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18 Mar, 2020 15:21

Trudeau confirms US border closure, promises aid to Canadians & businesses of up to C$27bn

Trudeau confirms US border closure, promises aid to Canadians & businesses of up to C$27bn

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has confirmed the US border will be closed to non-essential travel in the near future and previewed a hefty aid package to individuals and small businesses affected by the coronavirus epidemic.

Canadians “will no longer be able to cross the border for recreation and tourism,” Trudeau announced on Wednesday in a press conference, echoing the words of US President Donald Trump earlier that morning. Trudeau also stressed that “supply chains will not be affected” by the closure and that medicines, food, and other “critical” supplies would continue to flow between the countries.

Also on rt.com US and Canada will close border to 'nonessential' traffic due to coronavirus - Trump

The PM attempted to reassure Canadians worried about their economic future, promising to supply up to C$27 billion in “direct support to Canadian workers and businesses” on top of C$55 billion in tax deferrals for businesses and families “to stabilize the economy.” Those who owe taxes have until August to pay, he said.

Trudeau unveiled a roughly-equivalent biweekly “emergency care benefit” to be doled out over 14 weeks for “workers who have to stay home” - the sick, the quarantined, and their caretakers and family - who don’t qualify for employment insurance. He also announced an “emergency support benefit” for the self-employed forced to shutter their businesses and a three-month temporary wage subsidy to small business owners, equivalent to 10 percent of normal wages, in order to keep employees on payroll and avoid mass layoffs.

Beefed-up benefits for low-income Canadian families with children and indigenous people, a six-month moratorium on student loan payments, and a 200 percent expansion of the country’s homeless aid program were among the other line items in the aid package. “In Canada, public health should never hinge on financial considerations,” the PM said.

Trudeau hinted at a broad aid package for businesses, particularly in those sectors hardest-hit by the coronavirus, though he neglected to name specifics aside from agricultural exporters, merely promising to “make sure the economy rebounds” after the crisis. The border closure would last "as long as it's necessary," he said, without letting on when it would start.

Many responses to the PM’s speech on social media were positive (or at least guardedly optimistic), with critics expressing relief he had finally put his political agendas away.

Some expressed concern over the notoriously permeable border crossing at Roxham Road, favored by illegals who reportedly cross in the thousands every month, remaining open. Those new arrivals will merely be quarantined for 14 days in special shelters and receive medical screening, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced on Tuesday, a rule that has not apparently changed in the wake of the border’s closure to pretty much everyone else.

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