Mar 21, 2020
Justin Trudeau Coronavirus Briefing Transcript March 21
Prime Minster of Canada Justin Trudeau held a press briefing on March 21 for COVID-19. Full transcript below.
Justin Trudeau: (00:00)
Good morning everyone. [French 00:00:16].
Justin Trudeau: (00:17)
I want to begin by recognizing that even though it’s Saturday, there are people across the country who are on the job. Whether you’re hospital staff, or a first responder, a bus driver … Excuse me. Whether you’re hospital staff, or a first responder, a bus driver, truck driver, or freight train operator, I know you’re working harder than ever right now. So thank you. You’re making a real difference for people who need you. I want you to know that we see that and we’re standing behind you. Whatever our government can do to support you, to keep you safe, to protect our economy, we’re doing everything we can to make it happen.
Justin Trudeau: (00:59)
Now that includes for northern communities. We’re working with partners to reduce travel to northern communities to help protect them from the virus. Today the Northwest Territories will issue an order to limit nonessential travel into the territory. We support this important step. At the same time, we’re focused on ensuring essential goods get to people in these communities. We will continue to work with partners and stakeholders on travel to the north.
Justin Trudeau: (01:28)
This past week, we also announced new measures to put more money in people’s pockets to get through this uncertain time. This means everything from boosting the Canada child benefit, to increasing the GST credit, to giving people a break from paying back their student loans. We’ve unveiled a plan to mobilize industry to produce things like masks and ventilators, and to accelerate vital research, $25 million will go to teams across the country working on measures to detect, manage, and reduce the spread of Covid-19.
Justin Trudeau: (02:02)
For Canadians who are overseas, we’re sending them texts with important information. We’ve announced new funding to help people borrow up to £5000 to return to Canada, or to cover their needs while waiting to come home. And public servants are working around the clock to help people who are stranded. On that last front, we’ve continued to make progress in the last few days.
Justin Trudeau: (04:14)
Today I can announce that we’re working with Canadian airlines to make commercial flights for as many Canadians who are stranded as possible. We will also be working with other countries to ensure that our airlines have the permissions and other supports necessary to fly. The first flight is leaving Morocco this weekend, and is being operated by Air Canada. We’re currently working with other airlines on similar arrangements. And there will be more flights from other locations in the coming days. This potentially includes Peru and Spain. Other countries will be announced as soon as possible.
Justin Trudeau: (04:52)
As we make these decisions, factors like the number of Canadians there, airspace closures, and the local situation are being taken into account. Now, we won’t be able to reach everyone, but we’re going to do our best to help those we can. To make sure we can get information to people as quickly as possible, all Canadians overseas should register with Global Affairs Canada, if they’ve not already done so. You can do this by going online to travel.gc.ca.
Justin Trudeau: (05:22)
The same public health policies will apply to these flights as to anyone else who’s coming into the country. Everyone on these flights has to isolate for 14 days once they’re back. I also want to remind everyone that if you’re showing symptoms of Covid-19, you won’t be able to board. This is about keeping all Canadians safe, so we need everyone to do their part.
Justin Trudeau: (05:46)
On that note, I want to recognize the airlines that are working with us to get travelers home and families reunited, and I especially want to thank the staff, from pilots to air crews, for their professionalism and dedication. During a very difficult time for the industry, when people are worried about their jobs and futures, they’re still stepping up to help.
Justin Trudeau: (06:09)
This has been a tough week for a lot of Canadians. People are concerned about their health, and the economy. And today, on the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination, let’s not forget how people are worried about how fear can fuel racism too. So let’s be kind to each other, and let’s stand up against discrimination wherever you see it.
Justin Trudeau: (06:33)
In the days and weeks ahead, as we continue to feel the impacts of this virus, it will be more important than ever to fight against fear, misinformation, and stigma. We must continue to pull together, because in times of need, our strength is defined by how we care for each other, as neighbors, as communities, and as a country.
Molly Thomas: (07:02)
Hi Prime Minister, Molly Thomas from CTV National News. I saw today that the foreign affairs minister had spoken to officials in Australia, Brazil, Germany, Peru and Turkey. You mentioned Spain as well. For Canadians that are outside maybe more populated areas, or places that we’re talking to, is it safer for them to stay put? They’re scared and they’re asking us. Should we stay? Should we avoid those airports? Should we avoid places of getting trapped in another country on route?
Justin Trudeau: (07:54)
I think everyone needs to take the best decisions for them. Obviously, if they are not certain they’re getting on a flight, they’re probably better to stay in place. But Global Affairs Canada will give recommendations like that on various situations. People will need to use their best judgment. We’re doing everything we can to help as many people as possible. But as I said, airspace closures that other countries are putting in, logistical challenges, these are things that we’re dealing with right now as a world.
Speaker 3: (08:26)
Justin Trudeau: (08:47)
Molly Thomas: (08:52)
Prime Minister, in Southern Ontario this week a 51 year old man lost his life. He wasn’t tested for the virus until he was put into ICU. He only came back positive after he had died. We know that there’s community spread, should we not be testing people beyond just those with travel histories here?
Justin Trudeau: (09:09)
The ramping up of testing is increasing at a tremendous pace. Tens of thousands more people are being tested every single day. We are getting more equipment for testing. We recognize that broad scale testing is an essential tool for continuing to fight the spread of this disease, and as I said, every single day we are doing far more tests than the day before, and that will continue to ramp up.
Brian Mullen: (10:04)
Prime Minister, Brian Mullen, Global News. I wanted to ask about the emergencies act. Speed is critical in containing this virus. We’ve seen what happens when countries wait to long to restrict people’s movement. Polite requests only go so far, why not declare a federal state of emergency now, and get ahead of where this is going?
Justin Trudeau: (10:20)
I want to thank the millions upon millions of Canadians who have self-isolated, who are engaged in social distancing. That is the fundamental thing that we all can do and need to do to prevent the spread of this virus. We know that in many global crises or situations individuals feel powerless to make a difference. In this situation, people can affect their health, the health of their neighbors by taking straightforward steps to self-isolate wherever possible, and to keep social distancing to a maximum. We have not removed from the table any options. We are looking at a broad array of measures that we can move forward with. At this time, we do not see the federal emergencies act as an essential tool today, but we are continuing to look at the situation and we’ll make decisions based on the best recommendations of science.
Brian Mullen: (11:21)
And what do you need to see before declaring a federal emergency?
Justin Trudeau: (11:24)
I think the key issue is, are there things that we need to be able to do as a government that we cannot do with the very strong existing regulations that are in place and that our government has as tools.
Justin Trudeau: (13:11)
Speaker 5: (13:12)
In English, for my colleagues please.
Justin Trudeau: (13:13)
Justin Trudeau: (13:14)
We are working out an agreement with airline companies where the government will help to cover extra costs, but we expect Canadians being returned home on these emergency flights to pay a responsible ticket price for their return.
Ashley Burke: (13:42)
Ashley Burke, CBC News. Prime Minister, you’ve said it’s inevitable that there are going to be Canadians stranded abroad. What’s your message to those Canadians who are scared they’re in countries where the medical system is not like it is here in Canada? There are towns under lockdown with heavy military presence, they’re afraid they could be stuck there for months. What to you tell them and their families?
Justin Trudeau: (14:48)
First of all, Canada is making consular assistance available, a loan of $5000 for example, to help them in either buying tickets home, or being able to hunker down in place. It is an extremely difficult situation, but the lockdown of various countries, the limits on air travel, and logistical capacities of our airlines means that we are unlikely to be able to bring everyone home. So, we’re going to ask people to stay safe, to make smart choices, and do the best they can in a situation that is unprecedented, exceptional, and very difficult.
Ashley Burke: (15:27)
And what’s the level of cooperation that you’ve received from Canadian commercial airlines to try to repatriate Canadians? And as well, what bailout is on the way for them?
Justin Trudeau: (15:34)
I have spoken directly with the heads of Canada’s largest airlines over the past days, and I can tell you that they are all in, in terms of supporting Canadians, in terms of getting people home. There are, of course, limits to what we can all do to rescue everyone, but I can assure you that the airlines have been very positive, thoughtful partners on that. And we recognize that Canada’s airline industry has been strong and successful in years past, and will need to be strong and successful once this pandemic follows its course and we come out the other side. We will be there to support airlines and other industries that have been sorely hit by this particular crisis.
Speaker 3: (16:19)
Thank you. We will now go to the phone lines for a few questions. Moderator?
Thank you. Please press star one if you have a question. [French 00:16:28]
The first question, [French 00:16:34]. Please go ahead, your line is now open.
Ashley Burke: (16:39)
Justin Trudeau: (16:39)
Okay. We’re asking people to stay home as much as possible, to avoid nonessential travel. That means not going to see your neighbors if you don’t have to, and that applies to the United States, but it also applies to other provinces. We recognize that people have reasons, whether family reasons, or work reasons, or other important reasons to travel and they can make those judgments. But as much as possible people should be staying home. People should be self-isolating with their family members, so we can all get through this, and so we can be making sure we’re keeping our healthcare professionals and our healthcare systems safe and able to handle the capacity.
Speaker 3: (18:17)
Thank you. Next question, moderator.
Thank you, merci. The next question is from Greg Quinn from Market News. Please go ahead, your line is now open.
Greg Quinn: (18:28)
Good morning. Bank of Montreal and Scotia Bank have said the deficit this year could come in at around $100 billion, about twice the previous record. Have you seen any official figures from government of those kinds of numbers, and do you have any hesitation politically or economically about that kind of figure?
Justin Trudeau: (18:48)
We have heard a wide range of estimates from economists and banks about how bad this is going to get. The only thing they seem to agree on is that it’s going to get very bad. Fortunately, Canada is in an extremely strong fiscal position. We have one of the lowest debt to GDP ratios, the lowest debt as a factor of the size of our economy of most of our allied countries, and that gives us room to inject money into people’s pockets, into the economy as necessary. We will focus on ensuring that Canadians and companies get through this difficult time, so that once we’re through, we can pick up where we left off and continue to have a strong and prosperous economy. This is what we’re focusing on right now, how to bridge Canadians and businesses through this difficult time. We have the capacity to do that, and we will do what is necessary.
Speaker 3: (19:53)
Thank you. Last question, moderator?
Thank you. We have a question from Mia Ratson from the Canadian Press. Please go ahead, your line is now open.
Mia Ratson: (20:04)
Good morning, prime minister. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about the capacity of the civil service to deliver things like employment insurance. We saw record numbers of people applying for EI this week, and lots of people saying they couldn’t get through on the phones, they don’t know how to apply. How, with everybody working from home, or so many working from home and so many applications, is the government going to be able to manage this?
Justin Trudeau: (20:25)
We recognize that we need to do things that are absolutely unprecedented in terms of getting money out the door into the pockets of Canadians who need it. We have many different programs and many different tools that are designed to do that in normal times. In these exceptional and uncertain times, we’re having to take new measures, and create new measures to be able to deliver for Canadians who need it right now. Our civil servants are working extraordinary hard to ensure that’s possible. But it’s not just about delivering existing programs to far more people, it’s about actually simplifying both the process around application and delivery, to be able to get money to the people who need it in this exceptional circumstance.
Justin Trudeau: (21:12)
I want to thank all public servants, not just at the federal level, but at provincial levels as well, who are working incredibly hard, many of them from home, to ensure that we’re able to hold on as a country as we get through these difficult times. We will continue to use various measures in order to get money out to people through many of the things we have in place already, but we’re also looking at new things, and the civil service is an essential part of flowing that.