Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took his morning press conference on the road on Thursday for what looked a lot like a campaign-style event, in a bid to once again tout the suite of federal aid businesses can access as the economic reopening continues across Canada. The prime minister once again promised more help will be coming as the country navigates a new normal.
Three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is in the early stages of pivoting out of the emergency public health crisis phase where the top concern was slowing the virus’ spread enough to not overwhelm hospitals, and into the phase where the biggest preoccupation for many is how to return to work safely to stave off a second wave.
So far, there have been more than 97,000 confirmed COVID-19 in Canada, of which more than 32,000 remain active, while more than 57,000 people have recovered. To date, nearly 8,000 people in Canada have died. The latest federal modelling indicates that the epidemic curve has flattened in most of Canada, though the case counts in Ontario and Quebec continue to be much higher than any other province or territory.
On Thursday, Trudeau visited a longstanding Ottawa awards and promotions company to highlight the wage subsidy program that the federal government set up as an incentive for employers to bring staff back on the payroll and help pivot their business model, despite the ongoing economic uncertainty.
Offered as a 75 per cent subsidy on employees’ wages, the federal government has committed to keeping the program going through the summer but so far, the number of businesses applying has been lower than initially estimated, with more Canadians remaining on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit than budgeted for.
As of June 8 there have been 209,370 unique applications for the subsidy that have been approved, with the federal government paying out $10.5 billion.
Trudeau also noted that the businesses—and many others—have leaned on the federal loan program and rent relief measures in order to keep their doors open.
According to the latest figures presented to MPs, as of June 10 the federal government has committed to spend more than $5.8 billion on a series of health and safety measures such as medical supplies and research; as well as more than $153 billion on direct financial aid such as the wage subsidy, and other emergency financial benefit programs for Canadians, businesses and various sectors.
The prime minister said the federal government is partnering with private sector on a new initiative, called “POST Promise”—aka “people outside safely together”– which calls on businesses from boutiques to restaurants to commit to key public health measures in their reopening plans.
“Together we can keep people safe and together we can give Canadians the confidence that’s needed to restart our economy,” Trudeau said. “That said, we know that there is still more to do.”
Trudeau said he will be talking to the premiers Thursday evening on their weekly call about what a safe economic recovery will require, citing funding for daycare, purchasing personal protective equipment, and covering paid sick leave as options the federal government is willing to pitch in on.
Trudeau said these kinds of supports will be “essential.”
“Recognizing that daycare spaces are going to be more important right now as people get back to work, particularly with fewer activities for young people with schools still closed,” Trudeau said.
More than a month ago the provincial and federal leaders came to an agreement on the conditions that need to be met before restrictions on businesses being able to operate and people being able to gather outside of their households were loosened. The terms included a commitment to enhanced contact tracing and rates of testing.
According to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, as of June 11, 1.9 million people have been tested for COVID-19 with labs across the country testing a combined average of 33,000 people daily, which is about half the number of cases that Tam has previously said would be the target daily rate for testing.