Trudeau announces changes to help businesses and young Canadians amid COVID-19 shutdowns


In his address Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced measures designed to help businesses and young people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent mandatory closure of businesses across the country.

To help cope with the precipitous job losses, Trudeau announced the government was retooling the Canada Summer Jobs program to help students find work in still operating industries while covering 100 per cent of the wages paid by employers

Today, we’re taking a step in the right direction to help young people find work in this difficult time. I want to be clear - we will be doing more,” Trudeau added.

The federal government says the changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program will help create up to 70,000 jobs for youth between 15-30.

The temporary changes to the program for this year include:

  • An increase to the wage subsidy, so that private and public sector employers can also receive up to 100 per cent of the provincial or territorial minimum hourly wage for each employee
  • An extension to the end date for employment to Feb 28, 2021
  • Allowing employers to adapt their projects and job activities to support essential services
  • Allowing employers to hire staff on a part-time basis

Trudeau also announced that the criteria for businesses under the federal government’s wage subsidy program will be relaxed. Initially, the program required that businesses show a 30 per cent drop in revenue in March 2020 compared to what was posted in March the previous year. That number will now be lowered to 15 per cent and allow for businesses to compare their March revenue loss to February and January 2020.

If your company or organization has impacted by COVID-19, the government will give you up to $847 per week per employee,” Trudeau said in front of his residence. “Job numbers for March will be out tomorrow and it’s going to be a hard day for the country.”

Trudeau added that he believes the economy will come roaring back after the pandemic and that he hopes businesses will use money from the wage subsidy program to keep or re-hire workers.

Since the subsidy was first pitched there has been a lot of input from businesses,” said Trudeau.”These conversations have helped us to adjust what we first announced”.

The prime minister also said that he’s leaving Rideau Cottage for the first time in nearly four weeks to attend a cabinet meeting in Ottawa Wednesday.

The Trudeau family had been self-isolating after Justin’s wife, Sophie Gregoire tested positive for coronavirus in mid-March after returning from a trip to London.

Canada confirmed cases of COVID-19 jumped far past 18,000 on Wednesday, with more than 400 deaths now ascribed to the raging global pandemic, according to latest data, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new measures to offset the economic impact.

Ontario alone reported 550 new known cases, including 21 more deaths, -- the province's biggest single-day jump so far.

Much of the country's normal commercial and recreational activity has all but ground to a halt after governments and health authorities across Canada imposed mandatory, or urged voluntary, social-isolation measures.

Experts say frequent hand-washing and staying at least two metres from others when outside for essential errands, is the best way to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Late Tuesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the stringent social isolation measures in his province will likely have to stay in place until the end of May. Projections indicate it will take until then before any easing up can occur.

"To be honest, I hope the models are wrong," Kenney said. "I hope that the tough measures we have taken already will allow us to begin gradually returning to normal sooner than that."

Trudeau would only say he expected the measures to last "many more" weeks.

"We need to be very very careful that all of the work that we have done ... doesn't become for nought," the prime minister said. "It's going to be very very important to do it in a gradual, very measured way."

Amid more than one million new jobless claims as a result of the measures, the federal government has been furiously rolling out tens of billions of dollars in relief. The airline industry is among those slammed by travel restrictions.

Air Canada, which had cut roughly half its Canadian workforce, said on Wednesday it would apply for Ottawa's emergency wage subsidy program. That would allow it to retain workers or bring affected employees back onto its payroll. The airline announced last month it would cut about 16,500 jobs because of the pandemic.

Ottawa had already unveiled the $24-billion Canada Emergency Response Benefit for people who've lost their jobs and a $71-billion wage subsidy program for companies that have lost 30 per cent of their revenues because of the health crisis. However, eligibility rules left hundreds of thousands of Canadians without financial assistance.

The latest data indicate the number of federal prisoners with confirmed COVID has jumped to 35 out of 199 people tested. Correctional Service Canada reported on Wednesday that institutions in Quebec now have 17 cases -- 10 are at the Joliette Institution for Women -- while British Columbia is reporting 11. Ontario has seen seven confirmed infections at the federal Grand View facility for women in Kitchener.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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