Canada's PM Justin Trudeau promises one million jobs, warns of virus second wave
- "Canada is at a crossroads," Trudeau said in a televised address to the nation
- "In our four biggest provinces, the second wave isn't just starting, it's already underway."
- Polling shows most Canadians are satisfied with Trudeau's management of the crisis so far
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a grand plan Wednesday to address social inequalities laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic and create one million jobs during recovery, while also extending emergency measures for a second wave of Covid-19 that he said could be worse than the first.
"Canada is at a crossroads," Trudeau said in a televised address to the nation.
"We're on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring," he said, contrasting the more than 1,000 new Covid-19 cases reported on Tuesday with the 47 on March 13, the day Canada went on lockdown.
"In our four biggest provinces, the second wave isn't just starting, it's already underway."
"It's all too likely we won't be gathering for Thanksgiving (on October 12), but we still have a shot at Christmas," he said.
Earlier in a so-called throne speech, read by Governor General Julie Payette at a joint sitting of MPs and senators, the government vowed to eliminate homelessness, hasten Canada's fight against climate change and introduce national childcare and pharma care programs.
It said it aims in the short term to also restore employment to pre-pandemic levels, and both extend and broaden emergency aid measures to keep the economy rolling.
"Do we move Canada forward, or let people be left behind? Do we come out of this stronger, or paper over the cracks that the crisis has exposed?" Payette said in the speech.
The government's plan calls for direct infrastructure investment, training to quickly skill up workers, and incentives for employers to hire and retain workers.
Exceeding Canada's 2030 carbon emissions reduction target of 30 percent below 2005 levels will also be a "cornerstone" of job creation efforts, according to the speech.
"The economic restart," Payette said, "is now well underway."
"This is not the time for austerity," she said, hinting at additional debt-financing, albeit at record low rates, for Canada's recovery, alongside taxing "extreme wealth inequality."
Polling shows most Canadians are satisfied with Trudeau's management of the crisis so far.
But the "bold new solutions" outlined in the throne speech will require parliament's nod in the coming weeks.
If all three opposition parties reject the minority Liberal government's grand New Deal-style reforms, Canada will be heading to the polls in the middle of the pandemic.
The Tories and the Bloc Quebecois said they would vote against the speech, while the New Democrats urged even more social spending and paid sick leave for all in order to get their support.
It is arguably an awkward time for sweeping policy changes, or as critics suggested, to dare the opposition to force snap elections.
The Conservatives elected a new leader only last month: Erin O'Toole, who is not well known to Canadians.
Both O'Toole and Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet are isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 and did not attend the speech.
Trudeau, however, insisted he needs to test parliamentary support for his policy goals, as Canada's circumstances are dramatically different than when he won his mandate last year.
Under the pandemic, the country's jobless rate peaked at 13.9 percent in May, while the economy contracted at a record 38.7 percent in the second quarter.
Ottawa has already doled out more than Can$300 billion (US$230 billion) in emergency aid in the last six months.
The costs of the new measures are to be outlined in an upcoming budget.
An Abacus Data poll, meanwhile, indicated that if an election were held now, it would likely result in another minority Liberal government.