Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a multi-billion dollar economic stimulus package to help Canadians amid the COVID-19 pandemic — and the closure of the Canada-US border to all non-essential traffic by mutual agreement between the two countries.
"We have agreed that both Canada and the United States will temporarily restrict all non-essential travel across the Canada-US border," Trudeau announced, speaking from self-isolation outside his home in Ottawa Wednesday morning.
People who cross the border for work will not be affected by the closure, Trudeau said.
The move affects tourists and shoppers but ensures the "critical" supply chains and movement of goods between Canada and the US during the pandemic, said Trudeau.
U.S. President Donald Trump had tweeted about the move early Wednesday morning.
Trudeau said the border measures will remain in place for as long as he and Trump "feel they need to last."
$82-billion stimulus package announced
Trudeau also announced a significant economic stimulus package. The government will provide up to $27 billion to directly support Canadian workers and businesses, and $55 billion to meet liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households through tax deferrals.
"We are focused on making sure that people who are not getting income or revenue, because of this challenge, have the money to be able to pay for groceries, to pay their rent, to support their families through this difficult time," said Trudeau.
"People need to be able to self-isolate, need to be able to stay home and need to be able to care for their families when their ordinary sources of revenue dry up."
Employers of small businesses will also be provided with a temporary wage subsidy to help cover workers' wages.
The subsidy will equal 10 per cent of the salary paid to employees for a period of three months, said Trudeau.
"This will encourage employers to keep staff on the payroll during these uncertain times," he said.
The government will also provide an emergency care benefit package for people who do not qualify for EI, said Trudeau, including people who are ill or have to self-isolate, or are taking care of someone with the coronavirus.
The economic package also addresses tax season.
The tax filing deadline is now extended to June 1, and anyone who owes money will have until August to pay their taxes, said Trudeau. The GST tax credit will also be supplemented.
There will also be a six-month interest-free moratorium on Canada student loans.
Emergency Measures Act not needed at this time
On Tuesday, three provinces declared states of emergency — B.C., Alberta and Ontario — as a way to better confront the challenge of COVID-19.
Trudeau also announced Tuesday that the government was examining the need for the Emergency Measures Act.
On Wednesday he said invoking that act is not necessary at this time, but remains on the table.
"The Emergency Measures Act is a significant step, not one that we feel we need today, but not one that we're closing the door to in the future," said Trudeau.