Speaking at his daily news conference Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said too many Canadians are still not following social-distancing guidelines and putting health workers at risk, which threatens everyone who might need medical care.
Mr. Trudeau also said he will meet with premiers Thursday night to discuss Canada’s continuing response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the need to share data and modelling between jurisdictions. The meeting will be held remotely.
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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.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer says three federal measures to help low-income earners, families and seniors cope with the economic shock from COVID-19 will cost more than $8-billion. The report, released Thursday morning, comes hours before Finance Minister Bill Morneau is set to answer questions about the government’s coronavirus spending measures from the House of Commons finance committee.
Federal Conservatives and New Democrats say they would support a freeze to parliamentarians’ salaries but no party has offered to take the lead and push for the legislation that would delay the pay hike. As more than two million Canadians have already applied for employment insurance, members of Parliament and senators are enjoying pay increases – 2.1 per cent and 2.4 per cent, respectively.
The federal government has started to clear its backlog of 1.6 million EI claims through an expedited process that will pay $2,000 a month to all applicants - the same payment that will be offered under a new benefit designed to help workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The accelerated processing of the remaining EI claims will allow the government to clear the backlog over a period of less than a week, at a pace of about 400,000 claims a day.
Canada’s largest banks and credit unions plan to start offering government-backed loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses by next week, speeding up the rollout of the new lending program under pressure to deliver quick support to business owners.
Politicians are warning Canadians can expect weeks or months of social distancing, but are declining to disclose models that project how the virus might play out. When asked on Wednesday about releasing information from such models, Mr. Trudeau said there are a “wide range of projections depending on how Canadians are behaving,” while Ontario Premier Doug Ford said releasing projection models might prompt panic.
The Globe spoke with Christopher Desloges, an American sign language interpreter, who has become a fixture Mr. Ford’s the daily news conferences. Mr. Desloges described how he has channelled the Premier’s “angry dad approach” on live television for tens of thousands of deaf people in Ontario and across Canada.
Mr. Trudeau says the United States appears to have backed off on its plan to send soldiers to the Canada-U.S. border. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had been floating the idea to help American border officials keep migrants from crossing between official entry points, in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on Ottawa’s support for provinces during COVID-19: “In normal times, provincial governments are dominant players on the federal scene, responsible for the things that matter most in people’s lives: schools, hospitals, highways, welfare. But in times of crisis, the normally weak federal government takes centre stage, because of its greater ability to borrow money and levy taxes."
Jen Agg (The Globe and Mail) on her plea as a small-business owner: “If Ottawa will not step in with a bailout, I’d like landlords of small businesses to be obligated by the Trudeau administration to give the month of April free, as we lost most of March’s business. Since we are unable to operate in their buildings, it seems reasonable that we should get a break on rent, as a show of good faith and a willingness to work with us – so we can be there when this is all over.”
Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on China’s official coronavirus numbers: “The Chinese government’s first instinct has always been to hide the facts, especially if they reveal its own failures, so why would anyone believe the data coming out of China now on COVID-19?"
Chris Selley (The National Post) on the government’s COVID-19 modelling: “No one is asking Trudeau or Tam to play Nostradamus. Modelling disease spread is an incredibly finicky business even when you don’t have to deal with 10 Canadian jurisdictions that report their data differently. No one is asking for a firm get-out-of-jail date. But any context at all, even if it’s bad, would give Canadians something to colour or at least inform the bizarre and unprecedented situations in which they now find themselves.”
Maryscott (Scotty) Greenwood (Policy Options) on the Canada-U.S. trade flow of COVID-19 supplies: “Both our governments need speed and flexibility, and so does business. In fact, it would probably make sense to pause the time-consuming implementation of the updated NAFTA agreement now that it has been safely passed by both Congress and Parliament, and focus instead on satisfying urgent new markets like the one for medical devices.”