Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is recalling Parliament in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 that has shut down huge sections of the economy and placed a massive strain on the medical system.
“This must be a Team Canada effort. Governments of all orders across the country are stepping up to fulfill their responsibility to Canadians. Canada hasn’t seen this type of civic mobilization since the Second World War," Mr. Trudeau told his daily news conference on Wednesday.
Mr. Trudeau did not say why he wanted Parliament recalled but, speaking in Regina Wednesday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said a massive government emergency aid bill passed last week is out of step with the government’s new plans to raise the wage subsidy for employers from 10 per cent to 75 per cent.
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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.
Canada’s three largest provinces have begun setting up temporary makeshift hospitals in anticipation of an influx of patients with COVID-19. In British Columbia, Vancouver’s waterfront Convention Centre will be equipped to house 270 patients. In Quebec, the government has earmarked 4,000 hotel rooms that could be pressed into service under its public health emergency laws. And in Ontario, Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington is building a temporary pandemic unit with 93 beds to accommodate patients who need treatment for the virus.
Government officials continue to work on tailored aid for the energy sector and other specific industries, but senior officials say final announcements are not expected this week. Senior federal sources say the immediate focus of officials is on hammering out the details on providing billions of dollars of emergency funds and wage subsidies to support the unemployed and protect jobs.
Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Scheer, along with other members of Parliament, are promising to donate their automatic pay hike to charity, as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the economy and puts thousands of Canadians out of work. There’s nothing Mr. Trudeau can do about the salary hike without recalling Parliament, which has been adjourned amid the outbreak.
Measures to fight the spread of COVID-19 are expected to continue until at least July, according to a government document obtained by the National Post. The detail, written in a COVID-19 “Daily Sitrep Highlights” by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada on March 30, is the clearest government timeline to date on how long Canadians may have to endure measures to fight the pandemic.
The Globe takes a look at how Jean-Yves Duclos, president of the Treasury Board, is learning crisis management on the fly. The coronavirus crisis has turned the thoughtful, studious and rational Mr. Duclos, a former academic, into a key government spokesman at daily ministerial briefings and during frequent French and English-language media appearances.
Truck drivers and couriers are being barred from restrooms as they deliver essential goods across Canada. Drivers say their services are welcomed by businesses, but their basic human needs, including the need to relieve themselves, aren’t being accommodated because of fears they’ll spread COVID-19.
André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on the face mask debate: “Mask-wearing must be complementary, not a substitute, to other actions. In short, the modified pandemic advice is essentially: a mask if you feel it necessary, but not necessarily a mask.”
Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on enacting tomorrow’s physical distancing measures today: “For months, and especially in recent weeks as we’ve watched the novel coronavirus tear through northern Italy, epidemiologists and public-health experts have been warning us that the only way to get on top of the resulting COVID-19 disease is to get ahead of it. That is, to implement the measures today that will only really seem necessary weeks from now. If in the end, it looks like we overreacted, we can be confident that our containment efforts ultimately were successful.”
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on saving Grandma or the economy: “Suppose, then, that social distancing succeeds in reducing the U.S. death toll from 2.2 million, the worst-case scenario, to ‘only’ 100,000. That’s a cool US$21-trillion in lives saved, worth about as much as the entire U.S. GDP. Save Grandma.”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on deficit levels: “The bad news is that Canada will be running a deficit at First World War levels. The good news is we are not at Second World War levels yet. It is not cause for cheering, but it is still worth putting the enormous spike in federal spending and borrowing in historical perspective.”
Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on Donald Trump’s blink in the face of coronavirus reality: “Before our eyes, Mr. Trump has morphed from virus denier, to a president who has adopted wartime rhetoric in an effort to rally his country behind him in its collective fight against a mortal, invisible enemy. And so far, it’s worked out beyond most expectations.”