In a motion tabled today in the House of Commons, the Conservatives call on the federal government to develop and present to Parliament “a clear, data-driven plan to safely, gradually and permanently support the lifting of COVID restrictions -19 ”. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole cited calls from national trade organizations and one of the country’s largest unions for a strategy to get Canadians back to work. He said he agreed with these organizations that it is “unsustainable” to rely on lockdowns while waiting for COVID-19 vaccines to be widely administered.
“The President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom have both released public plans for economic reopening,” O’Toole said at a press conference on Tuesday. ” But [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau refuses to tell Canadians if and when regular and social life can resume, and under what circumstances and conditions. ”
It’s unclear what impact a national plan would have, given that most of the COVID-19 restrictions that govern daily life, especially business openings and assembly limits, fall under provincial jurisdiction.
O’Toole said the government’s plan should include a vision for what a reopened economy would look like and establish specific benchmarks that will be used to determine when that should happen.
He criticized the government for failing to implement rapid tests as an alternative to COVID-19 restrictions, especially in areas of federal jurisdiction like air travel and border restrictions.
Third rising wave
The non-binding Conservative motion comes as the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care units have started to stabilize or increase nationwide.
In a statement released on Monday, the director of public health, Dr Theresa Tam, said the number of COVID-19 cases had stabilized at a high level in mid-February and had since started to rise again, under the effect of more transmissible variants of the coronavirus. Although some lagging indicators, including hospitalizations, admissions and deaths in ICUs have declined, Tam said those declines have stabilized or increased slightly.
Canada registered 4,935 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, while the seven-day average of daily new cases was 3,297 between March 12 and March 18.
Senior Ontario public health officials said on Monday the province was already in wave three, although it’s unclear how severe it will be.
Tam has warned that the vaccine rollout – despite a significant increase from this week – will not be enough to reduce the number of cases.
“As vaccination programs accelerate, it will be important to maintain a high degree of caution. Any relaxation of public health measures must be done slowly with improved testing, screening and genomic analysis to detect variants of concern, ”Tam said.
O’Toole said he was particularly concerned about the economic and mental health impact of COVID-19 restrictions on Canadians.
“There is not a Canadian whose family has not been affected by the mental health challenges during this pandemic – mine included,” said O’Toole. “We cannot begin to resolve the mental health crisis quietly without first having a plan to end lockdown isolation. ”
The Conservative motion calls for a plan to be presented within 20 days of its adoption.