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More help coming for workers affected by COVID 19, Trudeau pledges

March 16, 2020
By The Canadian Press

Canadian workers can expect significant new supports from the federal government to help them deal with the economic shock from COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday.

At a news conference outside his Ottawa residence, Trudeau promised details as early as Tuesday.

The problem is significant: New research says broad swaths of the Canadian workforce won’t have access to paid leave from their employers or existing federal help should they be forced off the job due to COVID-19.

The research note from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says only 38 per cent of sickness leave and 23 per cent of family leave of more than a week was covered by employers in 2019.


About three-quarters of workers in higher-paying jobs had time off covered by their employers, but just over 10 per cent of lowest-income workers received a similar benefit last year.

Further complicating the issue, the report says most unemployed workers didn’t qualify for employment insurance benefits in 2018, the most recent numbers available.

David Macdonald, the centre’s senior economist, says most of the workers who could use financial assistance can’t easily work from home right now, meaning closed schools, self-isolation or quarantine will mean lost shifts and plummeting incomes.

He says the federal government will likely have to create an emergency benefit for workers who can’t access EI benefits as part of an economic response package Finance Minister Bill Morneau is to unveil this week.

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