Canada backs $57bn coronavirus relief bill

(BBC) – Canada’s multi-billion-dollar relief package to respond to the coronavirus slowdown has passed in the House of Commons.

It allows the government to spend C$82bn ($57bn, £48bn) in emergency aid and economic stimulus.

The bill received approval Wednesday with support from all parties, after amendments that removed provisions giving cabinet unprecedented powers.

It must now go to the Senate for approval.

Legislators passed the package, worth about 3% of the country’s GDP, after a debate in the House of Commons that went into the early morning hours.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had promised to push the bill through parliament this week.

“No matter who you are, where you are or what you do, Covid-19 is having an impact on your life,” he said Tuesday in a press conference from his residence on Tuesday.

“Speed is of the essence.”

Local governments have been increasing social-distancing measures to stem the spread of coronavirus, which has led thousands of businesses to close their doors.

The government said it received 500,000 claims for unemployment benefits last week, about 20-times the amount from the week before.

Canada’s oil and gas sector has also taken a sharp downturn as the price of oil plummeted, from about $35.82 for a barrel of Western Canadian Select in January to just $5.43 last week. The oil and gas industry accounts for about 10% of the country’s gross domestic product.

What will the relief package provide?

Measures in the bill include a boost to child benefit payments to families with children, wage subsidies for small employers, assistance for people unable to work due to the pandemic, and tax relief measures.

An earlier version granted Mr Trudeau’s cabinet far-reaching powers to tax and spend without parliamentary approval for up to 21 months.

This prompted sharp criticism from opposition parties.

Mr Trudeau’s Liberal Party lead a minority government and need the support of other parties in order to pass legislation.