The federal wage subsidy program for Canadian companies has been extended beyond June, Prime minister Justin Trudeau announced this morning.
Trudeau said the move was made because wage subsidies will take on an even more important role in supporting Canadians’ livelihood as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit program (CERB) runs its course.
“To businesses hit by COVID-19, know this: The wage subsidy will continue to be there for you to help you keep your employees on the payroll,” Trudeau said at his daily press conference this morning. “… And if you had to let people go, try to bring them back. It’s those workers who will drive our economy’s short- and long-term recovery.”
Statistics Canada released April job numbers earlier today, showing the country losing about 2 million jobs in an unprecedented unemployment spike due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Trudeau acknowledged that the extension announcement came partly in response to those numbers.
“These numbers tell us what we already knew: That right now, Canadians are hurting because of this pandemic,” he said. “It all boils down to a very difficult time for a lot of people… If you are out of work, you don’t need to hear other people are out of work, too. You need to know there’s a plan to get you through this and get you back on the job.”
Trudeau added that Ottawa does not currently have plans to extend the CERB in the same fashion, as that program has already had a longer run than the wage subsidy program.
“From the beginning, we recognized we needed to constantly adjust and improve the delivery of these unprecedented mechanisms…,” Trudeau said. “We recognize that - as the economy starts to reopen - people will be getting back to work, leaving the CERB and perhaps going on to the wage subsidy as employees bring people back on.”
Details of the extension will be announced in the near future, he added, but he also noted Ottawa will be vigilant in making sure the programs - intended to support Canadians’ and their livelihoods - will not go to benefit the bottom lines of companies in a way that an economic stimulus would.
In addition to the wage subsidy extension, Trudeau also said innovation/industry minister Navdeep Bains will soon launch and lead a new industry-strategy council to look at the sector-specific impact of COVID-19 - and for strategically navigating the “New Normal” as businesses emerge from their post-lockdown hiatuses.
“This will be a dedicated forum for industry and government to come together in tackling the effects of COVID-19,” Trudeau said.