A few more details about who qualifies for the federal government’s 75 per cent wage subsidy were released Monday, but questions still abound.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the subsidy in his morning statement. It was the first topic he addressed in his English comments.
The subsidy will be available to businesses of all types and sizes, so long as they’ve seen their revenues fall by at least 30 per cent because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of employees will not be a factor.
“It will apply to non-profit organization and charities as well as companies both big and small,” Trudeau said,
“This is about making sure people are still getting paid whether they work for a business who employs ten people, or 1,000.”
Trudeau said the subsidy will apply on the first $58,700 a person earns, which is equivalent to about $847 per week.
The measure will be backdated to March 15.
Further details, such as how much it will cost or how it will be distributed, were not available.
Trudeau said Finance Minister Bill Morneau will be made available to reporters today to answer some of those questions.
The previous 10 per cent wage subsidy was to be administered through reductions in income tax remittals made by businesses.
“This subsidy will make a real difference in your lives, and affect everyone who’s affected bridge to better times,” Trudeau said.
“This subsidy is first and foremost about you. It’s making sure you have money to buy groceries right now and a job to come back to when we get through all this.”
He said the way the measure is set to roll out is in line with best practices from other countries. He did, though, have a warning to anyone who would hope to abuse the process.
“We are trusting you to do the right thing,” Trudeau said.
“If you think this is a system you can take advantage of or game, don’t. There will be serious consequences for those who do. It calls for good faith and trust between everyone involved. For this to work, everyone has to do their part.”
Trudeau added that every dollar should go back to workers, and employers should make efforts to top up employees’ wages past the 75 per cent subsidy, as well as to hire back anyone who was laid off.
“If we need to do more,” Trudeau said, “we need to do more.”
While Trudeau didn’t say how much the measure would cost, he implied it would be funded through more borrowing, something, he said, Canada is in a good position to do.
“Canada … has one of the best balance sheets in the G7,” he said.”We have made sure that we have money set aside for a rainy day. It’s raining.”
Government announces other targeted support
While Trudeau didn’t speak to all of the new announcements, press releases outlined other targeted industry supports the federal government set out Friday and Monday. They include:
Support for airports and the air transportation sector
While many industries are struggling in the face of COVID-19, the federal government wrote in a press release Monday that the air transportation sector had been “disproportionately” impacted.”
To support the sector, the federal government announced it would waive ground lease rents for the rest of the year, dating back to March 2020, for the 21 airport authorities that pay rent to the federal government.
The relief will be up to $331.4 million.
Both the Saskatoon and Regina Airport Authorities will benefit from the move.
“By waiving ground lease payments, the government is helping these airport authorities to preserve cash flow during the disruption,” the federal government wrote.
“This will allow them to redeploy cash to help maintain their operations and to support recovery strategies. This approach is consistent with actions taken to support the sector during previous major disruptions, such as the SARS outbreak in 2003.”
New domestic transportation measures
While offering support for airport authorities, the government also announced measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. The new measures include:
- A requirement for all air operators to conduct a health check of travellers before they board a flight within Canada or departing from Canada, based on guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada. This would include asking health questions, looking for visible signs of illness prior to boarding, and recommending the traveller follow guidance from local health authorities.
- A requirement for air operators to refuse boarding to a passenger that presents COVID-19 symptoms. The denial will remain in effect for a period of 14 days, or until a medical certificate is presented that confirms that the traveller’s symptoms are not related to COVID-19. These measures will apply to aircraft with 10 seats or more.
- A requirement for air operators to notify travellers that they may be subject to provincial or territorial measures at their final destination.
- A requirement for intercity passenger rail companies to do a health check to screen passengers for COVID-19 symptoms before they board a train, based on guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada. This will include company representatives asking simple health questions, looking for visible signs of illness prior to boarding, and recommending the passenger follow guidance from local health authorities.
- A requirement for intercity passenger rail companies to refuse boarding to a passenger that presents COVID-19 symptoms. The denial will remain in effect for a period of 14 days, or until a medical certificate is presented that confirms that the traveller’s symptoms are not related to COVID-19.
- These measures do not apply to commuter trains.
Relief for broadcasters
The federal government also announced on Monday that the CRTC will not request payment of licence fees for the 2021-fiscal year, instead receiving the necessary funds from the government. The move is expected to save broadcasters at least $30 million in cash.
“Canadians rely on radio and television to stay up to date on matters related to COVID-19.,” the federal government said.
“The government knows that our Canadian broadcasters have been working around the clock to deliver news and information programming while facing operational challenges and significant declines in advertising revenue.”
Last week the government re-announced measures from last year’s budget that include a 25 per cent wage subsidy for newspaper journalists from qualified Canadian news organizations. Qualified organizations must produce a majority of news content, be majority Canadian-owned and employ at least two journalists at arms-length of the owner.
Last Friday, the Canadian government announced support for businesses located in national parks or within the boundaries of historic sites. Parks Canada has closed all visitors’ facilities and closed its properties to vehicle traffic.
To help compensate business owners, the federal government said it will work with tourism operators in national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas to defer payments on commercial leases and licences of occupation, without interest, until Sept. 1, 2020.
Operators will be contacted directly by parks Canada staff. Information will also be posted to pc.gc.ca.