Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday promised to create a million jobs. He also called on Canadians to redouble their efforts to ensure that the “second wave” of the coronavirus pandemic is no worse than the first.
“We are entering an autumn which could be much worse than spring”, warned the Prime Minister in a rare “speech to the nation” of about fifteen minutes.
He was speaking a few hours after Governor General Julie Payette read in Parliament the “Speech from the Throne” which sets out the government’s main directions to help the country overcome the epidemic.
“In our four main provinces, the second wave is not arriving, it has already started,” insisted Mr. Trudeau. He called on Canadians to respect the barrier gestures to “keep the second wave under control” and avoid a new re-containment that had brought the Canadian economy to its knees. “For all of us, collectively, this is the fight of our generation,” he added. “We are at a crossroads”.
Canada has seen a surge in new coronavirus cases in recent weeks, which exceeds a thousand every day compared to a few hundred in August. More than 9,000 people have already succumbed to the disease since last March.
“Now is not the time for austerity”
In its plan, the Trudeau government notably commits to supporting “people and businesses as long as the crisis lasts” and plans to extend a wage subsidy program until next summer. “Now is not the time for austerity,” proclaims the government.
Ottawa has already injected more than 300 billion dollars (193 billion euros) to support the economy since the spring. “Low interest rates mean that we can afford it,” explained Mr. Trudeau in his speech. “Doing less would lead to a slower recovery and larger deficits in the long run,” he added, promising to spend “responsibly”.
The government has announced a plethora of new spending not quantified, but assures that the economic recovery is “well underway” and that its action will remain guided by “the values of viability and prudence”.
In particular, Ottawa is committed to supporting the creation of “over a million jobs” to bring the unemployment rate back to pre-crisis levels of around 5.5%. “Measures in favor of the climate will form the cornerstone” of this plan, assures the government.
He thus promises to put in place “a plan which will make it possible to surpass Canada’s climate objectives for 2030” by notably supporting the construction of “zero-emission vehicles and batteries”.
The “throne speech” will be submitted in the coming weeks to a vote of confidence by the deputies, which could theoretically cause the fall of the government and the holding of new elections. To overthrow the government, the three main opposition parties do would have no choice but to unite. Two of them immediately announced that they would vote against the speech.
Quebec independence activist Yves-François Blanchet, positive for Covid-19 like Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, accused Ottawa of not having “listened to the urgent and legitimate demands” of the provinces, which called in particular for transfers of federal money for health.
“After four years of Mr. Trudeau, our country is more divided, less prosperous and less respected on the world stage”, added the conservative Mr. O’Toole.
The survival of the minority government of Justin Trudeau is therefore dependent on the vote of the New Democratic Party (NDP, left). Its leader Jagmeet Singh reserved his decision, casting doubt on a possible early election this fall.
In particular, he conditioned his support for the Trudeau government on maintaining the Canadian Emergency Benefit, financial assistance to employees affected by Covid-19 that the government wants to abolish.