Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises to ask for an extension of the sitting day in the House of Commons Parliament in the House of Commons Tuesday March 24, 2020 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Trudeau asks Parliament to reconvene to pass enhanced COVID-19 economic aid

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is seeking to recall the Parliament again to pass “the largest economic program in Canada’s history” barely a week after it adopted a massive aid package to help Canadians cope with the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This must be a Team Canada effort,” Trudeau said Wednesday, speaking outside his home at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa.

Governments of all orders across the country are stepping up to fulfill their responsibilities to Canadians, he said.

‘The biggest economic measures in our lifetimes’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“Canada hasn’t seen this type of civic mobilization since the Second World War,” Trudeau said.

“These are the biggest economic measures in our lifetimes – to defeat a threat to our health. These historic measures will support Canadians to stay home to defeat COVID-19.”

During a news conference in Regina earlier Wednesday morning, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer had said the measures announced by the government don’t match the legislation passed last week to facilitate them.

“We’re pointing out the discrepancy between what the prime minister announced yesterday and what the legislation actually says. So it’s up to the government to decide how they want to proceed,” said Scheer, who is also the Leader of the Official Opposition.

“But if they want to provide Canadians with the program that they made in their announcement, they would have to amend their own legislation.”

On March 25, an extraordinary session of Parliament passed an aid package bill worth $107 billion. However, on March 27, Trudeau announced that the government also decided to augment the measures adopted by the Parliament by increasing wage subsidies for hard-hit Canadian businesses.

Canadian private and non-profit companies whose revenue has decreased by 30 per cent or more due to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will qualify for the government’s 75 per cent wage subsidy program, regardless of the number of employees they have, Trudeau said Wednesday.

“That includes everything from bars and restaurants, to charities and non-profits,” he said.

New economic relief measures kicking in soon

Applications for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will be handled through the Canada Revenue Agency (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Applications for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will “soon open” through the Canada Revenue Agency, he added.

“This money is for workers,” Trudeau said. “Employers will need to attest they are doing everything they can to pay the remaining 25 per cent of people’s wages.”

There will be stiff and severe penalties for those who try to take advantage of the system and of fellow Canadians, Trudeau warned.

The federal government also created the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which will provide about $2,000 a month to people who lost their income due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Trudeau said.

Qualifying Canadians will be able to apply for CERB as of Apr. 6, Trudeaus said, reminding that those who are getting the wage subsidy, can’t collect the CERB.

“It’s one or the other. You can’t get both of these benefits,” Trudeau said.

Canadians can register for the CERB, online at Canada.ca.

Selecting the direct deposit option will speed up the processing, and applicants should receive their payment within three to five days, Trudeau said.

Those who can’t apply online, can call the Canada Revenue Agency for help over the phone.

Those who opt to receive their cheques by mail, will receive them within 10 days, Trudeau said.

“After applying, all you need to do to keep getting this benefit, is check-in every month that still you’re out of work,” Trudeau said. “And if you’ve already applied through EI, you’re all set up. You don’t need to do anything on April 6th.”

‘Everything depends on how Canadians behave’

People are shown in the Old Port of Montreal, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, as COVID-19 cases rise in Canada and around the world. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

At his Wednesday’s press conference, Trudeau was asked several times about various leaks suggesting that the government is bracing for the extraordinary anti-pandemic measures that have ground much of economic and social life in Canada to halt to last until July.

Trudeau acknowledged that “there is a wide range of scenarios” presented to the government.

Canadians could face ongoing restrictions for “a number of more weeks, perhaps, more months,” Trudeau said.

“But everything depends on how Canadians behave,” Trudeau said.

“The choices you make to stay at home, to self-isolate, to not go to six different stores when you go grocery shopping, to try to go grocery shopping only once a week, to be very careful to keep those two metres apart when you go for a walk, if you’re allowed to go for a walk, these sorts of things are what will arrest the spread and the increase of this virus. We need all of us the best we can to make it through this unprecedented situation.”

‘Staying home is your way to serve’

Crowds along the seawall at Sunset Beach in downtown Vancouver on Friday, March 20, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The government alone cannot win this fight, he added.

“We all have to answer the call of duty,” Trudeau said. “This is service that most of us have never been called upon to do. We, each of us, have to live up to our end of the bargain. We must fulfill our collective responsibility to each other.”

Listening to public health rules is the duty of every Canadian, the prime minister repeated again.

“Staying home is your way to serve,” Trudeau said. “Be smart about what you do, and your choices. That’s how you serve your country and each other.

“How well we do this right now will determine where our country will be in two weeks, in two months. It’s in our hands.”

With files from CBC News

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