Canada’s business leaders welcome today’s emergency response package to help Canadians cope with the economic consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic. More aid will almost certainly be needed in the weeks and months ahead, but the plan outlined this morning by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau represents an important first step in providing much-needed financial assistance to individuals, families and employers. We strongly agree with Finance Minister Bill Morneau: the immediate need is to ensure “that Canadians can keep food in the fridge, that they can keep a roof over their heads, that they can afford the medicine that they need.” As the situation evolves, we encourage the government to learn from the experiences of other countries in extending targeted financial support to businesses that would otherwise be forced to reduce their workforces.

We also congratulate the government on its responsible and measured approach to managing the Canada-U.S. border. It makes eminent sense at this time to restrict discretionary travel while ensuring that trade and essential workers continue to flow in both directions. At a practical level, we recognize there will be challenges at the border in distinguishing between essential and non-essential workers. We strongly encourage the Canada Border Services Agency to stay in close contact with companies – including many in the energy and health sectors – that depend on U.S.-based expertise to maintain vital services to Canadians.

We want to underscore what we said yesterday: Canada’s overarching priority now must be to deal with the health crisis. A fragmented response, with different rules and guidelines in different parts of the country, can only result in confusion and uncertainty. Governments at all levels must act in concert, providing clear and consistent direction to all Canadians on managing the virus.