OTTAWA – With two federal opposition party leaders isolated due to close contact with the coronavirus, the growing backlog of tests in several urban centers and fears of a second wave, everything is now COVID-19, everything time.
For a brief month, it looked like the Liberal government would turn to an ambitious government agenda with next week’s Speech from the Throne, even if it called an election.
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ended three days of Cabinet meetings here on a more cautious note, saying his immediate and short-term priority is to ensure the health and economic well-being of Canadians.
Trudeau announced that safe restart deals with all provinces and territories have been reached, deals that will ultimately push $ 19 billion out of the door for a range of responses to the pandemic from lower levels government.
“We have to stay focused on the task ahead,” he told reporters. “Healthier Canadians will and have meant a healthier and stronger economy.
Ended his speech of August 18 on “the unprecedented opportunity” presented by COVID-19.
It was at this point that the Prime Minister reshuffled his cabinet, suspended Parliament and closed the committees responsible for examining the response to the pandemic, racism in the police service and ethical questions about the student volunteer program run by WE Charity.
At that point, Trudeau made Canadians think beyond the short-term band that COVID-19 was cutting. “This is our time to change the future for the better. We cannot afford to miss it because this window of opportunity will not be open for long. “
On Wednesday, four weeks later, after hearing from experts, foreign ambassadors, the German Chancellor and cabinet colleagues, Trudeau said his government had not abandoned plans to support a “clean and green ”economy, but repeatedly stressed the attention of his government. is squarely on the “challenge” of the moment.
“We need to remember that we are not yet out of this pandemic and that the actions we take every day, not only as a government, but as Canadians, matter in how we protect each other and how we can revive the economy again. “
Trudeau emphatically insisted he did not want an election, but dismissed suggestions that it would be unwise to have one, saying it was “irresponsible” to suggest so many. Trudeau said Canada’s democratic institutions are strong enough to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19, and he highlighted the New Brunswick election that took place on Monday.
Yet the need for all parties to focus on the immediate crisis was heightened when Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole revealed that he, his family and other staff were in isolation, after a member of his staff with whom he had traveled. Quebec, had tested positive for COVID-19.
It comes a day after Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet and his entire caucus went into isolation after a Bloc staff member tested positive.
Trudeau said their situation demonstrates that it would not be “responsible” for Parliament to fully meet with a full complement of 338 MPs and advocated the Liberal proposal for a hybrid model with remote voting for MPs.
Later, Trudeau House Leader Pablo Rodriguez said the Liberals were ready to accept up to 86 MPs into the House of Commons – as recommended by House of Commons administrative staff.
For conservatives, O’Toole’s isolation is unquestionably a setback.
The party had called for a more regular resumption of Parliament, including having up to 86 members of the House of Commons and voting in person, and not via an electronic voting system.
“My family and I are feeling great, but we take COVID-19 very seriously,” O’Toole said in a statement. “Today was going to be Jack’s first day back from school, but instead we’re going to get tested and self-isolate according to public health guidelines. The health and safety of my family and all Canadians is my top priority.
O’Toole, who had received a government briefing on the pandemic the night before, canceled a trip to western Canada and hoped to be tested on Wednesday, though long lines at testing facilities of Ottawa have left many families without access to COVID-19 testing as schools. reopened.
Premier Doug Ford has vowed the province will rapidly increase testing and has vowed to move mobile testing units to Ottawa and London, and to launch “a few thousand more test areas” in the coming days at points retailers like pharmacies and large retailers.
Trudeau said he knew Canadians were still very worried about the coronavirus and their jobs, and said he would always present plans in his Speech from the Throne to “build back better with the level of ambition at which expect Canadians ”and“ to foster the most significant economic recovery of our generation. “
“Canadians deserve an ambitious plan for a healthier and more secure Canada, a just and inclusive Canada. A clean and competitive Canada, and with the Speech from the Throne of September 23, that is exactly what our government is prepared to do, ”he said.
However, Cabinet ministers after Cabinet ministers have insisted that even after the pandemic crisis, there will still be a climate change crisis that Canada faces.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson insisted the government remains “absolutely determined” to exceed its goal of reducing Paris emissions by 2030.
The Pembina Institute said that at the end of 2018, Canada had made only 0.4% of the progress needed to meet its current 2030 target of reducing national emissions to 30% below 2005 levels.
However, Wilkinson downplayed the prospect of specific announcements next week, saying a Speech from the Throne will set “big priorities” and be an “important signal” to public servants, but “this is not a budget, this is is not a funding mechanism. ”
Wilkinson promised that a comprehensive energy framework would be ready “before” the next United Nations climate change conference. This conference was set for November of this year, but was postponed due to COVID-19 until November 2021.
The agreements released Wednesday by Ottawa outline specific details of federal and provincial government funding and commitments to tackle everything from transit to vulnerable populations.
One of the main goals going forward will be to step up testing so that 200,000 COVID-19 tests are performed across the country every day.
The federal government will share $ 4.3 billion among provinces and territories over the next six to eight months and help strengthen contact tracing, data management and testing capacity.
As part of the deal, each jurisdiction has pledged to use the funds to help increase the number of tests performed in their respective jurisdictions, with some pledging to double or even triple the number of tests performed daily.
Canada is now reporting 138,803 cases of COVID-19 in total, with 9,188 deaths and 7,775 active cases.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has not released updated models or forecasts since August 14.