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Feds to cover 'top ups' for front-line workers on minimum wage

Last Updated May 7, 2020 at 10:47 am MST

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives to deliver an address to Canadians from Rideau Cottage during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government will send the provinces and territories $4 billion to increase the wages of essential workers in the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says the details are still to be finalized with some provinces, which will be expected to add their own money to the program as well.

“Three quarters from the federal government, one quarter from the provincial government, on helping those workers right across the country,” Trudeau said on Thursday. “If you’re risking your health to keep this country moving and you’re making minimum wage, you deserve a raise.”

He said the goal is to encourage these critical workers to stay on the job, despite the risks they may face.

“We’re relying on these workers now more than ever, and we will be there to support them,” he added.

While the prime minister highlighted the work of frontline health care workers, especially those at long term care facilities who earn less than $2,500 a month, Trudeau added the premiers will make the final call on which workers count as “essential” and will get a top-up, and how the money will be spent.

No definition of who an essential worker is was provided.

Meanwhile, after receiving requests from provincial governments, Federal Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said that as of Thursday, 1,020 members of the military have been deployed to 20 long term care facilities in Quebec, with another 300 coming in the next week. There are 265 members of the Armed Forces at five long term care facilities in Ontario.

Outbreaks at long term care homes have made up 60 per cent of the deaths during the coronavirus pandemic.