Canada Will Help Fund Pay Hikes for Essential Workers

May 7, 2020 Updated: May 7, 2020

OTTAWA—Canada and the country’s 10 provinces will boost pay for essential workers such as employees in seniors’ residences, which are linked to 80 percent of coronavirus deaths, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.

“If you’re risking your health to keep this country moving and you’re making minimum wage, you deserve a raise,” he told a daily briefing.

The total number of COVID-19-related deaths in Canada rose by just over 4 percent to 4,280 on Thursday from 4,111 a day earlier, the public health agency said, further evidence that the outbreak has peaked. The number of positive diagnoses edged up to 63,895 from 62,458.

Quebec, the province hardest hit by the coronavirus, has unveiled plans to gradually restart its economy but on Thursday pushed back for the second time the date when businesses can reopen in Montreal, Canada’s second biggest city.

Premier Francois Legault cited shortages of personnel in hospitals and said Quebec would offer higher pay to part-time medical workers to cover the shortfall. Montreal firms can now open on May 25, not May 11 as originally planned.

Canada’s military is increasing its support in Quebec and aims to have more than 1,350 members in 25 different homes in coming days, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told reporters.

Trudeau made his announcement a day before Statistics Canada releases unemployment data for April. Analysts say they expect around 4 million people to have lost their jobs after a record 1 million were thrown out of work in March.

Under the deal with the provinces, Ottawa will contribute C$3 billion (US$2.1 billion), representing 75 percent of the total cost of the increased wages, the government said in a statement. Trudeau earlier told reporters the amount was C$4 billion.

The provinces will be responsible for determining who is essential and how much they receive, he added.

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, will slowly begin resuming elective and non-essential surgeries, Premier Doug Ford announced on Thursday, starting with the most urgent procedures such as cancer and cardiac surgeries.

By David Ljunggren and Steve Scherer