As the government drafted industry to supply it with arms in wartime, so too is Ottawa mobilizing manufacturers in the battle against COVID-19.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this morning the government’s plans are under way to allow makers of medical equipment to “scale up” their production, as well as helping suppliers of other goods retool so they can also make masks, ventilators and the like.
The move will help keep hospitals stocked and save lives, as well as keep people working in a time of sudden economic strife.
The resources sector, which is struggling with oil selling at below US$10 a barrel, is expecting more help from the government within days.
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News is dominated right now by the COVID-19 outbreak. For a full rundown, you can subscribe to our Coronavirus Update newsletter (sign up here). Here are a few stories that touch on the political and governmental response.
The Prime Minister signalled that Employment Insurance claims may have climbed to 500,000 in a week, as companies begin to lay off workers (except for Walmart). One question is how the government will cope with the sudden influx of Canadians needing these funds. The union representing Canada Revenue Agency workers says they are concerned whether bureaucrats can handle it.
The federal government will soon start rolling out $50-million in foreign aid in the fight against COVID-19. International Development Minister Karina Gould says she is concerned what could happen if the virus starts spreading within refugee camps.
One proposal circulating in industry circles to help small- and medium-sized businesses get through these tough times would be for the government and banks to work together to provide forgivable low- or zero-interest loans for six months.
And the United States and Mexico are negotiating to close their border to non-essential travel, in a deal mirroring the closing of the Canada-U.S. border. But what is “essential”? Families that live across the border are worried they could go weeks or months without seeing each other.
André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on a common misconception about the virus: “Among young adults who are infected, one in five ends up in hospital, one in eight ends up in ICU, and they account for one in five deaths. It is this group of seriously ill patients – many of them younger adults – who are going to push the health system to the brink in the coming weeks.”
Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on government budgets: “As bad as this month has been, it’s going to get worse. In Alberta, oil-producing companies have slashed their budgets and layoffs are soon to begin.”
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on politics in a crisis: “The coronavirus pandemic is turning into the worst crisis Canada has faced since the Second World War. Voters are anxious; many are frightened. They are counting on their federal and provincial governments to protect them from both the virus and the economic fallout. The partisan stripe of any government is irrelevant right now."
Elizabeth Renzetti (The Globe and Mail) on Angela Merkel’s leadership: “To modernize an old saying: Comes the day, comes the woman. While her critics are likely still grumbling that the Chancellor’s reaction to the crisis was too cautious and slow, it’s clear that a good proportion of Germans breathed a sigh of relief that Ms. Merkel is still in charge, 15 years after she first became leader. Especially when they look across Europe to the buffoonery of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and across the Atlantic to the bluster of U.S. President Donald Trump. She is on her way out, having said she won’t run again next year. So she’s a lame duck, but not roasted yet.”
Margaret Wente (The Globe and Mail) on this moment: “Our world has changed utterly in a week. Last week, COVID-19 was something that happened to other people somewhere far away. Last week, we could meet our friends for a cup of coffee, arrange play-dates for our children, go out for a meal, see our moms in the assisted-living home. This week, we’re wondering how some of our friends and family will get by. Their livelihoods are vanishing. Their old-age income is drying up. We are living in suspended animation, where the pleasures and routines and structures of ordinary life have been ripped from us, and nobody knows what will happen next. The future has become a black box.”
Doug Saunders (The Globe and Mail) on where we go from here: “A lasting collapse in economic growth, then, is the worst thing that could happen. Not only would it ruin the lives of millions of vulnerable people who were already in precarious straits, but it would starve us of the ability to make the investments needed to prevent the next big crisis, whether it’s epidemiological or ecological.”