The federal government said Wednesday that it will use powers under the Quarantine Act to ensure that travellers returning from other countries are subject to a mandatory 14-day self-isolation upon their arrival. Health Minister Patty Hajdu made the announcement while speaking to the Senate, saying the measures came into place at midnight Wednesday.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at a separate news conference that it will be a “legal obligation” for those returning to Canada to self-isolate, adding that essential workers will be excluded.
Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government will provide workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with $2,000 per month for the next four months to help them pay their rent and buy groceries.
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News is currently dominated by the COVID-19 outbreak. For a full rundown, you can subscribe to our Coronavirus Update newsletter (sign up here). Here are some stories that speak to the political and governmental response.
Following a late night of talks between parties, the House of Commons approved emergency legislation in the early hours of Wednesday morning authorizing billions in new spending for workers and businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The bill’s passage came after the Liberal government abandoned controversial plans to give cabinet special powers through to 2022.
The Senate passed the government’s emergency aid legislation Wednesday afternoon. The bill now awaits royal assent.
The need for government support is growing, as nearly one million Canadians applied for unemployment benefits since the beginning of last week. A source familiar with the data confirmed that the government received an estimated 929,000 Employment Insurance claims from March 16 to 22. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the source because they were not authorized to share the information.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde told The Globe his organization has declared a state of emergency to ensure there is a heightened level of awareness from all governments about concerns over the coronavirus in First Nations communities.
The government’s emergency coronavirus legislation includes measures that could help auto parts makers retool their factories to produce life-saving ventilators for desperately ill COVID-19 patients. The legislation would amend Canada’s Patent Act to grant the federal Health Minister new powers to authorize the manufacture of patented inventions “to respond to the public health emergency" and provides an additional $500-million for the provinces that could be used to purchase medical equipment.
Canadians desperate to return home from abroad are hiding their symptoms from officials so they can board flights back to Canada, according to a report by CBC News.
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the government’s panicky legislative power grab: "It seems likely that finance officials wanted all those extra powers because they’re not only worried about the unpredictability of the future, they’re uncertain about the adequacy of what they have already done. The economic package in the legislation going before Parliament doesn’t put Canada firmly ahead of the curve.”
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on a wartime economy: “Good policy ideas that are, for one reason or another, politically impractical at most times often become possible in crises, when the risks and rewards of experimentation are seen rather differently. The baby bonus came out of the Second World War. Perhaps some form of basic income will be the legacy of ‘World War C.’”
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the end of Open Canada: “Logically, there should be no change in attitudes toward immigration as a result of the pandemic. But logic doesn’t always guide public policy. Sometimes, policies are governed by fear. Politicians in all parties need to fight that fear by supporting a return to wide-open immigration once this pandemic has passed.”
Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on a method in Trump’s madness: “In trying to save the economy while limiting the impact of the virus he is trying to have the best – or least worse – of both worlds. If carried out with great care, expertise and efficiency his plan could work. Given that his administration is more noted for dysfunction and malfunction, fears that it could grievously backfire on both counts are well placed.”
John Ivison (The National Post) on the Liberals’ opportunistic approach to coronavirus bill: “Could it be that the Liberals saw in the current health crisis the means of saving themselves the exasperation of having to horse-trade with their opponents? Was it as simple as them not being able to resist the temptation to bypass the country’s principal democratic institution, which they appear to see as little more than an inconvenience?”