OTTAWA – The federal government is asking banks and credit-card companies to lower interest rates on Canadians struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is also looking at extending lower-interest credit directly to consumers.
The Bank of Canada has slashed its trend-setting interest rate to try to cushion the blow to business from a slowing economy, but credit-card interest rates, the ones that matter most directly to most consumers, remain high.
Speaking at his Ottawa residence this morning, Trudeau said Finance Minister Bill Morneau has been in talks with major banks about doing things to narrow the gap.
“We recognize that they are a significant challenge for many Canadians at this point,” Trudeau said. “That is why we are encouraging them to take action to alleviate the burden for Canadians.”
He added the government is spending billions on programs to help individuals pay their bills over the next few months as the novel coronavirus forces people out of work due to illnesses and enforced closures.
Trudeau said lowering the costs Canadians have to pay as they rely on borrowing to cover their expenses is another part of the effort.
“We are looking, on our end, at making credit more available and less expensive for Canadians to be able to make it through the next few months,” the prime minister said.