Extraordinary times call for ‘extraordinary measures’ – MP Sean Fraser

By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
March 25 2020

SHERBROOKE – Despite the social and economic havoc COVID-19 threatens to unleash, the Canadian government is determined to help Canadians meet the needs of everyday life.

That’s according to Sean Fraser, Member of Parliament for Central Nova, who spoke to the Guysborough Journal immediately following the announcement last week of more than $27 billion in federal support for sick and economically challenged Canadians impacted by the virus. As parliamentary secretary to Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, Fraser is a key member of the team behind the measures.

“I want people to know that we are actively looking for gaps that people who are being affected from a health or personal financial perspective may face,” he said. “We want to make sure that we provide those supports.”

Fraser, whose riding includes the approximately 2,700 people who live and work in the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s, added, “the idea that someone should worry about covering the cost of the basics when they should be focused on their health and the health of their families is unacceptable. I’ve been spending most of my time lately helping to put together the economic response.”

Specifically, that response includes the Emergency Care Benefit to support Canadians who become sick, need to self-isolate, or take time away from work to care for a child. It will provide direct assistance – up to $450 per week for up to 15 weeks ­– to Canadians who do not qualify for Employment Insurance (EI), starting in early April.

As well, the Emergency Support Benefit will provide direct financial assistance to Canadians who are laid off or experience a decline in hours. “Importantly,” Fraser said, “it will provide coverage for individuals who are self-employed or that do not otherwise qualify for Employment Insurance.”

There’s an enhanced GST Credit to support Canadians with modest incomes. Fraser said, by doubling the maximum credit for over 12 million families, “this credit top-up would mean an average of $400 for single adults, and $600 for couples. This measure will inject $5.5 million into the Canadian economy and will be available as soon as May 2020...Also, there’s an enhanced Canada Child Benefit that will see an additional $300 per child for the 2019-2020 year to assist with unexpected challenges tied to raising children, including disruptions to child care.”

There’s a new wage subsidy for small and medium sized businesses, which will cover 10 per cent of employee salaries over a designated three-month period. “It will be delivered by granting a holiday on a portion of tax withholding remittances that would ordinarily be due to the federal government,” Fraser said. “It will give up to $1,375 per employee and up to $25,000 per employer. This measure will apply not only to businesses, but also to non-profits and will help them avoid layoffs.”

Most economists say it’s too soon to tell how well these, and other, announced federal measures will work. Still, they agree, their timing is propitious.

“The Canadian economy is reeling as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic ravage consumer and business spending and cratering oil prices have put a halt to the expected rebound in the energy sector,” the Conference Board of Canada reported last week. “The economy came to a near-halt at the end of last year. Growth has not been much better in the first quarter and is set to contract in the second.”

Said Fraser, “In the short term, we wanted to advance extraordinary measures to deal with the extraordinary times.”