by Christopher Guly
The Canadian Parliament passed on Saturday what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the country’s most significant economic program since the World War II.
In a rare Saturday sitting — during the Easter long weekend with only a handful of parliamentarians present to avoid the large gatherings now prohibited across Canada — members of both the House of Commons and Senate, from all political parties, agreed to support the government’s 52-billion-U.S.-dollar-wage-subsidy program that will cover 75 percent of earnings up to about 42,000 U.S. dollars, retroactive to March 15 and up to June 6.
To qualify, employers will have to demonstrate that they expect at least a 15 percent revenue drop in their revenue from March, or a 30 percent decrease in April and May compared to the same period last year.
The relief package is intended to encourage businesses not to lay off their employees. But over 1 million Canadians have already lost their jobs, and a last month’s survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that 32 percent of small and medium-sized businesses shuttered as non-essential during the COVID crisis indicated they were unsure whether they would reopen when the lockdown is lifted.
Last month, the sitting of the parliament was suspended until April 20. But the Commons and Senate have since met twice in emergency sessions to debate and pass legislation to provide economic relief for out-of-work Canadians two weeks ago, and struggling businesses on Saturday.
“The front line is everywhere,” Trudeau said, referring to the country’s battle against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic when attending the session.
His appearance in the Commons on Saturday was the first time he has ventured from his residence in a month, after his wife, Sophie Gregoire, tested positive for COVID-19 on March 12 and the prime minister went into self-isolation.
She has recovered from the respiratory disease.
As of Saturday afternoon, Canada has reported 23,318 COVID-19 cases. Out of them, 12,292 were in the French-speaking province of Quebec.
A total of 653 deaths have been reported in Cannada so far, a number that is expected to rise in the coming weeks as many believe the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to reach its peak in the country. Enditem