Updated at 1 p;.m. (EDT): The government will pay the wages of many Canadians to prevent further national unemployment as the economic impacts of the COVID-19 continue to threaten local businesses.
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau increased a previously announced payroll subsidy from 10 percent to up to 75 percent to encourage small- and medium-sized businesses to keep their staff employed—and rehire those who have already been laid off.
The subsidy is backdated to March 15, meaning businesses who have been struggling since mid-March can apply.
“We hope you will consider rehiring them given this payroll support,” Trudeau said, speaking directly to employers who have laid off their workers.
Trudeau also announced a Canada Emergency Business Account.
Banks will soon offer $40,000 loans, which will be interest free for the first year, to businesses who need additional funding. If businesses meet certain conditions, $10,000 of the loan will be forgivable, Trudeau said, but he did not say what those conditions will be.
Trudeau also announced that Ottawa will defer GST and HST payments for small- to medium-sized businesses, as well as duties and taxes on import until June.
After Peter MacKay's Embarrassing Interview, Conservatives Suspend Campaign
The federal conservative party has suspended its leadership race as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to worsen in Canada.
The move follows a meme-able interview with leadership candidate Peter MacKay and CTV’s Evan Solomon. During the exchange, MacKay questions his opponents' failures to campaign as of late, before Solomon jumps in with a counterpoint.
“Because there’s a pandemic and they think people have other things on their minds than campaigning,” Solomon said.
“Is it?” MacKay asked, apparently oblivious that his opponents decided to suspend their campaigns because of the pandemic.
According to a statement issued by the Conservative Party on Thursday night, the party no longer finds it possible to carry on with the leadership race, citing coronavirus-related business closures across Quebec and Ontario, including the party’s headquarters, as the major impetus for the decision.
Bank of Canada slashing interest rate
Canada’s central bank has slashed interest rates by 50 basis points to 0.25 percent overnight Thursday in an unscheduled cut.
The move effectively makes credit cheaper—Canadians with loans will pay less in interest, thereby keeping more money in their pockets. Credit card debt is not affected by this news.
Banks from G7 countries are coordinating their efforts during the COVID-19 crisis, the Bank of Canada said, adding that it will update Canadians again in mid-April.
Service Canada closing in-person centres
All 317 Service Canada locations across the country are shutting down amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) fears after nearly a million people applied for employment insurance in Canada over the past week and a half.
Service Canada locations allow people to apply in person for EI, old age security, passports, and pensions. The recent onslaught of EI applications resulted in higher than normal traffic at each location, the Globe and Mail first reported, prompting workers to feel unsafe.
Ahmed Hussen, the minister of social development, issued a statement acknowledging the shutdown, and said “we need to make sure our service delivery model follows the best public health advice, while also meeting the needs of Canadians.”
Canadians can still apply for benefits online, including the new Emergency Response Benefit, which will pay Canadians affected by COVID-19 $2,000 per month for four months. The benefit’s online application portal will be up and running by early April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this week.
Trump doubles down on U.S.-Canada border militarization
After U.S. President Donald Trump revealed he is considering sending troops to the U.S.-Canada border, the longest non-militarized border in the world, Trudeau confirmed to Canadians that he is still in talks to discuss border measures.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland offered stronger words on Thursday by calling the move “completely unnecessary.” She said it is up to the U.S. to decide what happens on their side of the border, but Canadians are not considering a similar move.
Late Thursday evening, Trump told reporters “in Canada we do have troops along the border,” a point which has been disproven since, before adding that military presence would stop illegal trade that travels from international countries like China through Canada.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. has since dropped the proposal.
Known cases in Canada top 4,000, 39 deaths
As of Friday morning, Canada had more than 4,000 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, with 39 recorded deaths. Every province as well as the Yukon and Northwest Territories are affected and in a state of emergency. Nunavut, which restricted movement in and out of its borders on Monday, is the only region in Canada without a reported COVID-19 case. Here is the breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across Canada:
British Columbia: 725
Newfoundland and Labrador: 82
New Brunswick: 33
Nova Scotia: 73
Prince Edward Island: 9
Northwest Territories: 1
There are nearly half a million known COVID-19 cases globally, with more than 20,000 deaths.
Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.