/Trudeau says deal reached with premiers to fund wage top-ups for essential workers

Trudeau says deal reached with premiers to fund wage top-ups for essential workers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a cost-sharing agreement has been reached with the provinces and territories to provide lower-earning essential workers wage top-ups.

READ MORE: CERB eligibility expanded to part-time and seasonal workers, Trudeau says

It will be up to provincial and territorial governments, some of whom have already introduced wage increases for some essential workers, to decide which workers qualify and how much they will receive. 

Ottawa will provide up to $3 billion for the effort with the provinces and territories offering $1 billion.

Trudeau first announced plans to help top up wages for some essential workers on April 15. He said then that the pay boost would be aimed towards personal support workers and those working in long-term care homes earning less than $2,500 a month.

“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 at his daily news conference Thursday.

The provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta have already moved to offer wage top-ups for some essential workers. 

Quebec’s program offers to make up the difference between the $2,000 a month Canada Emergency Response Benefit and an eligible workers’ wage, providing $100 weekly for up to 16 weeks. 

Ontario’s “pandemic pay” provides a $4-per-hour wage boost for front-line workers. Those eligible include health care workers, staff at long-term care homes, emergency shelters, supportive housing, social services and correctional facilities. Employees working more than 100 hours a month would also receive lump sum payments of $250 for each of the next four months. 

Saskatchewan will also provide essential workers in seniors homes, day cares and shelters earning less than $2,500 a month a $400-per-month pay boost. Alberta’s government is providing a $2-per-hour boost for long-term care workers.

Trudeau said details with some premiers are still being finalized and that it’s up to provincial governments to decide pay increases and who is eligible because the spread of the pandemic is in different stages across the country. He will speak to Canada’s premiers in a call tonight.

“We have confidence that the provinces will determine exactly how best to help Canadians in this time,” he said.

Staff shortages have long plagued long-term care homes, where most of Canada’s COVID-19-related deaths during the pandemic have occurred. Homes are often staffed by part-time employees working at multiple residences on pay hovering close to minimum wage.

Members of the Canadian military have been dispatched to several residences in Ontario and Quebec to respond to the labour shortage.

Also Thursday, Trudeau said an economic recovery “that advances us in the right direction” will see less pollution, “greener outcomes,” and a country more digitally connected.

“Better supports for vulnerable Canadians, more equality across this country needs to be part of it as well,” he added.

However, Trudeau rejected comments made by Green Party parliamentary leader Elizabeth May on Wednesday that “oil is dead” and now is the time to cut off financial support for fossil fuel companies. 

READ MORECERB will soon cover Canadians working reduced hours, Trudeau says

“I don’t share that assessment,” he said. “I know that if we are to move forward in transforming our economy towards lower emissions and cleaner processes, workers and innovators in Alberta and across the country in the energy sector are going to be an essential part of that transformation.”

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