Justin Trudeau says federal wage subsidy will be extended

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At a May 8 press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government's emergency wage subsidy program will be extended beyond June.

The announcement came after Statistics Canada revealed that the Canadian economy lost almost two million jobs in April—a record high brought on by the closure of non-essential services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The loss of 1,993,800 comes on top of more than one million jobs lost in March, and millions more having their hours and incomes slashed. According to StatsCan, the unemployment rate now sits at 13 per cent. 

The wage subsidy program, which recently opened to businesses to enable them to rehire staff members who were laid off due to the pandemic, covers 75 per cent of worker pay up to $847 a week. 

At the press conference, Trudeau said that employers have applied for subsidies for almost two million workers so far. 

Trudeau said the government will provide more details on the extension of the program over the coming days. 

The prime minister acknowledged that some sectors of the economy have been hit especially hard and said that Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, will head an Industry Strategy Council that will "take deeper dive into how the pandemic is hurting specific sectors." 

When asked how the government will help those hit hardest by the pandemic-driven recession—such as women, new Canadians and young people who work in the service industry—Trudeau said the situation has highlighted long-standing inequities that need to be addressed. 

"What we're seeing even beyond the [Stats Can] report is the reality on the ground. People who are already vulnerable are always the first to get hit when we have a difficult situation like this. We need to give extra support in the short term and make sure that as we move forward towards [reopening], we think carefully about how important the work bring done by women and vulnerable Canadians is," he said.

When asked about other benefit extensions, Trudeau said the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was already slated to last longer than the wage subsidy and that, ideally, the wage subsidy will enable Canadians to transition away from receiving the CERB.

With files from The Canadian Press

Cover photo courtesy of The Canadian Press

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