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Hello,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau started his day by urging Canadians to “go home and stay home," warning that the federal government will do whatever is necessary to ensure people are no longer congregating in groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Trudeau also said Ottawa will provide $5-billion in credit for hard-pressed farmers and will hold talks with Canada’s premiers later on Monday to look for additional ways to assist small-business owners struggling to cope with the economic fallout from the virus outbreak.

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The House of Commons is preparing to reconvene Tuesday to vote on measures to ease the impacts of the new coronavirus on Canadians. In an effort to practice social distancing, only a small group of MPs will meet. Parliament suspended on March 13 in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, usually written by Chris Hannay. Michelle Carbert is taking over for a couple of weeks while Chris helps with other important duties at The Globe. The newsletter is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

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.

The federal government will use tough enforcement measures, including the threat of prison and massive fines, if Canadians don’t take self-isolation and social distancing seriously, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Sunday. The warning comes as Vancouver city council prepares to meet virtually on Monday to pass new bylaws that would allow the city to enforce the “significant” penalties. Mayor Kennedy Stewart expressed his frustration with the lack of social distancing, saying "this isn’t a game. People are dying.”

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb in Canada, the federal government says it will intervene to step up COVID-19 testing in regions experiencing delays as public-health experts warn that shortages of testing kits put Canadians at risk.

The outbreak continues to raise questions about the future of the Conservative leadership race, with candidate Erin O’Toole adding his voice to the chorus of people calling for the June 27 vote to be delayed.

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And as the Prime Minister recognized this morning, the virus continues to take a toll on Canadians’ daily life. The Globe took a look at how some long-married couples are facing indefinite separation because of nursing-home visitor bans designed to keep out the new coronavirus.

André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on social distancing: “If we want to avoid being another Italy, extreme social distancing is necessary to slow the rapid spread of the virus. It is the single most important tool we have at this moment. If people don’t interact, if we all keep a physical distance of one metre to two metres from each other, the coronavirus cannot spread person-to-person. End of problem, theoretically.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on how COVID-19 highlights the U.S. partisan divide: “Canadians everywhere are having to learn what social distancing means: how often you should go to the grocery store, whether it’s safe to conduct a group bike ride, how to avoid folks while walking the dog. But this country appears to be implementing a national quasi-quarantine more uniformly and effectively than south of the border.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on Canada’s vulnerability amid COVID-19: “Total debt in this country, not counting the financial sector, now exceeds 300 per cent of GDP. Household debt, at about 100 per cent of GDP, is second-highest in the developed world; corporate debt, at 119 per cent, is by far the highest. And while the government sector, at a mere 85 per cent of GDP, looks stronger, that obscures the vast differences in financial health between the federal government and the provinces, and between the stronger provinces and the weaker.”

Shachi Kurl (Ottawa Citizen) on the silence in our cities: “Call and text your friends. Videochat with your mother; she’ll like that. Try yoga. Eat well. Get enough sleep. Wash your hands. In a country that lives so much of the year in winter, rejoice at the arrival of spring. As eerie as it may feel, listen for those birds. And take care of each other.”

Paul Wells (Maclean’s) on this rainy day feeling: “Politics, in the cheapest sense, is one social activity we’re well rid of. What’s coming will be hard enough without it. And when the worst of the crisis is past, the blaming and point-scoring, the competitive claims of higher morality will come rushing back. They always do: the shocks of the 21st century have engendered suspicion and worry more lasting than the moments of solidarity they inspired. 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis and the fake-news election of 2016 have dealt one body blow after another to trust and social cohesion. One way to fight back, when that starts to happen yet again, will be to remember how we felt when we were alone. How we swore we wouldn’t let that feeling last.”

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