The federal government is expanding its wage subsidy program to allow more companies to qualify.
The program was initially restricted to companies that saw a 30-per-cent revenue increase following March 15. Those companies could apply for a 75-per-cent wage subsidy in order to retain employees.
In his Wednesday morning press availability Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the terms to qualify for the wage subsidy would be broadened. Because the effects of the coronavirus really only began in earnest halfway through the month, the threshold will be a 15-per-cent revenue decline in March. And to offer flexibility for firms like start-ups that may have growth that hides the impact of the coronavirus on their fortunes, companies will be able to use May or June figures to qualify too.
Additionally, non-profits and charities will be eligible for the wage subsidy, although they may not book revenue in the ways that for-profit companies do.
Trudeau said that the federal government will aim to deliver the program in three weeks.
The PM also gave a glimpse of what the near-future may look like as the response to the pandemic evolves. He said that Canadians need to remain "very strong" in the social distancing measures they have at the moment. And while it's unclear when the status quo will be lifted, he suggested that a variation of it will remain for a while. "There is no question that once we start to get to the other side of this spike...there will be a need for continual surveillance," he said. "Even as things start getting back to normal, they won't be normal."
The Ontario government announced on Wednesday afternoon that it will ramp up inspections of essential workplaces.
"Our government is doing everything in its power to keep you safe during this pandemic," assured Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, who called out essential workers for praise during the government's daily afternoon press availability.
That means there will be more inspectors and more inspectors per workplace, McNaughton explained. The government will also urge retired workplace safety inspectors to re-join the workforce to pitch in for the effort. Additionally, more call lines will be available for workers to share their concerns, the minister added.
There will also be relief of another kind for one class of essential workers. Ontario's truckers, who are deemed integral in order to keep the province's supply chain going, will receive complimentary cups of coffee at OnRoute locations throughout the province Wednesday. Presumably the government hopes that the jolt of caffeine will help them to keep on trucking, in addition to recognizing their contribution.
And although there's a pandemic going on, essential workers will enjoy Good Friday and Easter Sunday off as usual, the premier said. "They deserve a break." There will be no changes to the typical Easter long weekend schedule.
Thursday will bring some of the most anticipated monthly job numbers in a very long time. Statistics Canada will release its monthly survey Thursday morning, which will look at employment for March. It will provide the first detailed snapshot of the depth of what is presumed to be a historically significant employment slump.
University of British Columbia economist Kevin Milligan said that Canadians should prepare for some eye-popping headlines. "I think there's going to be very big numbers," he said, mentioning that previously leaked data about the number of weekly employment insurance applications has been massive.
But he said that people watching the labour numbers shouldn't get hung up on just one or two figures, and that understanding how the survey is put together and digging through it will deliver a more accurate depiction of the lay of the land.
In a C.D. Howe Institute paper, Milligan and co-author Tammy Schirle outline a few things to keep in mind when reading Thursday's Labour Force Survey.
The survey uses one particular week to gather its data, and in this case that's March 15. Ordinarily that works just fine, but in this case the magnitude of the coronavirus crisis was just starting to set in, with major policy shifts being declared by orders of government on a daily basis, and rapid declines in the stock market. "It [was] kind of a transition week," Milligan told QP Briefing. As a result, tomorrow's labour numbers may only partially capture the effects of the coronavirus, with Milligan saying that next month's data will provide more complete context.
Additionally, there are some limits in how the labour data is collected and defined. For instance, an individual is only defined as unemployed if they do not have a job and are actively looking for work. But for some workers in large sectors, like retail and hospitality, their industries are mostly shut down, making looking for work a non-starter in many cases. That also means that the participation rate could see a significant dip in the numbers on Thursday.
But Milligan said that the details of the survey should provide some good opportunities for analysis. That includes looking at the number of hours worked, as some people may not have lost their jobs but could have seen hours significantly curtailed.
A major issue in the effort to treat the coronavirus has been the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Now there's a data model to help understand just how much PPE Ontario will need as the number of positive coronavirus cases ramps up.
Produced by the COVID-19 ModCollab team, it estimates that over the next month hospitals will need about 5.7 million surgical masks and 1.7 million N95 masks.
The data model, which is based on preliminary estimates and sticking to Public Health Ontario guidelines for best practices, concludes with a warning. "PPE demand is substantial and current stockpiles may be insufficient to meet demand over the next 30 days, potentially impacting the safety of healthcare workers, the sustainability of the workforce, and overall health outcomes for acute care patients during the COVID-19 pandemic."
Latest report from our @covid19mc group. Predicting PPE demand for Ontario acute care hospitals.
Cases of confirmed and suspected cases extrapolated from @covid19mc core model.
PPE use modelled using Public Health Ontario PPE guidance.
— Kali Barrett (@DrKaliBarrett) April 8, 2020