‘Significant’ time until border restrictions ease, says Trudeau

Changes meant to assist companies that previously fell through the cracks

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians will have to be patient about the prospect of easing border controls, despite interest from U.S. President Donald Trump.

“We know that there Is a significant amount of time still before we can talk about loosening any such restrictions,” Trudeau said Thursday (April 16) during his daily media briefing outside his home in Ottawa.

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Non-essential travel between the countries is no longer permitted.

But Trump signalled a day earlier he’s interested in easing such border controls, saying his country’s border with Canada is likely to be among the earliest to have restrictions loosened.

“The reflection that the president shared was one of how close we are and how the status of the Canada-U.S. relationship is different than the status of relationships we have with other countries around the world,” Trudeau said.

“There’s a recognition that we will do things perhaps differently than other countries but there is still a recognition that we need to continue holding the measures that we have in place for a good while to come still.”

The prime minister also reiterated his previous message that Canadians can expect some domestic restrictions to ease down the road, but a complete return to normal won’t be in the conversation until a vaccine is readily available.

“It would be absolutely disastrous for us to open up too early or too quickly, and have another wave hit us that could be just as bad as this one, and find ourselves in the situation of having to go back into quarantine the way we are right now and have everything we’ve done these past weeks be for nothing,” Trudeau said.

Meanwhile, businesses hard up for cash may have another relief valve after tweaks to a federal program.

Trudeau revealed that the Canada Emergency Business Account will now be open to companies with payrolls ranging last year from $20,000 to $1.5 million.

The program was previously only available to businesses with payrolls ranging from $50,000 to $1 million.

The program allows banks to offer $40,000 loans guaranteed by government to eligible businesses that come interest-free for the first year.

Under certain conditions, $10,000 of the loan will be forgivable.

Trudeau said more than 195,000 loans have been approved, totalling $7.5 billion in credit.

The prime minister said the federal government will also be working with provinces and territories to offers commercial rent assistance for April, May and June.

He said more details would be announced soon.

G7 leaders were on a conference call earlier Thursday in which to topic of supporting the World Health Organization (WHO) was broached amidst the U.S. announcing it was cutting funding.

U.S. President Donald Trump had criticized the WHO for not being critical enough of COVID-19 data being provided by Beijing.

Trudeau said leaders all recognize the importance of international co-ordination and the WHO was an important part of that.

“We recognize that there have been questions asked but at the same time it is really important we stay co-ordinated as we move through this. That is certainly what Canada is going to do,” he said.

torton@biv.com

@reporton

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