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I am very happy to be here today with Minister Murray, Dr. Tam, and Parliamentary Secretary Vandenbeld.
Before I get started, let me wish Eid Mubarak to all Muslim Canadians celebrating today.
Although this year will be different than normal, I know that the values of charity and community will be as strong as ever.
Today, I want to talk about where we are on a number of important items—the spread of the virus and new tools to address it, support for farm workers and small businesses, and finally, the future of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
Let me start with the spread of the virus.
In just the past week, we’ve seen COVID-19 cases rising in many communities.
Frankly, it’s a reminder that we can’t let down our guard.
So please, keep doing your part, and follow the recommendations of public health officials like those who are working incredibly hard here at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
Because that’s how you’ll keep yourself, and others, safe.
And to all the women and men working here at PHAC, and in teams right across the country—thank you for your outstanding service.
Since March, Canadians have been working around the clock to keep each other safe.
And together, we’ve come up with innovative solutions to meet an unprecedented challenge.
A few weeks ago, I announced that our government was working with the Government of Ontario, BlackBerry, and Shopify volunteers on a new app to help slow the spread of this virus.
As of this morning, the COVID Alert app is ready to download through the App Store or the Google Play Store on your phone.
Right now, it’s connected to the Ontario health system, but we know other provinces will be joining in soon.
So people across the country can and should download it today.
This is another tool to protect your health.
Here’s how it works.
The app will let you know if you’ve been in contact with someone who has the app and has tested positive for COVID-19.
If that’s the case, it will then encourage you to call your provincial health services for guidance on what to do.
I want to be clear: this app isn’t mandatory—it’s completely voluntary to download and to use.
And it doesn’t collect your name, your address, your geolocation, or any other personal information.
I’ve downloaded the app this morning, and I encourage you to do the same.
The more people use it, the better it can trace and therefore slow the spread of the virus.
In fact, health experts say that if enough people sign up, this app can help prevent future outbreaks of COVID-19 in Canada.
I know that Premier Ford will have more to say about this first made-in-Ontario system, but I want to thank him for his partnership in getting this program up and running.
We’re working hard with our Atlantic provincial partners to integrate their health systems into the app next.
And at the same time, we’re in discussion with other provinces, and we expect that they’ll be coming onboard soon as well.
Since the start of the pandemic, our government has worked hard to keep Canadians safe, while getting people the support they need.
Of course, we know there’s still more to be done, so today, we’re taking yet another step forward.
This morning, I can announce that our government is investing almost $59 million to protect the health and safety of foreign workers on Canadian farms.
This will fund more farm inspections, provide emergency relief when needed, and improve the overall living conditions on farms.
We also know that help is needed right now in many locations.
Currently, thanks to the $100-million investment we announced in May, the Canadian Red Cross is helping the most at-risk workers in the Windsor-Essex region in particular.
Ministers Qualtrough, Bibeau, and Mendicino are also looking at ways to improve the Temporary Foreign Worker Program as a whole.
This includes measures like developing mandatory requirements for better living conditions for workers, so that we can continue to support and protect the people who keep food on our plates.
Whether you are a student or you are looking for a full-time job, there are a lot of opportunities right now in the agriculture and agri-food industry.
The people working in this sector are feeding our families and stocking our grocery shelves.
If this is of interest to you, I encourage you to visit agr.gc.ca to learn more about the “Step up to the plate” program.
I also want to talk a little about what we’re doing to support workers and businesses across the economy.
First of all, we know that, for a number of businesses, it’s not easy to pay rent after losing money for months.
In the spring, we introduced the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance, which helps reduce small businesses’ rent by 75 per cent.
Over 700,000 employees have benefitted from the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance—people who’ve been able to keep their jobs because of the help businesses got through this program.
We know there are even more people still to reach.
And that’s why we are officially extending the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program for the month of August.
Today, I also want to speak about what comes next for the millions of people who still rely on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
In the weeks ahead, we’ll have more details about what will come after the CERB.
But to people who need this program—don’t worry, no one will be left behind.
Our goal is to transition everyone on the CERB to Employment Insurance (EI).
Because EI should cover every Canadian who’s looking for work.
And for those who don’t qualify for EI right now, like gig or contract workers, we will create a transitional, parallel benefit that is similar to Employment Insurance.
It will include access to training, and being able to work more hours and earn more money while receiving the benefit.
That’s only appropriate as our economy reopens and brings back more jobs.
There will also be a sickness and caregivers benefit for Canadians not covered at work if they get COVID-19, or if their kids or parents get it and they have to take care of them.
We’ll have more details to share before the end of August, but here’s the bottom line.
We intend to cover every Canadian who is looking for work with a better, 21st century EI system.
That is our goal.
And of course, there will be no increase to EI premiums during this challenging time.