PM Trudeau touts loan program, will return to Commons Saturday
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his daily COVID-19 address to highlight the now-launched Canada Emergency Business Account program and announce that his remarks on Saturday will come from the floor of the House of Commons as it convenes to pass additional aid measures.
After delivering 26 consecutive daily addresses from his front door, this will be a change in his schedule as he takes Sunday and Monday off.
Parliament has been recalled for a rare emergency Saturday sitting to hold an accelerated debate and vote to see another major economic policy passed into law: the 75 per cent wage subsidy for employees.
Trudeau will be present for that sitting, and will deliver his daily update from his place inside the Chamber. He has also announced he will be taking Sunday and Monday to spend time with his family and will provide his next COVID-19 national address on Tuesday.
The prime minister hinted that the government will have more to say soon for those feeling mentally challenged and overwhelmed by the new reality the pandemic has created across the country, which could last in some form for many months to come.
As of midday Friday there were 20,765 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 509 people had died from the disease.
After days of back and forth the minority Liberals and opposition parties have agreed to reconvene in Ottawa with a limited bracket of MPs to pass the second piece of emergency COVID-19 legislation.
The Conservatives have framed the second bill as a “fix” to the first, while the Liberals say the legislation would enact the “biggest economic measures in our lifetimes.”
Talks continue as to how to see the House of Commons convene remotely in the future, as the pandemic is set to limit the ability for Canadians to convene for weeks and even months to come.
“It’s really important despite a time of crisis – in fact, because of a time of crisis - that our institutions remain strong and our democratic principles continue,” Trudeau said.
BUSINESS LOANS AVAILABLE
Trudeau also spoke about the newly-available loan program, and reemphasized the billions in other emergency response benefits the government has enacted or are in the process of launching.
The loan program was first unveiled late last month, as a way for businesses to access government-guaranteed loans to cover the costs of keeping their enterprise afloat during the COVID-19 crisis.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced on Thursday that the program was now available and encouraged businesses that are having a hard time covering their rent, utilities or other operating costs to get in touch with their bank about accessing the loan.
“It will only take a few days for you to receive the full amount in your account. That’s money you can use for whatever you need, whether it’s monthly expenses or paying employees,” Trudeau said on Friday.
Last month, the government announced the emergency loan for small businesses, seeing banks offer $40,000 government-guaranteed loans interest-free for the first year. If the company can repay the balance of the loan by the end of 2022, up to $10,000 will be forgiven.
Applicants need to show proof that they paid between $50,000 and $1 million in payroll in 2019.
Projected as a $25-billion program, not-for-profit organizations are also able to apply through their banks, to help cover their operating costs during a period where their revenues have been “temporarily reduced” due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.
PREFER NOT TO USE EMERGENICES ACT
The prime minister spent Thursday evening on the phone with premiers, where he and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland discussed the stockpiling of supplies underway as well as the potential of enacting the sweeping national powers of the Emergencies Act.
The federal government has sent a letter surveying the provinces and territories on their current needs and whether the extraordinary powers — formerly known as the War Measures Act — were needed to compel Canadians to stay inside.
The act has never been used as currently drafted, requires premiers to be consulted, and has been viewed as a last resort and there are no plans to enact it yet. If that step was taken it could see the nation come under a “public welfare emergency” allowing the federal government to regulate travel and the distribution of goods within the country, direct trained people to render essential services, and impose steep fines and jail times for those who breach the emergency orders.
Asked about the call and the prospect of enacting the Emergencies Act, Trudeau said the measures are not currently necessary.
“It is our hope that we don’t have to use it, ever. We are seeing that the collaboration, the partnership among provinces and territories and the way we’re moving forward on this means that we might not ever have to use the Emergencies Act, and that would be our preference,” Trudeau said.
This comes as the majority of provinces and territories say there is no need to invoke the Emergencies Act, and that it should be up to each government to dictate how they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.