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Business leaders urge Ottawa to ease conditions for 75-per-cent wage subsidy – The Globe and Mail

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Former Blackberry CEO Jim Balsillie, seen here in Toronto on June 26, 2019, chairs the Council of Canadian Innovators, which is urging federal officials to revise the conditions for the government’s emergency wage subsidy.

Glenn Lowson/The Globe and Mail

Business leaders and social policy analysts are warning that conditions imposed by the federal government’s multibillion-dollar package of income support measures will leave out many people and employers.

Canada’s community of tech startups is particularly disappointed with the terms announced this week for the federal government’s new Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to help businesses hit hard by COVID-19, which would give employers funds to cover 75 per cent of wage costs up to $58,700 – or $847 a week.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced on Wednesday that employers will have to demonstrate a reduction in revenue of 30 per cent each month in comparison to the same month a year earlier.

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Business groups say a company’s monthly income can fluctuate considerably, especially if it is relatively new.

Jim Balsillie, a former chairman and co-CEO of Research in Motion and the current chair of the Council of Canadian Innovators, said many small and medium-sized companies don’t generate monthly income statements.

Mr. Balsillie’s group advocates on behalf of Canadian technology firms and is urging federal officials to revise the rules when legislation to implement the program is tabled in Parliament, likely next week. Mr. Balsillie said many tech entrepreneurs are also concerned that errors in applications could trigger the program’s harsh compliance penalties.

“There’s enormous anxiety,” he said in an interview. His organization is calling for the penalties to be eased, a focus on faster processing, possibly by contracting some of the work out to Canadian tech companies, and changes to the 30-per-cent rule.

“That’s not the right metric,” Mr. Balsillie said, noting that companies are more likely to track activities such as bookings, new subscribers, units shipped or billable hours.

Other business owners and advocacy organizations have also criticized the 30-per-cent rule.

Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada, which represents the country’s largest corporations, expressed frustration that the federal government chose to offer a complicated wage-subsidy program.

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“We need to act with some urgency, and we need to keep it simple and not complicate it in a crisis,” he said.

Mr. Morneau responded generally to some of the concerns on Thursday before the House of Commons finance committee, saying the government aims for simplicity and speed.

“We are going as fast as humanly possible,” he said, after the three main opposition parties accused the government of creating delays and confusion. “It’s not as easy as just pressing a button. … I can assure you if we can do it faster, we will in fact get there.”

The government will need the support of opposition parties to pass the legislation quickly.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said in a statement on Thursday that his party is calling for adjustments to the 30-per-cent rule and for Ottawa to cover some of businesses’ operational costs.

John Ruffolo, vice-chair of the Canadian Council of Innovators and former CEO of OMERS Ventures, said the finance department has miscalculated by having the Canada Revenue Agency manage the program.

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“It is going to be doomed to fail,” he said. “They are going to try to build this on the fly. It’s likely there will be massive gridlock on people submitting applications, and they are not designed to understand the needs of different businesses.”

He urged Ottawa to run the wage subsidy program through the banks, which he said could get the money out within 48 hours.

The government has also introduced a program called the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to provide up to $500 per week for 16 weeks to people who have lost all income due to COVID-19.

Critics have noted that the CERB leaves out individuals such as contractors who may have lost most, but not all, of their income.

Also on Thursday, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report that said one third of unemployed Canadians will not qualify for Employment Insurance or the CERB. Some of the reasons include the fact that they are among the long-term unemployed or haven’t met the threshold of earning $5,000 over the past year to qualify for the CERB.

In his daily news conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the report by saying the two income support programs will help millions of Canadians, but acknowledged the government has more to do.

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“We know that there are many vulnerable people who won’t be able to access this support who will need extra help,” he said. “We’re making sure that we’re flowing funds through shelters, through non-profits and charitable organizations as well, but there will always be more to do.”

The federal government is widening its promise to subsidize wages for employers affected by COVID-19 to big businesses, non-profits and charities, if they’ve lost 30 per cent or more of their revenues. But he’s warning them not to take advantage of the multibillion-dollar program, and to see that the money goes to workers, not owners. The Canadian Press

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Canada’s economy creates almost 1 million jobs in June – Canada Immigration News

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Canada immigration levels May 2020 Express EntryLifting coronavirus-related lockdown restrictions around the country has sparked the beginning of Canada’s economic recovery.

Many Canadians and permanent residents returned to work for their previous employers while others started new jobs.

Between February and April, a total of 3 million people lost their jobs due to the lockdown, and another 2.5 million were absent from work due to coronavirus-related reasons, according to a Statistics Canada report published on Friday.

May saw a slow start of economic recovery as 290,000 people returned to work. Building on this, the month of June helped alleviate low unemployment rates across the country as employment increased by a record 953,000 people.

Find out if you are eligible for any Canadian immigration programs

These last two months saw the labour market recover by a staggering 40%. Over 1.24 million people gained employment, after 3 million people lost their jobs earlier in the year.

Canada’s overall unemployment rate dropped from 13.7% in May to 12.3% in June.

In addition, the report says that labour force participation rate has increased substantially over the last two months up to 63.8% in June. In comparison, it was 65.5% in February, before coronavirus-related restrictions.

The labour force participation rate is the percentage of the population, aged 15 or older, who are part of the labour force.

This suggests that many people are now more optimistic about the potential of finding a job. The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB)’s requirement to actively search for work may be another factor. The CESB was introduced to alleviate financial struggles of students who may have been affected by the coronavirus-related restrictions

Moreover, the number of people who work less than half of their usual hours also decreased in June to 26.9% down from 34.3%.

The rise of employment across all provinces is largely aligned with the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Employment in Ontario increased by 378,000 (or 5.9%), Quebec by 248,000 (or 6.5%) and British Columbia by 118,000 (or 5.4%).

As Canada begins reopening its economy, many Canadians and permanent residents have returned to work or have begun looking for work.

In addition, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has returned to normal in terms of Express Entry draws. The latest draw held was an all-program draw. This means that candidates for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and the Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC) were also considered.

Since the travel restrictions were put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, IRCC had been holding program-specific draws, alternating between Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) draws and Canadian Experience Class (CEC) draws.

Canada’s latest job statistics is good news for these immigrants since they can expect a stronger job market once they have obtained permanent residence.

Find out if you are eligible for any Canadian immigration programs

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COVID-19: Alberta reports 77 new cases on Friday, death count falls by 1 – CTV News

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Alberta reported 77 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing its total number of cases to 8,596.

There are 592 active cases across the province and 7,844 people have recovered from the coronavirus. 

The province’s death count fell by one on Friday, from 161 to 160. The number of COVID-19-related deaths fell from 18 to 17.

“One of the deaths reported at the Misericordia has been determined to not have COVID-19 as a contributing cause of death,” a spokesman for the province told CTV News.

The city of Edmonton has now surpassed 1,000 total cases, with 1,001. Its number of active cases sits at 173.

More than 510,000 COVID-19 tests have now been completed in Alberta. 

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Edmonton, Calgary top Canadian cities in unemployment – CTV News Edmonton

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Alberta has the second-worst provincial unemployment rate in Canada after Newfoundland and Labrador..

According to new Statistics Canada data, unemployment reached 15.5 per cent in June.

It marks an 8.8 per cent difference from the same time last year.

The only province with a higher unemployment rate is Newfoundland and Labrador, at 16.5 per cent.

And unemployment in Alberta’s largest cities is also highest among Canadian major urban centres: about 15.7 per cent of the Edmonton workforce is currently unemployed, and 15.6 per cent of the Calgary workforce.

In May, their unemployment rates were 13.6 per cent and 13.4 per cent, respectively.

The news comes alongside a report that Canada added 953,000 jobs in June as businesses forced to close by the pandemic began to reopen.

“That’s important progress but we have a long way to go,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney commented Friday at a news conference in Fort Saskatchewan, where a carbon capture and storage facility recently reached the five-million equivalent tonnes milestone.

Kenney’s government’s economic recovery plan centres on infrastructure projects that create jobs and making Alberta an attractive place for investment – as does the facility at the Shell Scotford complex, Kenney said.

“Projects like this are a key part of Alberta’s recovery plan to build, to diversify, and to create jobs. When the global economy comes back form COVID, when demand returns for oil and gas, we are going to see, I believe, something of a supply shortage because of all the upstream exploration that has been cancelled, and so we’ll see prices go up. And that will be a great opportunity for Alberta, especially as we make progress on pipelines,” he said.

“But there’s one critical factor, we’ve got to bring investment back. And that means we’ve got to demonstrate our progress on environmental responsibility which is why investments like this… are so important to jobs, the economy, and the future prosperity of Alberta.”

The national unemployment rate fell to 12.3 per cent after hitting a record-high of 13.7 per cent in May.

With files from CTVNews.ca

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