May 15, 2020
Justin Trudeau Canada COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 15
Full transcript of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Friday, May 15 coronavirus press conference for Canada. Trudeau announced a wage subsidy program extended through August. Read the full news briefing speech transcript.
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Justin Trudeau: (00:00)
[foreign language 00:00:03] . No matter who you are the last few months will have changed your daily routine in ways big and small. Canadians in every sector have faced challenges and tough choices at work, and that includes people at research institutes who are making the discoveries that keep us safe and healthy. Science and research is our door to a brighter future, and that has never been clearer. But because of the pandemic, many labs have closed or at risk of imminently closing. So understandably people are worried about their jobs and their future. So today we are announcing $450 million to help researchers and research institutions bridge to better times. For universities and affiliated research institutes that have been affected by this pandemic, we will provide temporary support on wages. By delivering this money through federal granting agencies, we will get help out as quickly as possible to the people who need it. [foreign language 00:01: 06].
Justin Trudeau: (01:36)
Far too many Canadians have lost their jobs because of COVID-19. As our economy gradually reopens, whatever, wherever we can do so safely, we need you back. We need you in your job, on your team, bringing life into our communities and our economy. That’s exactly why we brought in the Canada emergency wage subsidy back in March, because wherever possible, we wanted to keep you connected to the job you love and to the workplace where you contribute every day. When we launched this program, I talked about the neighborhood spots that would support the local restaurant, the salon, the gym that had been forced to close or seen business dry up. Well today, a lot of those places are looking towards reopening, and they need to be able to bring back workers and even hire more as this happens. So this morning, I can confirm that we will extend the Canada emergency wage subsidy by another three months to the end of August. Business owners, please take confidence from this announcement. You now have some runway to catch your breath as you get restarted. So please bring back your employees.
Justin Trudeau: (02:56)
Going forward, we need to make sure that this program keeps working for people, that it keeps encouraging employers to rehire staff, and even expand where possible. So over the next month, we’ll work with business and labor stakeholders on any adjustments that might be needed. One of the things we’ll be looking at is the 30% revenue decline threshold for eligibility. As businesses start up, needing a decline shouldn’t be a barrier to growth. I know we’ll figure out solutions where needed while continuing to support employers and employees, because that’s who this is all about. If you’re a business owner, if you’re a worker we’re here for you now and throughout the summer. At the same time, we’ve also broadened eligibility for this benefit. Minister Morneau will have more details shortly, but these changes will get even more people back on the job. So the business owners who haven’t applied yet go online and do so. The help is there for you. [foreign language 00:04: 09].
Justin Trudeau: (05:33)
Today kicks off this year’s hiring period for Canada summer jobs. The first set of job postings are up on the job bank website, and thousands more will be posted over the coming weeks. If you’re a student or recent grad, go to jobbank.gc.ca, that’s jobbank.gc.ca, or download Job Bank app to check it out. And tell your friends about it too if they don’t already know, there are lots of opportunities available. These placements mean a paycheck and valuable experience in jobs that are key to our fight against COVID-19. Of course, no one program can single handedly solve the fact that there are fewer jobs out there because of the pandemic. So for students and recent grads who still need help, starting today you can apply for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, go to canada.ca to sign up.
Justin Trudeau: (06:34)
For parents who receive the Canada Child Benefit, and people who get the GST/HST credit, we also have more news to share today, although everyone should do their best to file their taxes in time for the new June, 1st deadline, your benefits won’t automatically be cut off if for some reason you miss that date. Your CCB and GST/HST benefits will continue until the end of September, but be sure in order to keep getting them, you need to file your taxes as soon as you can so there’s enough time for the paperwork to be processed and you’ll be able to continue receiving those benefits beyond September. [foreign language 00:07:16].
Speaker 1: (07:14)
[foreign language 00:08:21].
Speaker 2: (07:14)
Thank you. [foreign language 00:08:27].
Speaker 3: (07:14)
[foreign language 00:08:35].
Justin Trudeau: (07:14)
[foreign language 00:09:00].
Thank you. [French 00:11:09].
Speaker 6: (07:14)
Justin Trudeau: (07:14)
Speaker 6: (12:20)
[French 00: 03:24].
Justin Trudeau: (12:24)
We had a very straightforward choice that we had to make from the very beginning. Do we get the money out as quickly as possible to everyone who needed it and then bring in measures that go back and create consequences and get the money back from people who took it without needing it? Or, do we put in place a process that verifies carefully every application so that only those who needed it, get it, and nobody had to .. and fraudsters wouldn’t be able to get it. Well, the problem with the second approach would have been, it would have been months before delivering to the well over 7 million Canadians who needed it, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
Justin Trudeau: (13:13)
In this situation, in this crisis, we made the deliberate choice to get the money out the door to millions of Canadians who needed it and bring in measures to go back, go after retroactively people who might have tried to defraud the system. The response in order to keep Canadians safe and healthy, needed to be to get them the money quickly, and that’s exactly what we did. But we will ensure that fraudsters or people who got the benefits unfairly or inappropriately will have to pay them back.
Justin Trudeau: (13:57)
Speaker 7: (13:58)
Justin Trudeau: (15:24)
We have a system right now where parliament sits once a week in person with a limited number of MPs who are highly concentrated around the … within driving distance from Ottawa, who get to actually be there in person, but two more virtual sessions every week, where MPs from every corner of the country get to represent the concerns of their communities.
Justin Trudeau: (15:50)
That is something that has been extremely effective in making sure that we are hearing from the breadth and scope of concerns across this country, and not just those folks who are within driving distance of Ottawa. We’ve proposed to continue that. And I know there will be discussions with the other parties on the best way to move forward, but we all agree, we need to continue with a strong democracy and a functioning parliament in a way that ensures that concerns of Canadians from every part of this country get heard.
Speaker 4: (16:22)
Thank you. Operator. Next question.
Thank you. [French 00:07:26]. Next question, Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press. Line open.
Mike Blanchfield: (16:32)
Yes. Hello, prime minister. We contact tracing are going to be key when it comes to reopening the economy, but right now the provinces and even some municipalities are all doing this differently. When will we see a national plan for contact tracing and what will it look like?
Justin Trudeau: (16:46)
I was very pleased to have a great conversation with the premiers last night. It was our ninth virtual first ministers meeting since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, and as always we’re working extraordinarily well.
Justin Trudeau: (17:02)
We all understand that moving forward with a massive scale-up of testing capacity, right across the country, and contact tracing that goes beyond our own regions and jurisdictions is going to be important, particularly as the economy starts to reopen and Canadians start to carefully travel across provincial borders and from one jurisdiction to the other. It is still important that people stay home as much as possible even through the reopening, but there will be more travel because of a reopened economy, and we need to make sure that we do have coherence in our approach across the country on both testing and contact tracing, which is something we talked about a lot last night, and we will continue to work together on to make sure that Canadians are covered from coast to coast to coast as we control this pandemic.
Speaker 8: (18:48)
As a followup Mike?
Yeah, what’s the timeline for that time with the premiers Prime Minister and also, when do you think parliament should be expanding beyond one emergency sitting a week so it can deal with legislation other than COVID-19 matters?
Justin Trudeau: (19:02)
First of all, we know that massive testing and effective contact tracing are going to be essential to go along with reopening of the economy. There are a number of places that are starting to look at reopening in different places, and they already know that we need to step up on our testing, on our contact tracing. The federal government is offering to work very closely with the provinces on expanding massively, both our testing and our contact tracing. And we certainly hope that the provinces will work with us on that because everywhere across the country, as we reopen, we need to be hypervigilant to possible resurgences of COVID-19.
Justin Trudeau: (19:46)
On parliament, I look forward to being able to deal with a broad range of subjects when the time comes. Right now our focus is rightly almost entirely on COVID-19 and getting Canadians the support necessary to get through this first phase of the crisis, but also making sure that Canadians are properly supported through what will be a difficult and convoluted process of restarting an economy while staying safe from the further spread of COVID-19.
Speaker 8: (20:19)
Thank you. Operator, last question on the phone.
Speaker 9: (20:22)
Thank you. Merci. Next question, Levon Sevunts, Radio Canada International. Line open.
Levon Sevunts: (20:32)
Yes. Hello Prime Minister. On May 13, Amnesty International sent you an open letter, urging you to review your current policy and practice with the view of rendering Canada fully compliant with its international legal obligations and guidance from the UNHCR a page to the treatment of refugees. What’s your response to this open letter, which was signed by people like Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock?
Justin Trudeau: (21:06)
Canada has a strong tradition of protecting the most vulnerable around the world, of welcoming people fleeing persecution. They have contributed significantly to Canada’s betterment and growth over the years. We have strong values of protecting the most vulnerable and being a welcoming country, while at the same time ensuring the strength and the rigor of our immigration systems and processes.
Justin Trudeau: (21:34)
We will continue to defend our values. We will continue to stay true to the way Canadians are open and welcoming, while expecting the rules to be followed. And that is something that we will always do.
Speaker 8: (21:48)
As a follow up.
Levon Sevunts: (21:50)
Yes. And so where do you draw the line between protecting the health of Canadians and fulfilling your obligations under the refugee convention and allowing refugees to claim asylum in Canada?
Justin Trudeau: (22:09)
My responsibility first and foremost, as Prime Minister of Canada is to look out for the wellbeing, the safety, security of Canadians. And that will always be my top priority. However, in a situation of a global pandemic right now, we know that what we do in Canada is not going to be enough to keep us safe going forward, unless we are also part of the global solution, unless we are helping out countries and people around the world in dealing with the pandemic and dealing with this situation in their ways. We will always make sure we’re getting that balance right. But first and foremost, my job is to look out for the wellbeing of Canadians.
Justin Trudeau: (23:06)
[French 00:23:06] The women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces have always stepped up to do difficult and dangerous things when called upon. Their service to Canada, whether it be overseas or here at home has always been exemplary. And our responsibility as Canadians, as a government is to ensure that we are giving them the proper support to minimize the risks that they undertake to serve Canada. There are always risks in what they do, and they go into that knowingly and willingly. And that is why we offer them our deepest gratitude every day.
Justin Trudeau: (24:50)
At the same time, we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect them. So we will look at the protocols in place and see if and how they can be strengthened, as well as ensuring that cases of COVID-19 don’t spread throughout the Canadian Armed Forces and others who are serving their country.
Tom Parry: (26:21)
Hi, Prime Minister, Tom Parry, CBC. On the CF members contracting COVID-19 there’s a veterans group that’s saying that forces members should be given the same kind of, given the danger of this deployment, they should be given the same kind of benefits they would receive say overseas, danger pay, things like that. Is that something that your government would be open to?
Justin Trudeau: (26:43)
I think that is something that the Canadian Armed Forces are certainly looking at.
Tom Parry: (26:47)
Okay. Can I ask you then about the wage subsidy that you’re talking about today? You haven’t seen businesses rehiring people at the level that you wanted. So is that say to you that there’s a problem with the program, or do you think the businesses are just worse off than you thought?
Speaker 10: (27:03)
… that there’s a problem with the program, or do you think that businesses are just worse off than you thought?
Justin Trudeau: (27:04)
I think there is a reflection that this is an unprecedented situation and there is a lot of uncertainty about what the coming months might bring. As businesses are trying to figure out when they might be able to reopen, are looking at numbers of cases and trying to imagine what that might mean for their business in the coming weeks, in the coming months, they are busy trying to juggle a whole bunch of different factors that they have very little window into. That is why it was so important for us to announce that we will be continuing with the wage subsidy over the next three months until the end of the summer to give businesses the certainty, to know that we’ll be there for them. As the economy reopens, there’s a danger of unintended consequences.
Justin Trudeau: (27:51)
I mentioned that, for example, if part of the eligibility criteria for getting the wage subsidy is a decrease of 30% of your business, we wouldn’t want people who are getting back their business going to feel like they have to hold back on their growth, on their expansion, on their rehiring in order to be able to continue benefiting from the wage subsidy, so we’re going to work with industry, work with labor, work with the stakeholder groups to make sure we’re getting it right. But that wage subsidy is going to be a really important part of the coming months of recovery. We will continue to be there for businesses to give them the certainty to know that they can rehire their workers and get back to work in a very careful way as the economy reopens.
Chris Low: (28:37)
Hi, Prime Minister. Chris Low with Global News. Canadians with underlining health conditions are concerned they may have to go back to work early and putting their health at risk if the CERB isn’t extended. Will there be any measures put in place that most vulnerable to serious illness aren’t put at risk?
Justin Trudeau: (28:50)
Our focus throughout this entire pandemic has been the safety and security of Canadians. We know that some Canadians are more vulnerable to COVID-19 because of age, because of underlying health factors, and every step of the way we have focused on giving them the support that they need and we will continue to do so.
Chris Low: (29:12)
What are the specific measures on the table for those workers?
Justin Trudeau: (29:13)
We’re going to continue to look at the situations that as they come up, as we support people who need it during this COVID-19 crisis. We’ve delivered the Serb to over 7 million Canadians. We’ve seen millions of workers get on the wage subsidy. There are measures in place for so many different groups because we know that being there for each other is part of who Canadians are, but also how we’re going to get through this. And that’s what we’ll stay focused on.
Speaker 11: (30:01)
[ inaudible 00:02:44].
Molly Thomas: (30:17)
Hi, Prime Minister. Molly Thomas CTV National News. For Canadians who have loved ones in the States, is family reunification considered essential? I mean, are they essential enough to cross that border at this point? I know that some CBSA officers are saying no to them and not letting them across. And could this be negotiated as part of ongoing border talks?
Justin Trudeau: (30:41)
We know that Canadians are facing extremely difficult situations because of COVID-19, whether it be families who can’t grieve the loss of a parent or a loved one because they cannot gather and they cannot hold funerals because of COVID-19. These are things that are extraordinarily difficult. Families are stretched across the country and unable to see each other. People are stuck overseas. And despite the hundreds of the repatriation flights we’ve brought, there are others who simply can’t come home. This is a difficult situation, but every step of the way we need to do what is necessary right now to keep Canadians safe. That is our priority, to control the spread of COVID-19 to make sure that we get it under control in Canada, and that we prevent importation from other countries. That continues to be the priority that Canada has.
Justin Trudeau: (31:41)
And I know it’s difficult on Canadians, but we need to continue to be very, very careful because if we make a wrong step in the coming weeks, everything we’ve sacrificed over the past two months could be for nothing if we see another massive surge of COVID-19. So we will continue to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful about how we move forward.
Molly Thomas: (32:52)
So just so I’m clear, Prime Minister, immediate family members in the US should not go to the border?
Justin Trudeau: (32:56)
We have established rules around traveling across borders and international travel. They need to be respected because we have to keep Canadians safe. We have to control the spread and we will be doing that.
Molly Thomas: (33:10)
Prime Minister, my second question is about talks are beginning between the unions and the federal government about getting back to work. Example, Service Canada, for example, to do that safely, do we know when that’s going to happen? And, I know many Canadians are struggling to find support online.
Justin Trudeau: (33:28)
I will highlight that the federal government did not shut down. Service Canada off offerings are made online or via telephone, even though we closed the physical centers. The services that the government continues to offer to Canadians continue. We’ve seen that in exceptional measures like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or the wage subsidy, or the students benefit, or the seniors benefit or the fishers benefit. The list of things that the public servants in this country have continued to work on and delivered for Canadians during this crisis is extraordinary and we need to again and again recognize and thank the incredible public servants who deliver these measures while facing the same kinds of fears and challenges. Whether it’s concerns about COVID-19 or dealing with working at home with a young family around, our public servants have been exemplary through this, and we will continue to work with them and with their unions to ensure that they are kept safe as we move forward.
Speaker 12: (34:35)
Justin Trudeau: (34:37)