help specific sectors that have been particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as for workers in certain industries in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The federal government has unveiled more help for small businesses and those in the energy, arts, culture, and sports sectors.

“Over the past few weeks, the pandemic has created anxiety and uncertainty for all Canadians, but some are going through an especially tough time. COVID-19 has brought many industries to a halt, and workers across the country are struggling as a result,” Trudeau said.

Through a series of targeted announcements, the federal government is providing initial support for some industries that have fallen through the cracks of current financial assistance programs, though the newly announced measures are far from the broad industry bailouts that some stakeholders have called for.

Specifically, Trudeau said the government is: 

  • Spending $1.7 billion to clean up orphan and inactive wells in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and B.C. which the Liberals say will maintain 5,200 jobs in Alberta alone and will allow development on inactive land;
  • Establishing a $750 million Emission Reduction Fund, with a focus on methane, to “create and maintain up to 10,000 jobs through pollution reduction efforts,” including $75 million to help the offshore industry cut emissions in Newfoundland and Labrador;
  • Expanding credit support for at-risk medium-sized energy companies, “so they can maintain operations and keep their employees”;
  • Providing $962 million to regional development agencies to help small businesses in rural areas access funds;
  • Spending $270 million to support innovators and other early stage development firms that don’t qualify for the wage subsidy; and
  • Providing $500 million to Heritage Canada to aid workers in the arts, culture, and sports sectors.

The new supports for these sectors follow several updates and expansions to direct aid for Canadians as well as fiscal supports for companies, including a massive wage subsidy and rent relief.

To date, more than 7.5 million payments have been made through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and Trudeau said Friday that, going forward, the latest figures on who is claiming this $2,000 a month program will be posted on the government’s open data portal three times a week for researchers and academics to access and use to inform relevant policy work.  

Trudeau rounded out the week with this latest update on the federal government’s COVID-19 plans, as Canada and the United States have agreed to extend the current closure of the border to all non-essential travel for at least another month. 

Following a Thursday evening call with the premiers, Trudeau is set to face questions about further details and rollout of a promised federal-provincial agreement to top-up the salaries of essential workers like those in long-term care homes.

On Wednesday he announced the federal government was working to cost-share a wage boost for essential front-line staff who are making less than $2,500 a month.

According to a PMO readout, all on the call “agreed on the urgent need to ensure long-term care facilities have the resources they need to protect the health and well-being of their residents and workers.” 

Nearly half of all novel coronavirus deaths in Canada are linked to long-term care homes.

The provincial, territorial, and federal leaders also are said to have come to a consensus that the physical distancing, self-isolation and quarantine measures in place remain “essential.”

Meanwhile, talks continue about whether and how the House of Commons could resume sittings on Monday. All four recognized parties need to come to some agreement if the current suspension, which ends on April 20, is to be extended.

The Conservatives would like to resume some form of a pared-down and physically distant in-person sitting with more sanitizer on-hand in the House of Commons chamber for four days a week, the Bloc Quebecois have said they are not in favour of in-person sessions given the current public health guidance, while the New Democrats and Liberals have indicated their desire for something in between.

Until the technical and procedural logistics of a fully virtual parliament can be established and proposed, the federal Liberals are suggesting a hybrid of limited in-person sittings of the House with question and answer periods as the Conservatives are keen for, supplemented by virtual meetings that would eliminate the need for all House administration staff and security to regularly reenter the building. 

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