TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday his government is deferring tax payments until August, providing a wage subsidy for small businesses and pausing student loan payments as part of massive stimulus package to limit economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

Trudeau said the government is focused on making sure Canadians have the money they need to support their families, buy groceries and pay the rent. Up to $82 billion Canadian (US$56.4 billion) is being spent. The money is about 3% of Canada’s gross domestic product.

Trudeau said he will provide employers of small businesses with a temporary wage subsidy equal to 10% of the salary paid to employees for a period of three months. He said that will encourage employers to keep staff on the payroll.

“No matter who you are or what you do, this is a time when you should be focused on your health and that of your neighbors,” Trudeau said. “Not whether you’re going to lose your job. Not whether you’re going to run out of money for things like groceries and medication.”

The prime minister said those who have filed their taxes and find out that they owe money will have until August to pay. There will also be six-month, interest-free moratorium on their Canada Student Loans as well as other measures.

Trudeau made the announcement outside his residence, where he is self isolating after his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, tested positive for the virus after returning from a trip to London. Trudeau said she is OK, but is experiencing flu-like symptoms and headaches. He said he and his three children are not showing symptoms.


Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said younger people, in their 30s, are becoming seriously ill from the virus, needing ventilators. Elliott said they’re seeing that in Ontario and also New York.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s top public-health doctor, said to expect the virus to stick around for a long time.

British Columbia and the city of Vancouver declared a state of emergency and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart threatened to take action if panic buying continues.

“We have seen empty shelves and panic shopping in the last few days. This is unacceptable,” Stewart said.

He said all public serving businesses will close except those who can offer takeout and delivery.