September 23, 2020 – Federal and provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic
Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Canadian and Québec governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Address to the nation
For one of the first times in Canadian history, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked for television airtime to address the nation, with the onset of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s address followed the throne speech by Governor General Julie Payette, a little earlier in the day.
The three other federal party leaders, Erin O’Toole of the Conservative Party, Yves-François Blanchet of the Bloc Québécois and Jagmeet Singh of the New Democratic Parity, also addressed the nation.
Second wave worse than the first
In this rare address, Prime Minister Trudeau warned Canadians that the second wave of the pandemic will be worse than the one that forced a general lockdown of the population in March.
The prime minister pointed out that on March 13, when the country went into lockdown, there had been 47 recorded cases of COVID-19 the day before. “Yesterday, we recorded more than 1,000,” he said, raising a warning flag.
“We’re on the edge of a precipice that is more serious than the one we experienced in the spring,” he said, adding that family gatherings for Thanksgiving will likely not be possible, but that there is still a chance that families will be able to gather for Christmas.
To get there, he reminded Canadians that they must follow Public Health guidelines, namely, physical distancing, wearing a mask, handwashing, getting a flu vaccination and limiting their social circle.
To assist with contact tracing, Mr. Trudeau called on citizens to download the free “Alert COVID” app from App Store or Google Play.
At a crossroads
“The country is at a crossroads,” and “the future is in our hands,” said the prime minister, much along the lines of the message delivered by the governor general earlier in the afternoon.
In the face of the pandemic, Mr. Trudeau stated that the actions taken today will make all the difference in what occurs in the next two weeks or two months.
He reiterated that now is not the time for parties: “No one is invincible. And your loved ones aren’t either. We cannot let our guard down, even in regions where there are few cases.”
Mr. Trudeau stated that our grandparents and our parents had to prove their resilience during the Great Depression and the Second World War, and the pandemic is “the fight of our generation.”
Now is not the time for austerity
During the Speech from the Throne of the 43rd session of Parliament, the governor general stated that “now is not the time for austerity” and that the government of Prime Minister Trudeau plans to continue to invest massively in order to support Canadians as they face the second wave of the pandemic.
Ms Payette announced that the government is using its financial capacity to invest in initiatives like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to support the economy in riding out the current storm.
The government is committed, in particular, to creating one million jobs by extending the Wage Subsidy until next summer, rather than terminating it by the end of the year. The subsidy will be allocated according to new parameters established by the Employment Insurance Commission.
Four levels of intervention
Prime Minister Trudeau stated that the government has defined four levels of intervention to deal with the second wave of the pandemic, namely, to protect people’s health, to provide financial assistance to Canadians during the pandemic, to combat social inequalities, and to fight climate change.
These levels of intervention include support for the provinces’ healthcare systems, the creation of a universal daycare program, a universal drug insurance program and support for businesses that produce zero emissions.
Disappointing for Québec
Québec Premier François Legault described the Speech from the Throne as “disappointing” because it did not respect provincial jurisdiction over health.