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Trudeau pledges employment, financial help for people with disabilities, more aid for provinces

Friday, June 05, 2020 @ 4:27 PM | By Terry Davidson

Last Updated: Friday, June 05, 2020 @ 4:49 PM

The federal government is offering employment support and financial aid to people with disabilities to help them cope with the fallout from COVID-19 and will give billions to the provinces and territories as part of Canada’s economic restart.  

During his June 5 address to the nation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of the National Workplace Accessibility Stream, a new $15-million investment to help community organizations improve access to jobs and workplace accessibility for persons with disabilities. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

According to a press release, the program will help employers “set up accessible and effective work-from-home arrangements,” will expand online training opportunities and help “connect Canadians with disabilities working from home with employers.”

The government will also be putting almost $1.2 million into five new national projects as part of the Accessible Technology Program, which will allow organizations to develop new technology, such as accessible payment terminals for retailers, and tools that will make it easier for people with disabilities to communicate in the digital economy.

“We're … establishing a National Workplace Accessibility stream to help people with disabilities find and keep a good job,” said Trudeau. “And we're funding five new projects across the country that will help people get supportive devices to overcome barriers in the workplace.”

There will also be a one-time, tax-free payment of $600 to those with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate. Those with a Disability Tax Credit who are also eligible for an Old Age Security (OAS) pension will receive $300, and those with the tax credit who are eligible for the OAS and Canada’s Guaranteed Income Supplement will get $100.

Trudeau also talked of the need of a “Canada-wide plan on safely and effectively restarting the economy” and said that he, during the most recent first ministers meeting with Canada’s premiers, pledged $14 billion in new federal funding to help the provinces and territories “safely and carefully” reopen their economies.   

“We know that the provinces and territories are under a lot of pressure right now and are facing real financial challenges because of this pandemic, and we want to help as much as possible. We must move quickly and carefully to get this done, to support the services Canadians rely on and to get our communities back up and running.”

Trudeau said he and Canada’s premiers will work on a “safe restart agreement, which will cover the next critical six to eight months.”

“We’re talking about more personal protective equipment (PPE) for health-care workers on the front lines so they can focus on saving lives instead of worrying about their safety; we’re talking about making sure businesses have the PPE they need so that every Canadian is safe on the job no matter where in the country they go back to work; we’re talking about childcare, so that every parent knows there is a safe place for their kids, because when moms and dads get back to work, they shouldn’t have to worry about how their kids are doing.”

Trudeau said little about how the $14 billion will be divided up between the provinces and territories.

Later, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was asked how much of that money is being earmarked for the needs of municipalities. However, Freeland did not get specific.

“I fully agree … that cities and municipalities have major needs and we are absolutely in agreement with the fact that cities and municipalities are essential to a restart,” said a French-speaking Freeland through an English interpreter. “The federal government is prepared to make its contribution, and that is what the prime minister referred to today. Now, referring to, specifically, to the amounts set aside [for] each category, these are discussions that have to take place with the provinces and territories. We believe that a collaborative approach is critical, and we need to speak to the provinces and municipalities to be sure that an economic restart is healthy and will work for Canadians.”  

Freeland was asked how the money will be divvied up. Like Trudeau, Freeland did not get into the specifics.

“We understand, Canada is a huge country. The needs differ very, very much from coast to coast to coast. We really are approaching this by saying to the provinces and territories [that] we understand that a safe restart is essential and that it is expensive. We said from the beginning of this crisis that we are not going to quibble about federal-provincial responsibilities. We are going to be there to support Canadians across the country. … In terms of the prime minister specifically saying … we are going to put $14 billion on the table, look, having been through a few negotiations myself, I really believe that someone has to get the ball rolling and it’s important to start putting some specific offers on the table. That’s what the federal government did … in the conversation with the premiers and that is what the prime minister has shared with Canadians today.”

But at least one of Canada’s premiers says the $14 billion falls short of what will be needed.

“It’s just not enough,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford during a press conference. “I’m grateful, don’t get me wrong … but you spread that across Canada, it doesn’t even cover Ontario, not to mention Quebec. We have large populations with a lot of needs, and as much as we are grateful, I just hope it’s the start of a conversation and not the end of the conversation.”

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