Canada Passes Historic Wage Bill to Ward Off Coronavirus Crisis

Canadian lawmakers approved a bill to subsidize wages by 75% in a bid to stabilize the economy as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the coronavirus his generation’s greatest challenge yet, Bloomberg reports.

The flagship C$73 billion ($52 billion) program — more than one-quarter of the government’s emergency fiscal plan to date — was passed in an emergency sitting of the House of Commons on Saturday.

“The front line is everywhere,” Trudeau said, comparing the battle against the virus to a war, as the nation heads for what may be its sharpest downturn since the Great Depression. “Every one of us has a role to play in helping shield our country from the threat it now faces.”

The program seeks to stem a huge wave of layoffs. More than 5 million people, one in four workers, applied for emergency income support in recent weeks.

Eligible business can apply for aid to help pay workers’ wages, to a maximum of C$847 a week per employee. The subsidy will be paid within two to five weeks, government officials said Saturday.

Air Canada is among the companies that plans to use the program for 36,000 Canadian employees, nearly half of whom were furloughed.

Trudeau said on Friday that, at best, Canada may be able to loosen restrictions and have some sectors return to work by the summer if the nation abides by tight measures to control the spread of infection.

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