Trudeau’s daily coronavirus update: ’We’re helping companies keep people on the payroll’ (Full transcript)

In his briefing for March 27, 2020, the PM praised the recent Bank of Canada rate cut and announced new financial support for small and medium-sized businesses
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a daily update on the coronavirus crisis each day in front of his home in Ottawa, where he remains in isolation after his wife tested positive for COVID-19. Here are his English remarks for March 27, 2020.

Let me just begin by saying I’m pleased with the supporting actions taken by the Bank of Canada this morning. Monetary policy is very important, but as the governor of the bank has repeatedly said, the most important thing we can do to help people and the economy in this crisis is for the government to take strong fiscal action. So today, I want to speak directly to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

I know for many of you, the past few weeks have been heartbreaking. You’ve had to slow down your operations. In some cases, you’ve even had to close up shop for the foreseeable future. And because money isn’t coming in, you can’t afford to keep your employees on the payroll.

These are really tough decisions. Tough because you don’t want to let the people go who help you run your company in their time of need. Tough because some of you have built your business over the course of many years, if not decades. And now it seems like this climate of uncertainty could threaten everything you’ve worked for.

I know many Canadians across the country are saddened to see their favourite neighbourhood spots closed. These are the places that make our communities feel like home. Our government knows you’re really feeling the impacts of this pandemic, especially with the end of the month coming up. So here’s what we’re going to do to take some of that pressure off.

Last week, we had announced that we would cover 10 per cent of wages. But it’s becoming clear that we need to do much more, so we’re bringing that percentage up to 75 per cent for qualifying businesses.

This means that people will continue to be paid, even though their employer has had to slow down or stop its operations because COVID-19. We’re helping companies keep people on the payroll so that workers are supported and the economy is positioned to recover from this.

That is our priority. We will have more to say on this very soon, but I can tell you that this subsidy for small- and medium-sized businesses will be backdated to Sunday, March 15.

For people who’ve lost their job or are self-employed, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit will still be there to help you.

We also know that for small, storefront businesses, they’re struggling with cash flow right now. It’s hard to raise money and make money in this climate. So to help you bridge to better times, we’re launching the Canada Emergency Business Account. With this new measure, banks will soon offer $40,000 loans which will be guaranteed by the government to qualifying businesses. The loan will be interest-free for the first year, and if you meet certain conditions, $10,000 of it will be forgivable.

Our government will also provide an additional $12.5 billion through Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank to help small- and medium-sized businesses with their operational cash flow requirements. This means that businesses will be able to apply for a guaranteed loan when they go to their financial institutions to get help as they weather the impacts of COVID-19.

Lastly, we’re announcing that we will defer GST and HST payments as well as duties and taxes owed on imports until June. This is the equivalent of giving $30 billion in interest-free loans to businesses. So if you’re struggling to get by right now and you have a payment due at the end of the quarter, we’re going to give you more time. It will also allow you to keep the money that you would have sent to the government and use it instead for your immediate needs.

With these new measures, our hope is that employers who are being pushed towards laying off people because of COVID-19 will think again. And for those of you who have already had to lay off workers, we hope you will consider rehiring them, given this payroll support. Over the coming days, we will announce additional measures to help the most vulnerable—youth, marginalized people, people who live in poverty—we’re going to have more news to share with you very soon.

I know the past weeks have been really tough. You’re worried about what COVID-19 means for your business and for your future. These are uncertain times but my message to you today is: we’re going to be here for you.

Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our economy. You are collectively the largest employer in the country. You support millions of families, you serve our communities and you make our towns and cities better places to live.

Canadians are counting on you and I am counting on you to come back strong from this no matter what comes next. You’re going to get the support you need to help rebuild a more resilient and prosperous economy.

So to businesses across the country, please keep your workers on the payroll or think of hiring them back. In the meantime, let’s keep listening to our public health officials.

Let’s wash our hands, stay home as much as possible and keep a safe distance from each other when we go for a walk or we have to go to the grocery store. Together, I know we’re going to get through this.

Merci beaucoup, tout le monde.