Ottawa Announces $4 Billion Deal with Provinces and Territories to Boost Essential Workers’ Wages

May 8, 2020 Updated: May 8, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the federal government has reached a $4 billion agreement with the provinces and territories to boost the pay of essential workers who are earning minimum wage.

“We see across the country people working on the frontlines, in essential services, in our senior care system, in our long-term care, in our health care systems and elsewhere who are making very low wages while doing extraordinarily important work,” Trudeau said during his daily briefing on May 7.

“We’re relying on these workers now more than ever, and we will be there to support them.”

All the provinces and territories have either confirmed or are in the final process of confirming this cost-share wage top-up program, and each province and territory will have the right to determine who qualifies for the wage increase.

People employed in non-medical industries like grocery store workers, farmers, and delivery drivers may also be eligible for this top-up plan, but Trudeau didn’t say definitively whether the federal government has provided an evaluation guideline to the provinces and territories.

“[B]ut the bottom-line is this: if you’re risking your health to keep this country moving, and you’re making minimum wage, you deserve a raise,” he said.

The federal government will cover three-quarters of the cost of the program, while provincial and territorial governments will kick in the rest.

A spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s Office said that a plan negotiated between the federal government and the provinces and territories earlier last month to provide temporary financial support to low-income essential workers who make less than $2,500 per month was dropped, to better reflect the wide range of payment conditions of essential workers, according to CBC News.

Looking to the future after the pandemic is over, Trudeau said changes will need to be made in sectors that employ low-paid essential workers.

“We know, however, that once we get through this, in the months and years to come, we’re also going to have to have reflections about how we manage and how we maintain our long-term care facilities, how we support essential workers who are very low-paid, how we move forward as a society to make sure that our vulnerable are properly taken care of and properly rewarded for the important work that they do,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau added that in the fight against the pandemic, roughly 1,200 Canadian Rangers have been deployed to provide assistance to limit the spread of the virus across the country, including 200 in Nunavut and parts of Quebec. More than 670 Canadian Armed Forces personnel are providing support at 20 long-term care homes in Quebec, with more to come.

“We expect that next week there will be a total of 1,350 military personnel as part of that operation to provide support in 25 facilities,” he said.