Apr 17, 2020
Justin Trudeau Canada COVID-19 Press Conference April 17
Full transcript of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s April 17 coronavirus press conference for Canada. Read the full transcript here.
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Justin Trudeau: (08:48)
Hello, everyone. [French 00:07: 44].
Justin Trudeau: (08:50)
Over the past few weeks, the pandemic has created anxiety and uncertainty for all Canadians, but some are going through an especially tough time. COVID-19 has brought many industries to a halt, and workers across the country are struggling as a result. From the start, our goal as a government has been clear, to help all Canadians get through these challenging times. As I’ve said many times before, we’re here to support you, to lend you a helping hand when you need it most. Across the country, Canadians are standing shoulder to shoulder and we’re all in this together. Today, our government is announcing more help for workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, BC, and Newfoundland and Labrador. We’re also announcing more help for small businesses and more help for those who work in the arts, culture, and sports sectors. I’ll start with the energy sector. Right now, workers and families are struggling because of things beyond their control. Both the devastating effects of the pandemic and the price war driven by foreign interests are a challenge. As a result, companies have had to slow down or pause their operations, leaving too many people out of work. To help these workers, our government will invest $1.7 billion to clean up orphan and inactive wells in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and BC. These wells, which are no longer in use, can be detrimental, not only to our environment, but to people’s health.
Justin Trudeau: (10:33)
Think of the farmer who can’t grow anything on his land because of an abandoned well a few steps away from his home. Think of the small town or indigenous community struggling with this issue that has been festering for years or even decades. Cleaning them up will bring people back to work and help many landowners who have had these wells on their property for years but haven’t been able to get them taken care of and the land restored. Our goal is to create immediate jobs in these provinces while helping companies avoid bankruptcy and supporting our environmental targets. In Alberta alone, these investments will maintain 5,200 jobs. We’ve listened to the concerns of landowners, municipalities, and indigenous communities who want to make sure that the polluter pay principle is strengthened and that their voices are heard. I want to thank the government of Alberta for working with us and listening to their concerns.
Justin Trudeau: (11:33)
Our government will also establish a $750 million emission reduction fund with a focus on methane to create and maintain jobs through pollution reduction efforts. This includes $75 million to help the offshore industry cut emissions in Newfoundland and Labrador. This fund will primarily provide repayable contributions to firms to make them more competitive, reduce waste and pollution, and most importantly, protect jobs. Right now, many energy firms are experiencing a cash crunch so they don’t have the funds to invest in technologies to reduce emissions or fix methane leaks. Today’s announcement will allow for this kind of work to be done and create jobs people need during this difficult time. Through the wells and methane initiatives, we estimate that we will maintain roughly 10,000 jobs across the country. Just because we’re in a health crisis doesn’t mean we can neglect the environmental crisis. We’re also working with BDC and EDC to expand credit support for at-risk medium sized energy companies so they can maintain operations and keep their employees.
Justin Trudeau: (12:53)
Justin Trudeau: (14:18)
[French 00:00: 00].
Justin Trudeau: (15:24)
Now, I want to turn to what we’re going to do next for small businesses and the people they employ. Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken a number of steps to support these employers and mostly their employees. We introduced the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to help keep people on the payroll. We launched and expanded the Canada Emergency Business Account for those businesses struggling with cashflow. But ministers, Jolie, Ings, Baines, and others have heard that some businesses are still falling through the cracks.
Justin Trudeau: (15:59)
To fix that, our government will provide $962 million to regional development agencies and the community futures network. This funding will help ensure that more businesses, especially smaller employees based in more rural parts of the country, or those who don’t have a relationship with a traditional financial institution, are getting the support they need. We’re also going to give $270 million to Futurpreneur and the Industrial Research Assistance program to support innovators and other early-stage development firms that don’t qualify for the wage subsidy, but still need help.
Justin Trudeau: (16:46)
[French 00:16:46] Our government will give $500 million to Heritage Canada to support those who work in the arts, culture and sports sectors. Like the small businesses I was talking about, people in businesses in these sectors do not have access to some of the help we’ve announced because of how the companies operate or how revenues are generated. With this investment, people will be able to receive wage support and organizations that are struggling with cash flow will be able to access financing.
Justin Trudeau: (19:27)
At the same time, we continue to support those who’ve lost their jobs with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. So far over seven-and-a-half million payments have been made, that’s money sent directly to those who need it most. I want to, again, thank our amazing public servants who are processing these claims at record speeds.
Justin Trudeau: (19:53)
Moving forward, we will be releasing the latest figures on the CERB through the government’s open data portal three times a week so academics, researchers and Canadians can keep track of the work being done. We will continue to provide and open up data so that we can get the best advice from experts and continue to help Canadians.
Justin Trudeau: (20:20)
I want to end this morning by reminding everyone that today is the 38th anniversary of The Charter Of Rights And Freedoms, which underpins who we are as a country and who we strive to be as a people. It protects the right of each and every one of us to be who we are, to worship how we want, to love whom we love. At the heart of the charter is the notion of choice, that we can choose the kind of life we want for ourselves.
Justin Trudeau: (20:50)
As our country confronts this pandemic, I’m especially grateful that Canadians have chosen to protect each other and care for one another. To everyone who has stayed home and followed public health recommendations. Thank you. Making that choice together today will ensure that we remain who we are as Canadians for generations to come.
Speaker 2: (21:16)
Merci. Thank you. The first question, Dylan Robertson, Winnipeg Free Press. Line open.
Dylan Robertson: (21:37)
Prime minister, you’ve expressed a preference for virtual parliament. Many regions of Canada have terrible internet connection and they tend to be the ones that feel the most ignored by Ottawa. Are you comfortable with having virtual sittings if MPs can’t participate in real-time from their homes?
Justin Trudeau: (21:57)
Obviously, the point of virtual sittings would be to ensure that Canadians who are not within driving distance of Ottawa continue to have their views represented and their concerns heard. That is a technological challenge that we will work very, very hard on to ensure that as we move forward on virtual parliament solutions, as the Speaker and the House Of Commons work on that, that we make sure that every voice can be heard of the 338 Canadians. At the same time, we have proposed to the opposition parties that parliament could come back every single week to discuss legislation and to ensure that there is accountability. We need to make sure that our democracy continues to function and this is something that we are very serious about.
Justin Trudeau: (22:48)
Right now on the books, there is a rule that says that the 338 MPs need to get on flights Sunday evening to come back to Ottawa on Monday morning as parliament is supposed to resume. That is obviously not a good idea. We are not in normal circumstances, so we’re negotiating with all opposition parties to try and make sure we can find a way to keep the important work of our democracy going while at the same time respecting public health advice.
Speaker 3: (23:20)
[French 00: 09:19].
Justin Trudeau: (24:11)
Okay. [French 00:09:20].
Speaker 2: (24:21)
Follow-up question, Dylan?
Dylan Robertson: (24:23)
Prime Minister, the [inaudible 00:24:25] Premier has asked for an emergency credit agency to access better interest rates. Governor Poloz says that your governments has not asked the Bank of Canada to help with the provincial debt market. He said, “No one has asked us to do anything on the provincial [inaudible 00:10:39].” The premier has also asked to put public servants on the AI. Today’s job announcement doesn’t [inaudible 00:24:46] provincial debt markets. My question is, when will the provinces learn what you’re doing for their debts and what is already off the table?
Justin Trudeau: (24:55)
I had an excellent conversation last night with the premiers of all the provinces and territories. This issue was brought up and I assured them that Finance Canada is looking at it. We recognize that different provinces carry different debt loads and different challenges on access to credit. The Bank of Canada has taken significant measures that have had a positive impact on provincial coffers. At the same time, we will continue to make sure that provinces across the country are able to give the support they need to give to their citizens.
Speaker 2: (25:33)
Thank you. Next question. [French 00:25:36]
Thank you. Merci. Next question Althia Raj, Huffington Post. Line open.
Althia Raj: (25:40)
Good morning, Prime Minister. You’ve announced a number of measures today and also earlier this week changes to help those with some income apply for the CRB. You’ve lowered the threshold for some business owners to apply for interest-free loan, but still a number of people I’ve spoken with this week are not impacted by any of these changes. What should people in these positions, people who are left out and who a hard time making ends meet do? Should they apply for the CRB or should they wait for your government to come up with another fix?
Justin Trudeau: (26:10)
From the very beginning, we knew we had to help as many people as we possibly could who needed the help as quickly as possible. That’s why we moved forward with two very big, very strong programs, both the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, that has sent out over seven-and-a-half-million payments already, and the wage subsidy, which will kick in a few weeks, which is allowing employers to rehire their employees so that when the economy bounces back, people will still have those links to their jobs while they are supported in this time of difficulty. But from the beginning, we recognized that moving quickly and broadly would leave gaps. That’s why over the past weeks we have been announcing almost every single day new measures that tweak the proposals we’ve made, that expand other proposals, that create new initiatives to try and make sure we’re getting help to everyone who needs it.
Justin Trudeau: (27:10)
The announcements we’ve made today around help for the arts and cultural sectors for sporting organizations, for small businesses like startups, for small businesses in rural areas, for the range of workers in the energy sector who are facing layers of calamity right now are the kinds of things that we’re making sure that everyone is getting the help we need. We are continuing to listen to Canadians who are expressing that they are not getting the help they need and we are constantly looking for ways to help them.
Speaker 2: (27:44)
Althia Raj: (27:46)
Yeah. Thank you. Are you basically saying, wait until the government comes up with another fix? Because as you know, on Saturday, MPs voted to support a motion that basically said that if you need help the government is going to ensure that if you applied for CERB and you weren’t supposed to be-
Speaker 4: (28:03)
Is going to ensure that if you applied for CERB and you weren’t supposed to be eligible, that you would be unjustly penalized. So is the government saying that the worst thing that will happen to you if you apply for CERB but don’t actually qualify, that you will have to pay the money back in full next year? Is that the worst thing that will happen to people who apply for CERB because they feel they need it?
Justin Trudeau: (28:22)
We expect people to apply for the programs for which they qualify, and we are therefore working to make sure we’re expanding the qualification so that people who need the help will get them. We will continue to announce measures that will include more and more people, help more and more people as we move forward because for all the millions of people and companies and businesses and employers that we’re helping across this country, we know there is more to do, and that’s what we’re continually announcing almost every day, new measures to fix the support for people in particular situations.
Justin Trudeau: (29:01)
Okay. [French 00:29:03].
Speaker 5: (29:02)
Speaker 6: (29:02)
Thank you. [French 00:29:35].
Speaker 9: (29:02)
Justin Trudeau: (30:48)
[French 00:02: 09].
Speaker 10: (30:52)
Justin Trudeau: (31:09)
Okay. We took as an approach from the very beginning that we need to help Canadians. We need to help workers and families who are hit by this COVID-19 slowdown and shutdown. That’s why we move forward with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit that has helped millions upon millions of Canadians, and the wage subsidy, which has allowed companies to rehire workers and will ensure that families across the country get much more support. And that is across all industries across the country.
Justin Trudeau: (31:43)
However, we recognize that certain industries are facing even more difficult times. The oil and gas sector because of the global price war, because of the lower demand related to COVID, and because of the measures brought in to counter COVID itself. Those families are particularly hard hit, and that’s where this initiative, which will create or preserve 5,200 jobs in Alberta, and the other initiatives, which will lead to perhaps 10,000 jobs across the energy sector, are the kinds of things that we can do right now. Of course, we will continue to work with partners and concerned sectors across the country as we move forward to see if there’s a need to do more.
Speaker 5: (32:27)
Speaker 9: (32:27)
Justin Trudeau: (32:27)
Speaker 5: (34:09)
Speaker 6: (34:18)
Thank you. [French 00:34:19].
Speaker 7: (34:18)
Justin Trudeau: (34:18)
Speaker 5: (34:18)
Speaker 7: (34:18)
Justin Trudeau: (34:18)
Speaker 8: (34:18)
In English, please.
Justin Trudeau: (37:05)
As I’ve said many times, conversations are constant and ongoing with the American administration on issues of mutual concern, including the border. As I’ve said, we do not feel that reopening the border anytime soon is likely. My responsibility is to ensure the protection and safety of Canadians. That is what we will continue to do. And the conversations with the Americans have been extremely aligned and extremely productive.
Glen McGregor: (37:36)
Glen McGregor, CTV News. Prime Minister, for weeks now you have been promising relief and aid for the energy sector. What you’ve announced today is going to help a comparatively small number of workers. It isn’t going to do anything for the sector overall to help deal with devastating impact of this virus and the downturn in the world oil markets. My question is, is this it? Is this the package you were promising? And if so, what do you say to people in Western Canada particularly who was expecting more substantial relief?
Justin Trudeau: (38:07)
The first things we did was move forward with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit that’s putting money in the pockets of more than seven million Canadians, including many people in the oil and gas sector who’ve lost their paychecks because of this COVID-19 crisis. On top of that, the wage subsidy allows Canadian workers to continue to receive their salaries, to continue to stay connected to their work in the oil and gas sector, which are significant help for a major industry across this country.
Justin Trudeau: (38:43)
On top of that, we’ve been working with the Government of Alberta and with industry to look at other things that can be necessary. We heard very clearly that the methane regulations that we are bringing in will be a challenge for industries to meet, and industry and others asked that we, therefore, back off on the methane regulations. We decided instead to lend them money to help them keep people working to upgrade and update their measures so we can continue to fight climate change and reduce emissions while keeping people at work.
Justin Trudeau: (39:18)
We’ve also heard very clearly, and not just from industry but from municipalities, particularly rural municipalities, landowners across Alberta, that the issue of persistent orphan or inactive wells is a real challenge. And this is an opportunity for us to make sure that Albertans are getting to work in cleaning up their province. At the same time, as we’ve gotten commitments by the Government of Alberta to strengthen the regulations, so we see fewer orphan and inactive wells in the future.
Justin Trudeau: (39:54)
We’ve also made a credit available for medium-size oil and gas companies who are facing particular challenges in terms of liquidity right now. We will continue to look at ways we can support important industries in this country, including the oil and gas sector. We look forward to doing that while at the same time keeping our focus squarely on the families and workers who need our help.
Julie Van Dusen: (40:20)
Prime Minister, Julie Van Dusen, CBC News. You spoke to the premiers last night, so I’m hoping you can update us on this. Blaine Higgs, as an example, has said he’s hoping to get his economy going by the summer. John Horgan this morning on CBC said that he and his Washington state counterpart could decide when the border opens. So I’m wondering who decides all this? Is it you, is it them? And if it is you, will there be national standards to guide them?
Justin Trudeau: (40:49)
We talked last night about how important it is to be coordinated and agreed on the principles and the approaches that we take while at the same time recognizing that the situation in PEI is very different from the situation in Ontario, very different from the situation in BC. There will be regional approaches as there have been all along to the next steps, but we all agreed that we need to continue to remain very, very vigilant as we carefully look at reopening the economy, about relaunching certain sectors in the future.
Justin Trudeau: (41:24)
We will continue our coordination around the principles and the steps that need to be taken, but of course this is Canada, which means that there are very different needs and very different approaches that will be in place across the country. What we will be working on to coordinate and collaborate on is ensuring that the messages that get out and that the lens that we take and the data that we collect and the way we do this is aligned and coordinated so that we can maximize our chances of getting through this without having to fall back into self-isolation the way we have been these past few weeks.
Justin Trudeau: (42:03)
…back into self isolation the way we have been these past few weeks. [French 00:00: 07].
Brian Mullan: (43:16)
Brian Mullan, Global News. Prime Minister, Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby group says the federal government should consider suspending dozens of environmental regulations, laws, and policies due to the economic and health crisis triggered by covid-19. Critics call it a crass attempt to exploit the pandemic. How do you respond to the letter and are some of the 30 requests still being considered by the government?
Justin Trudeau: (43:40)
Just because we are in a one crisis right now doesn’t mean we can forget about the other crisis, the climate crisis, that we are also facing as a world, as a country. But we recognize that for example, moving ahead with the methane regulations is something very difficult for companies right now in the oil and gas sector who are strained because of the multiple challenges they’re facing, both on the global stage and on the lower demand. That’s why we’re making investments in supporting those companies directly, so that they can meet those methane reduction targets with funds that we’re giving them so that we can stay on track to protect future generations and to reduce emissions from our industry. This is something that Canadians understand that we need to continue to move forward, but we need to help people in different ways as we move forward. That will be the lens that we take.
Brian Mullan: (44:40)
And on a separate matter. China has revised its numbers on the Wuhan deaths, increasing them by 50%. Do you think this is a statistical verification, as China claims? Or proof they covered it up?
Justin Trudeau: (44:52)
I think we all need to be very attentive to how data flows around the world and be very thoughtful about how we process different information and how we apply the lessons learned from elsewhere around the world to what we do. We will continue to work with partners and allies and international institutions and organizations as we figure out how to get through today and tomorrow, but there will be many questions to ask once we are through this, on how various countries behaved and what sort of principles we need to learn from and conclusions we need to draw as we move forward. [French 00:03:34].
Marieke Walsh: (46:00)
Marieke Walsh with the Globe and Mail. Prime Minister, other world leaders have raised serious questions about China’s handling of this pandemic and whether it holds responsibility for not containing it within its borders. It’s not just the White House, it’s also leaders in France and the United Kingdom. Here at home, your government has taken the opposite approach with one former Canadian ambassador calling Ottawa’s approach almost humiliating. In your answer just now, you didn’t even mention China by name. So why is your government so reluctant to acknowledge China’s possible faults in this pandemic?
Justin Trudeau: (46:33)
My job right now is to make sure that Canadians get the best support, the best protection, and are able to get through this as best we possibly can. That means getting the equipment that we need. That means ensuring that the cooperation and the collaboration on the international stage is done properly. That means focusing right now on today and tomorrow and how we’re going to keep Canadians safe. There will be plenty of time to point fingers, to ask questions, to draw conclusions, and to ensure that there are consequences for things that different countries may have done during this pandemic. Right now, my job is to look out for Canadians. [French 00:05:25].
Marieke Walsh: (48:07)
Are you suggesting that China might withhold PPE or something? Is that why you’re not mentioning China, as you still continue to do? And on Julie’s question about the way out of this, what level of testing do we need to see across Canada in order to start reopening the economy?
Justin Trudeau: (48:24)
We’ve looked at the need for many more tests. We see that testing has been a key part of controlling the spread, not just knowing who has developed covid and can pass it on, but actually being able to control the spread through contact tracing through isolation and quarantine measures. Testing is the key part of it. We need to continue to ramp up our testing capacities. We need to do a better job of coordinating on testing methodology and approaches across the provinces so that we can have a better vision of what is exactly happening. But testing certainly needs to increase as we move forward. Fortunately, it is increasing as we move forward.