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June 5, 2020 – Federal and provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Canadian and Québec governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

$14 billion in federal transfers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced targeted transfers to the provinces that will enable Canadians to safely reopen the economy this fall in the event of a second wave of the pandemic.

Mr. Trudeau explained that Canada needs a plan for the entire country in order to “relaunch  the economy in a safe and effective manner.”

“This money will be used to purchase personal protective equipment for workers, including those working in the health sector. It will be used to pay for daycare, fund municipalities, pay for sick leave and support the most vulnerable, such as seniors living in CHSLDs,” said the prime minister.

Unconditional aid

Québec Premier François Legault thinks that his federal counterpart should offer this $14-B transfer to the provinces unconditionally, in keeping with government jurisdictions.

Mr. Legault also hopes that the attribution of costs will not only be based on the demographic weight of each province, but also on the costs incurred due to COVID-19.

“We don’t want conditions and the Québec government must retain full control over COVID-19 testing strategies and the supply of personal protective equipment,” he said.

The premier pointed out that federal assistance to municipalities targets costs and losses related to COVID-19 in public transit, while for several cities, their financial issues are elsewhere.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

While Canada is experiencing record unemployment due to the pause in economic activities as a result of the pandemic, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that 1.2 million Canadians who have received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) no longer need it because of the gradual resumption of business.

The prime minister stated that a new announcement will be made in the coming days regarding the terms of the CERB program. People who received the benefit right from the start of the pandemic will no longer be entitled to it as of mid-June.

2500 layoffs at Bombardier

Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Legault promised assistance to Bombardier, which announced the layoff of 2,500 employees, most of them in Québec.

Justin Trudeau promised to continue working with industries, particularly the aviation and aeronautics industries, which are “very affected” by the pandemic.

François Legault said that the government is ready to provide financial support to Bombardier by investing in the mother company through share purchases and loans, but requiring job guarantees and caps on salaries, bonuses and dividends to directors.

Assistance to people with disabilities

Mr. Trudeau announced a lump-sum payment for people with disabilities.

“This is a one-time, non-taxable benefit of up to $600 that will be given to people with disabilities to help them pay for additional expenses during the crisis,” he said.

The National Workplace Accessibility Stream will also enable people with disabilities to find and keep a good job. Mr. Trudeau added that the government is investing in five new projects that will help people with disabilities across the country overcome obstacles in the workplace.

Improved job situation

Premier François Legault applauded the employment statistics revealed today, showing a drop in the unemployment rate from 17% to 13.7% since the pandemic.

“It’s still very high, but at least the gap with the rest of Canada and Ontario has been closed,” he said.

Reopening of the tourism industry

Tourism, another industry hard hit by the pandemic, should have a reopening plan as of next week, said Mr. Trudeau.

He thinks that bed and breakfasts could work very well, while maintaining physical distancing of two metres.

The premier also sees an opportunity for this industry to position itself since, with summer approaching, many Quebecers will not be able to travel abroad and will have the opportunity to visit Québec.

Repatriation of foreign nationals

The prime minister stated that while tens of thousands of Canadians were repatriated at the beginning of the pandemic, with the closing of the borders, others were not.

Mr. Trudeau reiterated that the government implemented measures to help foreign nationals cope with their difficult situation.

“We’re all finding ourselves in exceptional situations,” said Mr. Trudeau.