Tuesday March 17, 2020 ~ NATIONAL
by Mary Brooke ~ West Shore Voice News
Today in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided what seemed like a relatively soft update on the COVID-19 situation in Canada, but saying that an economic update is coming tomorrow from Finance Minister Bill Morneau, specifically “a package to help Canadians”.
But much is going on behind the scenes and more might evolve on a much broader and deeper scale, with Trudeau saying his government is looking for “a way of enacting measures – looking at the Emergencies Act” to see “what is available or other ways without having to bring in a state of emergency”.
Legal and public health experts have said the federal government could use the act to declare what is known as a “public welfare emergency” which can be declared when “on reasonable grounds” a public welfare emergency exists and there is the need to take special temporary measures to deal with it.
Saying that dealing with the pandemic is a “difficult situation”, Trudeau commented about how governments and the entire society and economy are responding to personal, health and socioeconomic scenarios of the COVID-19 pandemic: “This is the defining global health crisis of our time.”
“We don’t know how long this will take. It could be weeks it could be months,” Trudeau said during his televised press conference held out front of his residence in Ottawa this Tuesday morning on St Patrick’s Day. Trudeau has been self-isolating since last week, since the day before his wife’s COVID-19 test results came back positive.
Trudeau reiterated about how incoming Canadians are being dealt with at airports and borders, saying all Canadians should come home. There will be some financial support of up to $5,000 for Canadians stuck abroad who cannot get back to Canada (whether because they have COVID-19 symptoms or flights are not available from where they are). The emergency loan system set up by Global Affairs Canada will provide up to $5,000 to Canadian citizens or permanent residents abroad who are seeking to come home or to help cover costs should they have to wait to get back.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau will be delivering more details tomorrow about financial supports for individuals, businesses and communities across the country. This is on top of $1 billion in funds to the provinces as announced last week to help the provinces bolster and supply their health care systems to deal with an onslaught of COVID-19 cases in hospitals.
Trudeau asked Canadians to “engage in social distancing, to care for loved ones, and don’t go out unless you absolutely have to”.
He said he had met earlier with a special cabinet committee on COVID-19 to discuss the government’s response, and that he will speak with his full cabinet this afternoon.
Briefly, Trudeau also mentioned — important but also as an incidental — that Parks Canada will be suspending visitor services at all national parks and historic sites. While Canadians may enjoy being outdoors (in ways apart from others) the national parks are not the place for that during the pandemic.
After his short appearance at the podium, Trudeau took questions. Then other aspects of COVID-19 updating were presented by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and other cabinet ministers at a separate press conference, televised immediately afterward (link to come).