Canada ready to spend C$14 billion to get people back to work safely, PM Trudeau says

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is ready to spend C$14 billion ($10.4 billion) to help people get back to work safely as the coronavirus pandemic restrictions are gradually lifted, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.

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“To really move forward, we need a Canada-wide plan on safely and effectively restarting the economy,” Trudeau said in his daily news conference.

The funds are part of a “safe restart agreement” with the 13 provinces and territories, which is still being worked on and which will cover the next “critical six to eight months,” the prime minister said.

The Friday announcement signals a shift by the federal government from supporting Canadians and businesses hurt by pandemic closures toward getting the economy rolling again.

The spread of the novel coronavirus in Canada has slowed significantly in the past two weeks, according to public health data, and provinces have been gradually opening back up.

On Friday, coronavirus-related deaths edged up 1.4% from a day earlier to total 7,652, according to official data.

Ottawa is already on track to spend C$300 billion, or 15% of gross domestic product, on wage subsidies, monthly income support for the jobless, and other measures meant to help bridge the crisis.

Trudeau did not provide a detailed breakdown of how the C$14 billion would be spent. He did say some was for providing personal protective equipment to healthcare workers and to businesses so people can get back to work.

Some money will go to cities and municipalities that have been providing essential services during the pandemic while their revenue has decreased dramatically, Trudeau said, and childcare services would also get some.

It also could help provide sick pay to those who do not now receive it from their employers, and to help seniors and long-term care homes hard hit by the virus.

Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Bill Berkrot