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$82 billion funding package just the start: Trudeau

Employers that keep staff will be in a better position to recover - as they won't need to recruit, says prime minister


March 22, 2020
By Todd Humber


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Prime Minister Trudeau meets with Premier Ford in West Block in this file photo. Photo: PMO

The massive $82 billion package announced by Ottawa last week is just the start of aid coming to employers and workers, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The money — $27 billion in spending and $55 billion in tax deferments — are “only the first steps,” Trudeau said this morning in Ottawa.

Exactly what additional aid is coming for employers is unclear, but Trudeau repeatedly said nothing was off the table during the pandemic.

Freezing the economy – Denmark style

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Trudeau was pressed by reporters about the notion of freezing the economy, similar to what is being done in Denmark.

That country has told private companies it will pay 75 per cent of employees’ salaries in an effort to avoid mass layoffs. By most estimates, that plan would require the Danish government to spend roughly 13 per cent of its national economy in just three months.

Already in Canada, the employment insurance system is being overwhelmed with applications. According to the Canadian Press, there were about 500,000 applications for employment insurance this past week. In 2019, the same week saw just 27,000 applications.

“We’ve been listening and speaking with business leaders in this country,” said Trudeau, including small and large employers to hear their ideas about moving forward.

It will be a combination of things that gets the economy through this crisis, he said, adding there is no “one measure that is going to be sufficient.”

Trudeau did acknowledge that if employers are able to hold on to staff, it will make it that much easier to ramp up when the crisis is over as they won’t have to spend time recruiting.

No timeline

Trudeau said it’s impossible to say how long the current maximum containment strategy will need to be in place.

“That is a question for the scientists,” he said, but Canada is looking for the best advice and examining the track record of others nations, including China, South Korea, Singapore and what’s currently happening in Europe.

But he pleaded for Canadians to maintain self-isolation and social distancing. Despite social media posts showing large groups of people on a Vancouver beach and other gatherings still happening, he said Ottawa would not be taking steps to limit people’s movements.

For now, that is happening on the municipal and provincial level, he said.

House of Commons recalled 

The House of Commons is being recalled on Tuesday at noon to pass emergency legislation, Trudeau said.

Gearing up

Part of this morning’s press conference focused on offers from Canadian industry to gear up to manufacture critical items including ventilators and personal protective equipment. But they’re looking for assurances that Ottawa will buy the equipment they make.

“That is very much part of our industrial strategy,” said Trudeau. It keeps people working and creates items that are needed in Canada and around the world.

While he didn’t guarantee the government would buy the equipment, he assured companies that produce these things that “we need them and we will use them.”