Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began his Thursday by joining a “virtual summit” of the Group of 20, where leaders discussed a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canada and other G20 countries pledged US$5-trillion in economic stimulus measures to fight the COVID-19 crisis, including a focus on support for “vulnerable countries” that don’t have the science or health systems to keep their populations safe. Speaking to reporters at his daily press conference, Mr. Trudeau said the G20 is “particularly well-suited to move forward on” a global response to the coronavirus outbreak.
According to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mr. Trudeau gave his support to a proposal at the G20 for economic stimulus and debt relief to help fight the pandemic. Mr. Ramaphosa appealed to the G20 to ensure that the rising wave of lockdowns and travel restrictions do not prevent medical equipment from reaching Africa.
During the press conference, Mr. Trudeau also said the government is urging Canada’s banks to lower interest rates on credit cards as a way of helping Canadians with the financial stresses caused by the coronavirus.
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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.
Prime Minster Justin Trudeau says Canada and the United States have discussed the possibility of putting American troops near the border. Mr. Trudeau was asked at his daily press briefing Thursday about a Global News report that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration wants to put military troops near the Canada-U.S. border over fears of the COVID-19 pandemic and border security.
Interim ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman, will become Canada’s new envoy in Washington. In a statement, Mr. Trudeau credited Ms. Hillman, a career diplomat, with playing an important role in Canada’s efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement, also known as the new NAFTA.
Canadian business groups are joining counterparts in the U.S. and Mexico in asking for a delay in the implementation of the new U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement, saying it’s unfair to ask companies to adjust to new rules during the coronavirus pandemic.
The federal government is urging Canadians abroad to come home on commercial flights while they still can, as it works on a longer-term plan to help citizens who are unable to return because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Rob Oliphant, parliamentary secretary to the Foreign Affairs Minister, said Canadians’ options to return home are “diminishing every hour.”
Ottawa is bracing for an influx of four million applications under a new relief fund that will pay $2,000 a month to workers who have lost income because of the coronavirus pandemic, even as the existing employment insurance program struggle to keep up with a recent surge of applications.
Canada shipped 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment to China last month to help Beijing fight the novel coronavirus, even after the World Health Organization had warned countries to prepare for possible cases. Critics are questioning the wisdom of exporting gear overseas just weeks before it was sorely needed in Canada, while the government says the shipment was an effort to collaborate with China in the fight against COVID-19.
Sarah Kendzior (The Globe and Mail) on the plague of Donald Trump: “Mr. Trump is untouchable in a world where human touch literally kills. If the U.S. is to survive the pandemic, we need more than medical intervention. We need to get rid of the host.”
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the Trump-Trudeau coronavirus collision course: “This means that in a few weeks, many Americans could go back to living their normal lives – while greatly increasing their risk of acquiring COVID-19 – even as Canadians continue to shelter in place. For two countries so intimately linked to take such polar-opposite approaches on this critical issue seems perverse. But we are on that path.”
Marcus Gee (The Globe and Mail) on Canada’s failure to save for a rainy day: “One of the many things we’ve learned from the pandemic crisis is the importance of saving for a rainy day. Canada has failed for many years to do so. Now it’s pouring outside, and both governments and individuals will struggle to cope.”
Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on the reckoning for Canada’s oil and gas sector: “The action taken by governments now will come into sharper focus in the months ahead, when lockdowns presumably are lifted and the global economy gears up. People will be champing at the bit to return to work. But the question remains: What will be left of the Canadian oil and gas sector?”
Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on Legault’s master class in crisis management: “In his daily briefings, Mr. Legault has managed to sound forceful, knowledgeable, empathetic and determined – all at the same time – while maintaining a folksy demeanour and down-to-earth sense of humour. When asked this week why he declared the province’s state-run liquor stores an essential service, Mr. Legault replied that many people use alcohol to manage their stress. He urged people to take a walk, instead. ‘But sometimes a glass of wine may help.’”