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April 19, 2020 – Federal government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

In the exceptional circumstances of the current health state of emergency, here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the federal government in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, expressed his empathy for those affected by the tragedy in Portapique, Nova Scotia, which occurred a little earlier when a gunman opened fire, leaving multiple victims.

With regard to the pandemic, he stressed that the statistics indicate that we are heading in the right direction in reducing the spread of COVID-19. “Together, we will get through this. I would like to take a moment to convey my condolences to all the families affected by the pandemic,” he said.

Assistance for people with disabilities
The prime minister created a COVID-19 consultation group for people with disabilities to find solutions to their challenges, particularly with regard to access to healthcare, jobs and income.

“Our government hears you. We are continuing our efforts to make Canada more and more inclusive and equitable,” he said.

Economic measures
Canada’s leader mentioned that the emergency response programs that have been set up since the beginning of the pandemic have been gradually fine-tuned to respond to the needs of individuals, businesses and the provincial governments.

These measures include the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the loan guarantee programs for businesses. Over the last week, funds were added to help seasonal workers and people in the arts, sports, culture and energy sectors.

“We are also working with the provinces to increase the wages of front-line workers,” said Mr. Trudeau.

Canadian Armed Forces
Prime Minister Trudeau confirmed that the Canadian Armed Forces will lend assistance to two new communities in Québec, Nutashkuan and Ekwanshit, after having already been deployed in Nunavik and the Lower North Shore.

Monitoring foreign investment
Questioned about the vulnerability of Canadian businesses, Prime Minister Trudeau stressed the importance of protecting Canadian companies and industries from foreign investments in the current context.

This is particularly important in the context of the shortage of personal protective medical equipment and medications, to prevent “foreign investors from taking over our businesses in this sector and distributing their production to other countries,” he said.

House of Commons
Canada’s prime minister would like to avoid reconvening the House of Commons tomorrow morning with 338 MPs and their teams from across Canada. Various proposals are being considered so that fewer members can sit in Parliament and in a virtual format.

“It’s important to pursue our democratic activities during a crisis. We need a Parliament that is functioning, while respecting the recommendations of Public Health experts in the context of the pandemic,” he said.

Crisis preparedness
Questioned about the extent to which Canada was prepared for this pandemic, the prime minister stated, “We can never say that we are completely prepared for this type of crisis. We will learn from this. Even though we have had better results than other countries, this is a horrendous tragedy for many families.”

“At the same time, I know that Canadians and the different levels of government joined forces to stop the spread of the virus,” he added.

International inquiry
Mr. Trudeau is in favour of conducting an international inquiry to identify the origin of COVID-19.

“I think that it’s extremely important to understand what happened, to ask all of the countries involved some hard questions, including China. This investigation has to happen, but right now the priority is to protect the health and safety of all Canadians.”

Correctional facilities
Questioned about contagion in correctional facilities, Mr. Trudeau said that safety measures have been instituted, including reduced visits, fewer prisoner transfers and a staggered meal schedule.

Non-urgent surgeries
Prime Minister Trudeau stated that he has confidence in each province’s ability to continue to manage the situation in hospitals but that his government has transferred over half a billion dollars to the provinces to help them get through this crisis.

He reiterated that elective surgeries have been postponed so that there are enough hospital beds to care for Canadians infected with COVID-19, and to prevent the mortality rate from exploding. He added that we must exercise caution.

Reopening of businesses
The prime minister of Canada stressed that the reopening of the economy will be done slowly and gradually, under provincial supervision, because the pandemic has taken shape in different ways depending on the region.

“We have to be very careful not to bring on a second wave. We are listening to the experts and looking at what has worked in other countries. We are looking at the things that have worked elsewhere and how they can be applied in Canada,” he said.

A message to children
Prime Minister Trudeau mentioned National Volunteer Week, which starts tomorrow, and called on children to help their parents with housework, to help their brothers and sisters with their homework and to say hello to their grandparents on Facetime.