Canada’s Trudeau to look at possible further aid for airlines, after Air Canada layoffs

FILE PHOTO – Air Canada signage is pictured at Vancouver’s international airport in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ben Nelms

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Saturday he would look at possible ways to help airlines further, but laid out no new measures after the country’s biggest airline announced mass layoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Air Canada said on Friday it would cut its workforce by up to 60% as the airline tries to save cash amid the COVID-19 pandemic and adjust to a lower level of traffic.

“This pandemic has hit extremely hard on travel industries and on the airlines particularly,” Trudeau said in a briefing in Ottawa. “That’s why we’re going to keep working with airlines, including Air Canada, to see how we can help even more.”

Canada has already put in place a wage subsidy to try to keep more Canadian workers on payrolls, and recently announced loans for large employers.

Trudeau sidestepped questions about whether his government may take an equity stake in Air Canada to help it survive, and whether its layoffs suggest the wage subsidy is not working.

Canada’s coronavirus death toll rose 1.7% to 5,595 from the previous day, reflecting a declining mortality rate. Total cases rose to nearly 75,000.

Trudeau also said his government had approved the first Canadian clinical trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, at Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Diane Craft and Matthew Lewis