Canada, U.S., agree to extend border closure

Trudeau announces $306 million for Aboriginal businesses

Canada and the U.S. will extend a border closure for another 30 days, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in his daily pandemic briefing Saturday morning.

The border controls apply to non-essential travel.

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"This is an important decision -- one that will keep people on both sides of the border safe," Trudeau said.

In addition to announcing an extension to the border closure, Trudeau announced $306 million to aid Indigenous businesses and financial associations, and said his government is working with the provinces to address the problem of small businesses, forced to shut down, that cannot pay their rent.

Saturday's announcement of aid to Indigenous businesses followed yesterday’s announcement of $1.7 billion in aid to Canada’s oil and gas sector.

The aid to Indigenous businesses will be in the form of interest-free loans and non-repayable grants. The aid will go to Indigenous business and associations. He added more measures for Indigenous businesses are also being considered.

"These investments announced today will help millions of businesses to hold on until the situation improves, including many businesses run by Indigenous women," Trudeau said. "They hire people throughout the country.

"This is one first step. So we will announce new measures to support Indigenous businesses, as well as their employees."

Trudeau also announced Saturday that two planeloads of personal protective equipment has just arrived, and more shipments are due to arrive later this week.

He also fielded questions about calls from the Conservatives for Parliament to reconvene Monday.

That would mean 333 MPs and their staff flying to Ottawa.

"Obviously it would be a very bad idea, given the current situation," Trudeau said.

He said limited sittings of Parliament would continue to ensure accountability, as well as virtual meetings, but said a full convening of Parliament is just not on.

Asked about aid for thousands of businesses, from hair salons to restaurants, that have been forced top shut down, Trudeau said his government has been in discussion with provinces on measures to help businesses that cannot pay commercial rents.

"We are looking at it very, very closely," Trudeau said. "We have a number of proposals that are working their way through the system.

"The provinces have jurisdiction over rents and the relationship between landlords and tenants, so we need to work with them, which is what we're doing."

Despite some promising signs that Canada is flattening the curve, and that new cases of COVID-19 are falling, Trudeau said the current restrictions across Canada must remain in place for some weeks yet.

"We're living through an unprecedented public health emergency and we need to keep responding accordingly," Trudeau said. "So even as the weather gets nicer, even in the weeks to come as we start seeing hopeful news, we can't let up. Because if we do, we could lose the progress that we've made."

nbennett@biv.com

@nbennett_biv

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