At an April 6 press conference in front of his home at Rideau Cottage, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed concerns regarding the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the reported stoppage of medical supply shipments at the Canada/U.S. border.
Trudeau said that announcements will be made in the coming days regarding the expansion of the CERB to include those who do not currently qualify for the benefit. The CERB–which people can begin applying for today–will provide $2,000 a month over four months for workers who are out of a job or not getting income as a direct result of COVID-19.
Trudeau said the government will soon announce how people working 10 or fewer hours a week–such as those who work in the gig economy–can get help. He also said that help will be coming for people earning less money now than they would with the benefit, such as home care workers or those who work in long-term care.
He also said help is on the way for university and college students who rely on summer work.
Trudeau said that since applications for the CERB opened this morning, 240,000 people have successfully applied. Canadians will be able to apply all weeklong according to their birth month, a process that will keep the system from being overwhelmed.
Trudeau said that those who have direct deposit can expect to see money within days after being approved for the benefit.
Trudeau also said that, following negotiations with Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Canada’s six major banks and other financial institutions have agreed to reduce by half interest rates on credit cards for Canadians experiencing financial difficulties because of the pandemic.
When asked about reports that the U.S. has blocked a shipment of 3 million masks destined for Canada, Trudeau said that the government is monitoring the country’s procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) is continuing to have “productive discussions” with the U.S. on the importance of trade–including the trade of essential medical equipment–to both countries.
Trudeau, while not addressing the shipment in question specifically, said he “expects those supplies to be delivered,” adding that Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne has already spoken with U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo.
The questions came after Ontario Premier Doug Ford told CityTV that if Ontario does not receive promised supplies of PPE, it will run out within a week.
Last week, 3M revealed that the Donald Trump administration requested that the company stop sending supplies, such as N95 masks, to Canada and Latin America. 3M said they believed following such an order posed significant humanitarian concerns and could invite retaliation.
Shortly after that announcement, Trudeau said it would be a “mistake” for the U.S. to attempt to block the shipment of necessary medical supplies to Canada, adding that both countries benefit from the trade of medical supplies and personnel.
On April 6, the prime minister told reporters that Canada is continuing to work hard to secure supplies from around the world and produce them in the country. At an earlier press conference, Trudeau told reporters that the federal government has received requests from about 3,000 Canadian companies to produce medical equipment to help health care workers cope with the pandemic.
Trudeau also told reporters that more detailed models that could give people some idea of how long physical distancing measures will need to be in place will be available in the future, but emphasized that the accuracy of any speculative models is highly dependent on people’s behaviour and how well people abide by public health orders.
He also said that select Members of Parliament from all parties are expected to reconvene in the House of Commons soon to pass legislation related to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.