PM says Ottawa expecting ‘significant economic impacts’ from COVID-19
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce on Wednesday supports for people and businesses affected by COVID-19 — the first part of a federal package designed to help workers who are forced to stay home from their jobs as the virus spreads and disrupts the economy.
Trudeau will announce supports for those facing “immediate pressures,” with more aid for other sectors to be announced in the coming days.
Sources have told CBC News that the measures Trudeau will announce include waiving the one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance benefits for people who have to self-isolate because of the outbreak.
The package also will include a boost to research funding to combat the virus, over and above the $27 million announced in Montreal last week.
Ottawa is also leading a pan-Canadian effort to bulk-buy certain medical devices, and the federal government says it will be ready to support provinces needing further assistance to shore up their health care systems as the number of confirmed cases rises.
Trudeau met with top ministers this afternoon, including Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Health Minister Patty Hajdu, as part of the government’s response to a virus that has sickened dozens across Canada and killed one person in B.C.
“We recognize that there are going to be significant economic impacts for Canadians, for workers, for businesses, and that’s why we’re going to be talking very soon about measures that Canada is going to put forward to support people on the economic side,” Trudeau told reporters on his way into question period.
Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said Ottawa is considering stimulus spending in the upcoming federal budget.
Beyond Wednesday’s planned announcement, Duclos said the federal government will spend more to help people “go through the crisis” and help “workers, families and businesses thrive and sustain themselves.”
“We have the fiscal room and the fiscal power to intervene and provide the stimulus that the economy will demand,” Duclos said in an interview with CBC’s Power & Politics. “We have the will and the ability to make a difference. We will use our considerable fiscal room and power to invest.”
While the debt-to-GDP ratio has been falling in recent years, Ottawa is running a federal budget deficit of $26.6 billion for the 2019-20 fiscal year.