Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a break from updating the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to announce that his government is immediately banning the use of all military “assault-style” weapons in Canada.
In a press conference today held alongside Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair, Justice Minister David Lametti and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Trudeau announced that the government would use its regulatory powers to ban 1,500 military-grade weapons.
Trudeau began the press conference by remembering the moment he first learned about the 1989 École Polytechnique shooting in Montreal, where Marc Lepine gunned down 14 female engineering students using a semi-automatic rifle. Trudeau, 17 years old at the time, recalled being shocked by the incident: “I couldn’t understand that such an act of violence toward women could happen in a country such as ours.”
Trudeau also listed off the many mass shootings that have taken place since, many of which were carried out using assault-style firearms, including the recent Nova Scotia tragedy that killed 22.
Blair said that assault-style weapons have become “more and more prevalent on the Canadian market.” Saying that shooting rampages are carried out by “evil people wielding powerful guns,” he said that we must ban “guns that belong on a battlefield and not on our streets.”
Lametti explained that there will be a two-year amnesty period for those who legally own assault-style weapons to comply with the new regulations. During that time, however, they will not be allowed to buy, sell, transport or use them. And by the end of the amnesty period, all “owners will have to be in compliance with the prohibition.”
Freeland noted that the victims of many shootings are women and girls. “Femicide has long been a scourge in our society. We must stop it. In saying no to assault-style weapons, we are putting feminist ideas into practice. We are acting to ensure that our sisters, our mothers, our grandmothers our daughters – that all women who have been victimized, frightened, threatened, harmed, brutalized and killed by gun violence – have not suffered in vain.” —Peter Muggeridge
Trudeau said that the “civility, compassion and courage” of our Armed Forces are a “concrete expression of our valour and values.” He praised the Armed Forces for “always putting their shoulders to the wheel,” whether battling terrorism, supporting peace-keeping missions overseas or helping out in long-term care homes in Canada. “The men and women of the Armed Forces stand tall,” he said. “They step toward danger so the rest of us can stay safe.”
Gen. Vance said that the helicopter’s crew was taking part in “inter-ship training,” part of the Navy’s Operation Reassurance mission that was being carried out with NATO allies and due to end in July. He said at the current time, he doesn’t know the reason the helicopter went down on its way back to the HCMS Fredericton.
“To salute Canadians doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Trudeau noted that, starting this weekend in Nova Scotia, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds will begin a cross-country tour of air shows. “As we watch the Snowbirds fly over our homes, let’s remember we are all in this together,” he said.
Trudeau also announced that the federal and provincial governments have agreed on a set of guidelines on how each region will begin to re-open their economies. He described the guidelines as a “road map” that should allow provinces to “keep their citizens safe while looking at ways to re-open the economy safely.”
However, Trudeau would not set out a timeline on when this will happen, instead saying that that decision will be up to the provinces and largely depend on how well they are coping with COVID-19 outbreaks.
But he added that he was happy to see the provincial and federal governments working so well together. “It’s not often in this federation that the provinces and federal government can come together as collaboratively as we have. We’re working together with common goals. It’s something to note and something to celebrate.”
The prime minister noted that after the press conference he would make his way to the House of Commons, where an in-person sitting was scheduled today. He said he hoped to pass the $9 billion Canada Emergency Student Benefit.
However, the program’s passage is no slam-dunk as all the opposition parties have objections that could change the shape of the legislation. In spite of this, Trudeau expressed confidence that he would get the bill through. “We’ve been working with the opposition parties on legislation that will get this help to young people as quickly as possible,” he said.
As some provinces (Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, in particular) begin loosening public health restrictions with an eye toward gradually re-opening their economies, which have been shuttered since mid-March, Trudeau said he is working closely with the premiers on “shared guidelines” for how that will proceed.
But he warned Canadians that “different provinces and territories will be able to move at a different pace” on restarting their economies and that people must continue to adhere to local guidelines no matter what is going on in different provinces. “If we get this wrong, everything we have done, everything we have sacrificed these past weeks could be in vain. We need to ensure we do this safely based on the best scientific advice.”
While highlighting the importance of planning a co-ordinated national approach to gradually restarting economies, Trudeau was quick to point out that the timing of such moves will ultimately be up to the provinces. “The provinces have the authority to determine what is in their best interest,” he said.
When asked whether the shortage of personal protective equipment (masks, shields and gloves) and a shortage of test kits will prevent certain sectors of the economy to even consider re-opening, Trudeau pointed out that recent shipments from China as well as increased domestic production will help out. “Every single day, we’re ramping up our supplies of personal protective equipment. We know there’s going to be increased demand. That’s one of the things: will there be enough PPE for various sectors?”
The prime minister also announced that Parliament will finally resume meeting, with a virtual sitting on Tuesday and an in-person sitting on Wednesday. “It is our intention to move forward with that legislation to help students,” he said. “Over the weekend, we discussed the situation with the other parties, and we’re working with them to get that legislation passed.”
He noted that today businesses can begin applying for the government’s $73 billion wage subsidy program, which will cover up to 75 per cent of wages for qualifying businesses. “It means helping employers not just stay afloat through a tough time but be ready to gear back up when things get better,” said Trudeau.
Cautioning that “we’re not out of the woods yet” and that “we’ve got a long way to go,” Trudeau confirmed that a “gradual approach” must be followed in order to ensure that “the progress achieved has not been lost.”
And before we see any kind of return to normalcy, there must be significant co-ordination at the national level to “establish principles and recommendations to ensure the safety of Canadians,” he said, explaining why it will not happen overnight. “It has to be done one step at a time. If you do not want us to start from scratch, every single person must continue to be vigilant and to follow public health recommendations.”
The government, he continued, is observing the challenges that Singapore, South Korea and Japan is currently facing in re-opening their economies and reinforced that, in order to come out of this “moment of hibernation,” we must remain vigilant and “be very, very careful” before undertaking the next big step.
“Though many seniors continue to have the same fixed income they get from the government, there are concerns about their long-term savings,” he said. “We also recognize that the cost of living has gone up for seniors as they are facing challenges because COVID-19 targets seniors to a great degree.”
Trudeau also fielded numerous questions concerning the number of deaths at elder care homes in Canada due to the COVID-19 outbreak. He said the government is prepared to offer help when asked by the provinces, as it did last week when it sent medical personnel from the Canadian Armed Forces into Quebec. However, because elder care falls under provincial jurisdiction, he said the government could only react if requested by the provinces.
But Trudeau did say his government was working with provinces to support low-paid workers in long-term care. ” I think the larger question we’re all facing is an understanding that the people who care for the most vulnerable are themselves quite vulnerable.”
The prime minister also announced a new program that would give charities more resources to continue to do the “crucial work to help our communities.” The $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund will inject money to support charities and non-profit organizations. The bulk of the money will flow through national organizations like the United Way and the Red Cross to “train volunteers, increase deliveries at home for seniors or provide transportation services for people with a disability.”
Trudeau also confirmed the new border-closing agreement would follow the same mechanisms as the first. “We expect that essential goods, medical services and other items will continue to cross the border between our two countries,” he said.
With today’s announcement, Canadians should not expect to travel to the U.S. anytime soon. “We will continue to remain vigilant on our borders,” said Trudeau. “Non-essential travel across the border will not be permitted.” The prime minister would not put a date on when the borders would open, saying he expected “we will keep them in place for many, many weeks to come.”
Trudeau also answered questions about reconvening Parliament, noting that the Liberal plan is to have Parliament meet once a week “in a modified way” while they sort out a working concept for a virtual Parliament. However, he said one opposition party he didn’t name (but was obviously referring to the Conservatives) was raising objections to the government’s planned course of action and was holding up the agreement.
The Prime Minister further unveiled another big spending program that will see $962 million start flowing through regional development agencies to help those not covered by the wage subsidy relief program, such as innovators, entrepreneurs and start-ups.
And, he said the government will also provide $500 million dollars to Heritage Canada to support art, culture and sports not able to receive announced government assistance. “People who work in the arts, cultural and sports sectors share their passions with us and allow us to dream,” said Trudeau.
Moving on to government relief efforts to help small businesses, Trudeau said that since the government’s programs were announced, 195,000 small-business loans have been approved, amounting to about $7.5 billion. He also said his government was changing the eligibility rules to receive an interest-free loan through the Canada Emergency Business Account, widening it to help more companies.
And he announced that rent relief is coming for small business owners who cannot pay their landlords due to COVID-19 revenue loss. The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program will provide loans to commercial property owners so they can lower the rent small businesses will have to pay in April, May, and June.
Responding to the now daily questions about when the COVID-19 restrictions will be eased and the economy can begin operating again, Trudeau warned Canadians, “I don’t think we can talk about reopening it yet.”
Nor would he elaborate on what conditions would have to be met to allow the provinces to push the button to restart the economy, saying that that will depend on how well different regions are dealing with the outbreak. While acknowledging that conversations with the premiers about when the economy can start up are ongoing, he cautioned, “We’re going to need to be extremely vigilant, extremely prepared,” in the event of multiple outbreaks. “We can’t open things until we have a plan in place,” he adds.
Trudeau was also asked about comments made last night by U.S. President Donald Trump, who hinted that travel restrictions between the two countries could be eased soon. Trudeau responded, “We’re still weeks away from talks of opening the border.” He was quick to add that relations between the two countries have been “exemplary” on most issues but as to when the border might re-open, he said there’s still “a need to protect our citizens, as every country is doing.”
Trudeau also mentioned that he spoken to G-7 leaders about international efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. When asked whether Trump’s criticism of the way the World Health Organization came up in the phone call, Trudeau would only say that most leaders continue to recognize that the WHO plays an important role in coordinating the world’s response to the pandemic. —Peter Muggeridge
“For many workers [or “heroes” as he called them] looking after the most vulnerable Canadians, including seniors and those with disabilities, we know conditions have gotten more difficult over the past few weeks. You need support right now,” said the prime minister.
Calling long-term care workers “our most important line of defence,” Trudeau said he will call on the premiers to put a “wage boost in place as quickly as possible.” And he assured these low-paid, over-worked health-care workers that the government “will help you do your job and support you through this time.”
When asked whether his government had considered sending in the armed forces to help out in under-staffed seniors homes – like Résidence Herron in Montreal where 30 patients died during a COVID-19 outbreak, while many workers abandoned their jobs and left the remaining patients unfed and unwashed – Trudeau said it’s up to the provinces to make a request and that assistance will be provided “when it’s required and necessary.”
When asked whether the his government could assist provinces in overcoming a dire shortage of staff in seniors facilities, Trudeau suggested that his government would consider sending money to the provinces to help cover the cost of hiring new workers. He felt that by offering staff higher wages, as they are currently doing in Quebec, workers might be “motivated and encouraged financially to continue caring for our most vulnerable.”
Trudeau began his press conference by announcing a $130 million aid package to northern communities to help them deal with COVID-19, including support for small businesses, assurance that food and essential goods remain in good supply and for the region’s health-care needs.
He also announced that four planes carrying N-95 masks have landed in Canada, and the masks will begin making their way to the various provinces along with domestically produced test kits. And he said that his government was increasing enforcement of the Quarantine Act to all people returning to Canada – if they can’t provide border officials with a “credible quarantine plan” at home, they will have to isolate in hotels for two weeks.
Poilievre illustrated this point by saying that businesses are facing “a real crisis,” because they not only must make wage payments but also cover rent, utilities and sundry other expenses at a time when “revenue has dropped to zero.” And he warned that “time is running out to save them.”
In order to offset this impending disaster and save millions of businesses from going under, Poilievre said the government must make changes to the Canada Emergency Business Account, which right now provides up to $40,000 in interest-free loans to SMEs.
Instead, he said that the Conservatives are proposing that the $40,000 loans fall far short of what companies need to pay the bills. Instead, they should be unlimited. Under his plan, companies would be able to apply for immediate loans through banks and credit unions (available in days rather than weeks) and that companies can pay these emergency loans back with the money they receive when the wage subsidy program finally starts flowing.
The Liberals hope the wage subsidy will encourage businesses to keep its employees on the payroll by guaranteeing up to 75 per cent of all qualifying employee wages up to $58,700. This will account for up to $847 per week, per employee for up to 12 weeks. The subsidy is retroactive to March 15. Qualifying businesses will have to show that they have lost 15 per cent of their revenue in March or 30 per cent in April or May.
The wage subsidy’s passage was in doubt yesterday with the Conservative Opposition threatening to hold up the bill until all parties could come to an agreement about how Parliament will meet in the near future. However, this morning, the Conservatives agreed to put off making a final decision on this and instead focus on passing the wage relief program.
The difficult news: not only are the cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise and the death toll mounting but the economic shutdown measures taken to fight the disease are causing severe job losses – putting more than one million Canadians were out of work in March. On top of this, federal spending on relief programs could cause our deficit to balloon to more than $180 billion this year alone.
However, the prime minister drew inspiration from today being the anniversary of Vimy Ridge, and he remembered those soldiers who fell at this First World War battle. “Thousands of Canadians gave their lives so the world would know peace,” said the prime minister. “They fought to defend the values we hold dearly. It was a moment when ordinary people did extraordinary things.”
He said their legacy lives on today in the “women and men who continue to step up and serve us” – especially doctors and nurses – “who put themselves in harm’s way for us to stay healthy.”
Alluding to pandemic modelling figures that were released today, Trudeau said “our health-care systems across the country are coping for the time being.” But, he added, “we’re now at a fork in the road between the best and worst possible outcomes.”
He suggested that in the best scenario, we’ll reach the initial peak of the pandemic – “the top of the curve” – by late spring, with the end of the first wave occurring by the end of the summer. However, he cautioned that there will likely be smaller outbreaks after that. “This will be the new normal until we discover a vaccine.”
For those who are growing impatient with living under public health restrictions for the next while, Trudeau said, “I know it isn’t easy, but it won’t last forever. Eventually we will be able to go back to restaurants, parks and movie theatres. But in order to do that, everyone has to do their share now and in the ensuing weeks.”
However, Trudeau said he was confident that the disease will be easier to manage when these mini-outbreaks do arrive. “We will have developed knowledge and equipment, and Canadians will have developed the habit of implementing preventative safety measures.”
Trudeau felt that once we get through the first wave, “We’ll be able to open the economy somewhat. At that point in time, we’ll have a bit of an economic relaunch.” However, once again, he would not speculate when that will happen. But, he said, “there is a light at the end of this tunnel – if we are able to minimize this wave of COVID-19.”
Trudeau also responded to news from earlier today that the Conservative government would only pass the wage subsidy relief legislation if the government agreed to the Conservative plan on how Parliament will be restructured going forward. Trudeau said his party is working to ensure democratic debate and accountability will return soon but that he hoped the “Official Opposition will choose to realize that we need to pass this [wage subsidy] legislation quickly.” —Peter Muggeridge
The prime minister then moved on to a barrage of questions regarding the government’s three-point COVID-19 relief program: loans for small businesses, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit and the wage subsidy program to help companies keep workers on the payroll.
In answer, Trudeau said he knew “there were going to be gaps” in the relief plan and that it was “impossible to have a perfect system.” However, he said the programs were rolled out in order to “reach the largest number of Canadians as quickly as possible.” He also promised that extra measures were on the way for those who slip through the cracks, including seniors and students whose prospects for summer jobs aren’t great.
Thanking the civil service for their “Herculean efforts” in getting the relief programs working, Trudeau also noted that Parliament would reconvene to iron out the details and pass legislation for the wage subsidy program. Because of this, he said, it could take three to six weeks before businesses start receiving the benefit so they can “rehire and pay their workers.” He implored businesses to “pull together in these difficult times so that our economy will come roaring back when the crisis passes.”
With regards to when the COVID-19 crisis will pass and restrictions will be eased, Trudeau said his government is right now planning a “measured and graduated” approach to how workers will begin returning to their jobs and the economy will start functioning again. But on the day when the Chinese government lifted the lockout in Wuhan, Trudeau couldn’t forecast when Canada would follow suit. And even when the immediate crisis passes, he said that because of the threat of future spikes of the disease, “Even when things get back to normal, they won’t be back to normal.”
The prime minister refused to say when the federal government would release their modelling projections, other than reiterating that “where we are on the curve” largely depends on how well Canadians continue to follow public health guidelines on social distancing and staying at home.
With today being World Health Day and National Caregiver Day, the prime minister used the opportunity to thank “health-care professionals and caregivers who are working day and night to keep us safe and care for our most vulnerable.” Noting that “our health care system is only as strong as the people it employs,” Trudeau offered his gratitude “for everything you have done for us.”
He noted that 3M had agreed to release 500,000 masks, which had been held up at the border, and said his government was “in touch with suppliers around the world.” He also announced that manufacturers here have struck a deal with the government to produce 30,000 “made-in-Canada” respirators, which should begin making their way off the assembly line in the coming weeks and months.
Trudeau said he hoped there wouldn’t be a need for so many respirators but that it was “better to be prepared for a worst-case scenario.” He deflected questions about Canada’s lack of preparedness for medical and protective equipment to deal with the outbreak, concluding, “We’re seeing now that the entire world was unprepared.”
When asked about whether he agreed with police forces and by-law officers who are issuing tickets to Canadians who don’t abide by COVID-19 self-isolation restrictions, Trudeau said, “I believe it is important for people to be motivated and encouraged to abide by the directives and need to know there are consequences when they don’t.” However, the prime minister said he also expects police forces to “use their good judgment about issuing tickets.” —Peter Muggeridge
And Trudeau also addressed the growing controversy of U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to block the shipment of masks and protective equipment to Canada. Earlier today, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that unless a blocked shipment of three million masks crosses the border, the province could run out of masks by the end of the week.
The prime minister said that his government has had “productive and positive conversations” with U.S. officials about the delayed shipments of crucial protective equipment. With mask shortage “a reality around the world,” Trudeau said, “we are expecting these shipments to be delivered.”
Trudeau announced that the government relief for those who’ve lost their jobs due to COVID-19 is finally beginning to flow. According the to the prime minister, 240,000 applications for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) have already been processed as of Monday morning and that the money will be in bank accounts in three to five days.
Applicants can apply online at Canada.ca. If you are unable to apply online, you can call 1-800-959-2041. The government is accepting applications based on the month you were born:
For those who aren’t covered by the CERB, Trudeau assured them they won’t slip through the cracks. “Whatever your circumstances are, we’re working hard to help you,” he said, making special mention of those who can’t benefit from the CERB or Wage Subsidy Program.
Ontario public health officials unveiled new provincial models for the COVID-19 pandemic this afternoon, projecting up to 80,000 new cases and 1,600 deaths in the month of April if current intervention and prevention techniques remain in place. The models show that the numbers of new provincial cases could drop as low as 12,500 and deaths as low as 200 with updated intervention and prevention techniques.
“We are following a trajectory somewhat similar to that in the United States, not quite as good currently as that as in British Columbia,” Dr. Peter Donnelly, president and CEO of Public Health Ontario, said during the press conference. He cautioned, though, saying, “When one tracks cases, it really is rather difficult to know where exactly you stand. You have to watch it extremely carefully because it is rather dependent on who you test for the disease.”
The charts also provided guidelines for future measures, which include:
To that end, Premier Ford announced the shutdown of more non-essential businesses including all industrial construction beginning on Saturday, April 4 at 11:59 p.m.. Critical construction projects, including the building of hospitals and necessary housing, will remain in operation, though Ford said new inspections of ongoing construction sites will take place and new inspectors added, with sites shut down if they don’t meet the required safety conditions. Essential services like grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open, as will restaurants doing delivery and pick up.
“We have thousands of nurses from Windsor who work in Detroit daily, and the Americans depend on them,” said Trudeau. “It would be a huge mistake for both countries to restrict staff and services across the border, both ways.”
The prime minister said his government was “working very closely with the Americans highlighting that the level of integration between our economies goes both ways. We are receiving essential supplies from the U.S. But the U.S. also receives essential supplies and products – and health-care professionals – from Canada.”
Another reporter pushed Trudeau on why his government, which has its own internal COVID-19 models, isn’t releasing them to the public. The prime minister said that when he talks to the premiers tonight, he will discuss “how to make sure all our various sources of data are aligned so that we can get more accurate models.” But before releasing this “sophisticated modelling work,” the government must ensure that it “makes sense” and “reflects what’s going to happen in Canada and various regions across the country.”
While infection-rate projections dominated today’s press conference, Trudeau also addressed other matters. He said he was “very concerned” with reports that medical supplies bound for Canada were being diverted to the U.S. Trudeau noted that his government was in contact with U.S. officials on the matter, saying, “We need to ensure that equipment destined for Canada makes its way to Canada.”
The prime minster again said that he didn’t feel it was yet necessary to use the federal Emergency Act to enforce Canadians to stay at home and self-isolate. He would consider such a move only when the provinces have exhausted all their powers they have in their respective emergency measures acts. —Peter Muggeridge
To begin receiving CERB payments, the prime minister explained, unemployed workers must register online at the government’s website, . For those who have already submitted a request for Employment Insurance, you do not have to register again. You should begin receiving your payments in three to five days by electronic deposit or 10 days by mail. If you are unable to register online, you can call the Canada Revenue Agency for help.
“Everyone will get their money,” promised Trudeau, adding that it is the largest economic program in our nation’s history. “Canada hasn’t seen this type of civic mobilization since the Second World War. These historic measures will help Canadians stay at home to defeat COVID-19.”
Earlier this morning, Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer noted in a press conference that many of the new measures being announced by the government are not contained in the original relief legislation Bill C-13, passed last week by Parliament. In response, Trudeau said he would reconvene Parliament so it could vote on the expanded plan. “This must be a Team Canada effort,” he said.
Trudeau also fielded questions about the wisdom of allowing Canadians who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to re-enter the country. Trudeau said the government would continue to allow Canadians to come home. “We want Canadians to come home. But we expect and demand that they self-isolate in rigorous conditions for two weeks. We would much rather people be at home rather than stranded elsewhere.”
The prime minister closed his press conference by appealing to all Canadians to “answer the call of duty” and “serve your country” by observing public health rules. “We must fulfill our collective responsibility to each other.”
“We know that the demand for critical equipment and supplies will grow in the coming weeks,” said the prime minister. “So we need a sustainable, stable supply of these products. We’re optimistic that they will be available in the coming weeks.”
Trudeau said that the government’s plan to mobilize industry to fight COVID-19 are bearing fruit. Many businesses responded by retooling their operations to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – surgical masks, face shields, respirators, hand sanitizers – for health care workers. He thanked the more than 3,000 companies that have “reached out to offer their help.”
As seniors are considered the group “most at risk,” Trudeau announced a $9 million package that would go toward ensuring that “community supports” — such as delivery of groceries, medications or other needed items — remain operating during the crisis. The money will be administered by the United Way Canada, which will funnel the money to local organizations that assist seniors in communities across Canada.
As part of the effort to help the vulnerable, Trudeau also announced further supports, including $150 million to help the homeless, $50 million for women’s shelters and sexual assault shelters and $7.5 million to Kids Help Phone to keep up with increased demand for mental health support.
Federal Seniors Minister Deb Schulte noted that while “physical distancing is essential to protecting seniors from COVID-19, it risks isolating them from their community.” She says that the new money will go toward making sure that older Canadians are not cut off from much needed supports in their communities and continue to receive help “tailored to the unique local needs of seniors across the country.”
The prime minister also noted that the Canadian Armed Forces are “gearing up to support communities as we fight COVID-19.” While the government hasn’t received any request from the provinces for military assistance, if that situation changes, “the Armed Forces will be prepared to answer the call as they have done throughout our history.”
During questions, Trudeau downplayed the mounting costs that battling COVID-19 is putting on the treasury, saying the important focus right now is on protecting Canadians, keeping health-care workers safe and making sure that everyone keep their jobs. “We will get through this. That’s what this is about,” he said.
When asked whether Canada was doing a better job than the U.S. in battling the spread of COVID-19, Trudeau said, “We are not on the same trajectory as the U.S.” because we were “quicker to get the screening done” and that we’ve had “more success in getting people to self-isolate.” But he admitted that, in a week or two, we will know whether “our efforts have borne fruit.”
Saying now is the time for “strong fiscal action,” Trudeau announced new measures that will allow companies to avoid laying off workers during a time when “the pandemic has destabilized the world economy.”
To help alleviate this anxiety, Trudeau said that financial aid will begin flowing, following the passage of the relief bill. This assistance will be available through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will provide $2,000 a month for the next four months for workers (full-time, contract or self-employed) who lose their income as a result of COVID-19, for those who are sick or quarantined or for those who are forced to stay at home to care for loved ones.
Trudeau said that the CERB application portal will be launched “as soon as possible” and that people will begin receiving money within 10 days of applying. In order to expedite claims, the civil service is deploying workers from different departments to process what will likely be a flood of CERB claims. Although a firm timeline isn’t in place, the first cheques should start going out by the first two weeks of April.
Other countries such as and are flowing economic relief directly to businesses so they do not have to lay off workers. Trudeau acknowledged that while his government is “working with small business groups and hearing their concerns” — and exploring models in Denmark and Germany — he feels that providing economic relief to individuals is the right way to go.
A stern Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued his strongest warning yet to those who do not heed public health advice to avoid groups of people, stay at least two metres away from everyone else and stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Nothing that could help is off the table,” he said, and that includes invoking the Emergencies Act, which gives the federal government sweeping powers that supercede any provincial and territorial legislation. The Emergencies Act, which replaced the War Measures Act in 1988, has not been used since.
Mayors and premiers across the country were in the news all weekend with pleas for residents to observe social distancing and self-isolation, with Nova Scotia restricting travel at its borders this morning. All travellers arriving by land, air or sea will be stopped, questioned and told to self-isolate for 14 days. In New Brunswick, Premier Blaine Higgs said he will discuss invoking the same measures with Trudeau this evening.
Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart met with city council today, announcing on Twitter, “The time for asking nicely is over.” Anyone violating a city order could now be subject to a fine of up to $50,000. “This is serious. Now is the time to shut down, stay put, save lives.” It comes after a weekend where residents packed parks, trails and beaches, and Stewart saying he even saw a group of people playing beer pong outside. “We will all need to be able to say, at the end of this, that we did our best to fight this,” he told the CBC’s Rosemary Barton this morning. “And right now we can’t.”
Trudeau also announced a new joint measure with the United States on people seeking asylum at borders, who will be turned back on both sides. Later in the day, Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair said the measure will help maintain “order and safety,” adding that it is “in line with Canadian values on the treatment of refugees.”
Trudeau assured Canadians that public servants are working around the clock to respond to an “historic number of calls” to Service Canada, the federal government’s central access for social programs. The number of people applying for employment insurance this week was already at 500,000 compared with 27,000 last week.
Manitoba also declared a state of emergency today, joining Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. The move gives provinces the power to enact measures like limiting public gatherings and closing non-essential businesses. Other provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I. Quebec and all three territories have declared public health emergencies, which, depending on their legislation, can give them similar powers to try to stop the transmission of COVID-19. As of Saturday morning, Canada had 1,087 confirmed and presumptive cases and 13 deaths.
At a press conference later in the day, a reporter got three answers to the same question. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam replied flatly, “Our recommendation is avoid all non-essential travel.” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland echoed Tam, saying: “Canadians should avoid all non-essential travel.” Minister of Health Patty Hajdu promptly followed Freeland, saying: “It’s very hard to predict what is going to happen globally and it’s important for Canadians to avoid non-essential travel.”