Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the Canada-U.S. border will close to all non-essential travel, and that the federal government is prepared to spend $27 billion on direct financial help and $55 billion for mostly tax deferrals in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Among the “extraordinary” aid measures unveiled: deferring the tax deadline, boosting the Canada Child Benefit, wage subsidies for small businesses, and targeted assistance for vulnerable demographics to help “bridge to better times.”
The prime minister said that all Canadians will feel the consequences of COVID-19, and many are wondering how long the current restrictions are going to last, and whether they can endure them.
Trudeau said the government’s measures are meant to “make sure that no matter where you live, what you do, or who you are, you will get the support you need during this time.”
“In Canada, public health should never hinge on financial considerations,” Trudeau said.
By day’s end federal opposition leaders were stating their intent to back the measures the government is taking at this time of crisis.
Moments before Trudeau began speaking, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the border between Canada and the United States will be “temporarily” closed to tourists and visitors, “by mutual consent.”
The major new economic measures that the federal government is taking in response to COVID-19 include $27 billion in direct assistance to workers and families, as well as making $55 billion available in liquidity to businesses to help stabilize the economy.
Speaking from self-isolation for the third time in as many days, the prime minister addressed the nation on the latest moving parts in his government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he remains symptom-free.
Though, before taking reporters’ questions, Trudeau paused his announcement to run back up the stairs of Rideau Cottage to grab his coat, explaining that he is supposed to be leading by example on healthy behaviour given the “brisk” morning it was in Ottawa.
The prime minister was followed by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz, who elaborated on new economic supports aimed at offsetting the wide-ranging impacts of the novel coronavirus outbreak and subsequent shutdowns.
“COVID-19 is having a significant impact on our economy, an impact that continues to evolve. At this stage, the full breadth and the scope of the impact remain unknown,” Morneau said. “Clearly the impacts of this pandemic have been profound and will continue to be profound. Households and businesses are already feeling the effects.”
The financial aid package includes ways to see money delivered directly into the hands of Canadians and their families; as well as new help for the country’s hardest-hit sectors; and broader economic stimulus measures.
The Liberals say more will come if needed. “Whatever it takes,” said Morneau, explaining that, typically, his job is to keep Canada on good fiscal track, but now his only focus is making sure Canadians can stay fed and housed.
He said he’s spoken with the heads of Canadian grocery chains and they’ve committed to maintaining supply and fair prices as people continue to stock up in the face of what could be weeks of social distancing or self-. These efforts are underway across the country to try to flatten the curve of cases in Canada, in an effort to avoid a surge of sick patients requiring hospital beds.
(with inputs from CTNEWS)