No SARS aid for business, PM says


Andem
Free Thinker
#1
No SARS aid for business, PM says
Chretien and his cabinet in city to show solidarity with citizens


JAMES MCCARTEN
CANADIAN PRESS

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien says small businesses hurt by the outbreak of SARS in the Toronto area are not part of the federal government's recovery plan right now.

Following a cabinet meeting held in Toronto today, Chrétien said that it's "complex to evaluate between (the effect of) SARS and economic difficulty."

"When we have a problem of that nature we look at what can be done," Chrétien said after the meeting at the Royal York Hotel.

"The economic consequences will affect not only Toronto, but all of Canada ... At this moment we're looking at what we can do collectively with the provincial government and the municipality to bring back Toronto as it is as an effective place to visit."

He repeated, however, that a number of measures are being taken to help those affected by SARS in Canada's largest city, including mortgage assistance and EI benefits for part-timers and self-employed workers.

The waiting period for EI coverage those affected by SARS would be speeded up, and there would be assistance for part-time and self-employed health workers unable to work because of SARS, Chrétien said. These are people who would not normally be covered by employment insurance benefits.

In addition, Chrétien said the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. would offer assistance to those having trouble with mortgage payments because they were affected by severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Meanwhile, the cracks in Ottawa's united front against SARS widened Tuesday as Liberal leadership hopeful Sheila Copps continued to assail Health Minister Anne McLellan's handling of Canada's SARS crisis.

At a time when Canadians were yearning for leadership and reassurance, McLellan was all but absent, Copps said Tuesday before the cabinet meeting.

"The government of Canada should have had a strong spokesperson out there speaking to the people," Copps said. "What's been lacking is the confidence of a voice from the government, and it's a voice that should have been coming from Anne McLellan."

It was the second straight day of broadsides from Copps, who on Monday accused McLellan of being "absent from the (SARS) file."

For her part, the health minister wasn't taking the bait.

"We've come a long way in six weeks, but we've got to stay vigilant," she said. "We have to make sure we put in place a lessons-learned exercise ... because we know there are going to be other public health situations in the months and years ahead."

McLellan heaped praise on public-health officials and hospital staff in Toronto for the work they've done in containing a virus that's proven very difficult to control.

"The people on the ground, public-health officials in this city, have done a remarkable job under very tough circumstances."

A "national public-health infrastructure" will likely be one of the Canadian legacies of SARS, she suggested.

Copps, meanwhile, appeared to have found some support from provincial officials in her criticism of how Ottawa handled the outbreak.

Ontario Premier Ernie Eves, who has also been criticized for being slow to act, said the province has been asking "from the very first day" for fortified airport screening measures in order to prevent sick people from spreading the disease in Canada and beyond.

Eves met before the cabinet meeting with Chrétien and Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman to discuss the devastating effects SARS has had on the city's tourism and hospitality industry.

Ottawa, he said, is willing to help.

"We're all on the same page and wavelengths in terms of advertising and helping out to restore Toronto's economic activity," Eves said after the meeting ended.

He wouldn't confirm reports that Ontario's cabinet will consider a SARS assistance package, including payments to public-health agencies leading the fight and a $100-million global marketing campaign to lure tourists back to Toronto.

Meanwhile, Canadian officials were in Europe in a bid to persuade the World Health Organization that Toronto is a safe place to visit.

Ontario Health Minister Tony Clement, Ontario's chief medical officer of health Colin D'Cunha and Dr. Barbara Yaffe, an infectious disease specialist for the city of Toronto, petitioned WHO officials in Geneva on Tuesday to lift the Toronto travel advisory.

Eves said he was "hopeful" the advisory would be lifted.
 
Andem
Free Thinker
#2
Now tell me.... Why the hell does the Canadian government give aid to Air Canada and other LARGE corporations and yet they refuse to assist smaller companies in a time of serious need?

The provincial and municipal governments can only do so much... especially when Toronto _IS_ the center of the universe!!
 

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