By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced the United States and Canada have agreed to temporarily restrict all non-essential travel at the border.
“Over the past few days, I’ve spoken to President [Donald] Trump about what we can do to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Trudeau this morning, adding Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has also been speaking with Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Speaking with Trump this morning, Trudeau and the president agreed to restrict all non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border. Visitors heading to the U.S. to visit or tourism will not be permitted to cross.
“In both our countries, we’re encouraging people to stay home. We’re telling our citizens not to visit their neighbours if they don’t absolutely have to,” says Trudeau. “Well this collaborative and reciprocal measure is an extension of that prudent approach.”
However, Trudeau made it clear essential travel is still permitted.
“Our governments recognize that it is critical that we preserve supply trains between both countries,” he explained. “These supply trains ensure that both food, fuel, and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border.”
He noted supply trains such as trucking won’t be affected by the new measure.
“Canadians and Americans cross the border everyday to do essential work or for other urgent reasons. That will not be impacted,” he said.
Whilst addressing the country, Trudeau also announced the federal government will invest $82 billion on measures to support the Canadian economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If you work in a restaurant, drive a cab, or organize events or freelance to pay your bills, working from home is not so simple. If… you’re looking at the uncertainty in the global economy, and probably wondering not only how long this is going to last, but how long your savings are going to last,” said Trudeau. “No matter who you are or what you do, this is a time where you should be focused on your health, and that of your neighbours, not whether you’re going to lose your job, not whether you’re going to run out of money for things like groceries or medication.”
Trudeau expects measures taken today will provide $27 million in direct support for Canadian workers and businesses, plus another $55 billion to meet the needs of businesses and households for tax deferrals.
“Combined, this $82 billion in support represents more than three per cent of Canada’s GDP,” he said.
The government is set to introduce the Emergency Care Benefit, which Trudeau says will provide money every two weeks to workers who have to stay home.
“People will receive this benefit for 14 weeks for an amount comparable to what would be paid through [employment insurance],” said Trudeau.
He noted this applies to people who are sick, have to self-isolate, people in quarantine, as well as those who have to take care of a family member with COVID-19, but fail to qualify for EI.
“If you lose your job and you do not qualify for EI, we will be introducing a COVID-19 Emergency Support Benefit to help you,” said Trudeau.
The Emergency Support Benefit will apply to people who are self-employed and have to close their work due to the virus.
Trudeau also noted the government will be giving small businesses a temporary wage subsidy equal to 10 per cent of salary paid to employees for a period of three months.
“This will encourage employers to keep staff on the payroll during these uncertain times,” said Trudeau.
He also said, as it is tax season, those who owe money will have until August to pay., Also, to take pressure off of parents, Trudeau said the government will temporarily boost the Canada Child Benefit in the coming months.
“With this plan, we’re also going to do more for lower income people,” said Trudeau. “Our government will supplement the GST credit, a tax free credit sent to low income Canadians every few months, to offset the consumer tax that they pay.”
He noted, every adult who qualifies will receive up to $300, with $150 for every child.
“While all Canadians are feeling the impacts of COVID-19, some groups are particularly vulnerable,” said Trudeau. “For people who are still paying off their student loans, including young people and those who are starting a family, our government will put in place a six-month interest free moratorium on their Canada student loans.”
He adds, for those experiencing homelessness, the government will double the Reaching Home Program, which provides funding to communities to help address local needs.
Shelters for those experiencing gender-based violence will see a boost to their funding as well.
Finally, the government will set up a distinctions-based community support fund for Indigenous groups.
“This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are some of the things our government is doing to make sure that no matter where you live, what you do, or who you are, you will get the support you need during this time,” said Trudeau.