By Alex P. Vidal
“Where human lives are concerned, time is always short, yet the world has witnessed the vast resources that governments can draw upon to rescue financial institutions deemed ‘too big to fail.’”— Pope Benedict XVI
FILIPINO nurse Marjorie Carnaje described as “tears of joy” her emotional reaction to the announcement made by Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa that the federal government would deploy up to $82 billion in direct spending and deferred taxes to help every Canadian get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Nagtulo gid ang luha ko (I really shed tears). It’s tears of joy. Prime Minister Trudeau is really supportive of all the Canadians,” hissed Carnaje, 52, a registered nurse in Toronto.
Health authorities estimated the novel coronavirus could overwhelm Canada’s hospitals if it spread freely.
Most people suffer relatively manageable symptoms, such as fevers and coughs, but a small percentage of people who get COVID-19 needed intensive care, sometimes for weeks.
More than 25 million people around the world have tested positive for the virus and 2.75 million were known to have died from it as of this writing.
Carnaje said there are now 952,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 22,790 deaths.
Carnaje, a mother of two, just arrived in Toronto after a month of vacation in Cabatuan, Iloilo, or just in time when Canada banned all non-citizens and permanent residents from entering the Canadian territory because of the novel coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
She became a Canadian citizen in 2018 after working as a nurse in a private hospital in Brampton, Canada’s ninth-largest city in Ontario, for 10 years.
Carnaje, who worked in Singapore and Saudi Arabia before coming to Canada, spent the morning in her flat watching Trudeau who delivered the “good” news in a conference with reporters from the capital city of Ottawa.
“In these extraordinary times our government is taking extraordinary measures,” Trudeau said. “Public health should never hinge on financial considerations.”
The package was reportedly aimed at ensuring people can do what they need to do to protect their health and that of others without fear of not being able to feed their families or pay their rent or mortgages, the prime minister said.
Carnaje said the unprecedented financial-aid package helped health workers like her and all Canadian citizens as they grappled and made adjustments financially while the world faced economic uncertainty owing to the coronavirus attack.
It also reportedly beefed up Canada Child Benefit payments for families and GST tax credits for low- and middle-income earners, provide a wage subsidy for small businesses to help them keep staff on the payroll during the slowdown, pause Canada Student Loan payments for six months and establish emergency benefits for people who don’t qualify for employment insurance.
Under the package, there would be support for shelters that house the homeless or people fleeing gender-based violence, to ensure they can help people and manage the need for some to self-isolate.
A separate fund to help First Nation, Inuit and Metis communities respond to COVID-19 was also part of the package.
The single biggest item that Carnaje likes most was the deferment of tax payments last year, accounting for an estimated $55 billion.
“As we very well know, ‘tis the season for tax payment,” she sighed.
Canadian businesses and individuals who owe tax money after today will be able to put off paying it until after August.
The government also reportedly moved the deadline for filing taxes but was encouraging those who receive benefits from the GST credit or the child benefit to file as soon as possible to get access to the additional funds available under those programs.
The government had also announced a $1-billion fund to help Canada respond to the virus, including funds for the health-care system.
“It’s great to be a Canadian in times of coronavirus,” Carnaje said.