Mar 24, 2020
Justin Trudeau Coronavirus Briefing Transcript March 24
Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau gave an update on COVID-19 for the country today. Read the full transcript of his press conference speech here.
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Justin Trudeau: (00:00)
Justin Trudeau: (00:10)
Good morning, everyone. My apologies for being a little delayed this morning. It was important that I speak with all three opposition leaders because I’m unable to join them this afternoon as the House of Commons reconvenes to pass emergency legislation on COVID-19. This legislation will help ensure that Canadians are getting the support they need during these challenging times. No matter who you are, where you live or what you do, COVID-19 is having a real impact on your life. Small businesses are temporarily closing up shop, hotels and restaurants can no longer accept guests. Some people are not getting paid, others are worried about their job. Whatever your situation may be, our government is here to help.
Justin Trudeau: (00:56)
Passing this bill today means getting you the support you deserve as soon as possible. When you’re trying to help get money out to people, speed is of the essence, especially in an unprecedented situation like this one, but I want to make it very clear, I believe in our democratic institutions. All of us in Parliament must work together and Canadians need to see us doing just that. You have my unwavering commitment. We will protect and uphold our democratic values, we will protect and uphold our democratic institutions as we deliver support to Canadians as quickly as possible.
Justin Trudeau: (01:40)
Justin Trudeau: (03:06)
I know a lot of Canadians abroad are still having trouble finding a flight to bring them home, so I want to give everyone an update. At least one more flight from Morocco has been scheduled. The first flight from Peru will leave today and we’re working on flights from Panama, Tunisia, Ukraine, in addition to the flights we’ve already announced from Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Spain. On that note, I want to thank the flight attendants, pilots, border agents and airport staff who’ve all played a crucial role in bringing Canadians home. They’ve been on the front lines of this crisis for weeks, but they continue to show up to work and bring families together. Just this past week, nearly one million Canadians traveled home to Canada. This would not have been possible without the people who work at our airports, at the border, and at our ports. On behalf of all Canadians, thank you. We see how hard you’re working and we deeply appreciate it.
Justin Trudeau: (04:13)
Every day someone asks me how long these restrictions will be in place, and the truth is we don’t know yet. But here’s what we do know. The duration of this crisis will be determined by the choices we make right now, by decisions we take every single day. So if you want things to get back to normal, do your part, stay home. If you’ve just returned from abroad, go straight home from the airport and do not leave for at least 14 days. This is not a suggestion. You cannot pick up groceries or visit your parents or your friends. You need to go home and stay there. If people do not follow these guidelines, we will put much more stringent measures in place.
Justin Trudeau: (05:05)
Since the beginning, I have been in constant communication with the first ministers. We had another call last night and we agreed that we have to keep collaborating to ensure that all regions have what they need, including testing equipment and medical supplies. We discussed the range of challenges being faced and overcome across the country. We talked about working even more closely together, to do more to keep Canadians safe. We also talked about the emergency measures that have been put in place at the provincial and territorial level. The Federal Emergencies Act is a last resort, but as I keep saying, all options are on the table. If people do not comply with expert advice and government guidelines, we will have to take additional steps.
Justin Trudeau: (05:56)
Right now there are people who are still going to work because they have to. Pharmacists, delivery folks, postal workers, custodial staff, truck drivers, and many, many more are keeping the country running. They deserve our thanks for everything they do, but these people are more than just their job. They’re somebody’s mom or granddad, somebody’s best friend or favorite colleague. So please for them, stay home. And do it for the healthcare workers who we can’t afford to lose during the biggest public health crisis our country has ever seen. Because here’s the hard truth, if our nurses and doctors have COVID-19, they can’t help you. They won’t be able to treat you or your loved ones if you get sick. This is serious. The decisions you make have serious consequences, not just on your community, but on the entire country. So do your part, that’s how we will keep each other safe.
Justin Trudeau: (07:03)
Janet Silver: (07:09)
Janet Silver, Global News. Prime Minister, you just talked about the need of getting money at the door as quickly as possible. Critics say this still involves a lot of paperwork. So why not send or give every tax filer a check right now? And to that end, last week alone we had nearly a million extra people filing for unemployment insurance. Processing times can be slow, how quickly can they expect their checks as well?
Justin Trudeau: (07:34)
We recognize the need to help Canadians directly and quickly. People are worried about affording their groceries, they’re worried about paying their rent, they’re worried about how they’re going to stay safe and keep their families safe when they don’t have revenue coming in. That’s why we’ve put forward measures that will get money out to them quickly. We recognize that the demand is massive across the country and we are working very, very hard to be able to flow money to people very rapidly. But as I said, nothing is off the table. We are looking at a broad range of measures for supporting vulnerable people, for supporting businesses, small businesses specifically, and giving more help to Canadians. We will continue to work and roll out those measures as we move forward.
Justin Trudeau: (08:25)
Molly Thomas: (09:11)
Hi, Prime Minister. Molly Thomas, CTV National News. We’re hearing that some doctors and nurses are waiting more than a week to get test results. That obviously skews numbers as to how big of a problem this is, and more importantly, it limits the ability to trace who an infected person came into contact with. So why didn’t your government enhance lab capabilities earlier to prevent backlogs here?
Justin Trudeau: (09:31)
We have been enhancing lab capabilities, we’ve been increasing testing by tens of thousands of numbers every single day, but we know that there is also backlogs and challenges, particularly in more remote or more overburdened jurisdictions to get those test results back quickly. We discussed it with the premiers last night actually as well. We are moving to accelerate the processes, because testing is not just about giving people peace of mind, it’s an essential element for the public health response that will keep us all safe. We know that massive testing has been part of the solution in places that have managed to contain or slow the spread of COVID-19. That is why we are investing significantly in increasing both our testing capacity and the speed with which we will be able to respond.
Justin Trudeau: (10:25)
Olivia Stefanovich: (11:28)
Good morning, Prime Minister. Olivia Stefanovich, CBC News. Why would your government think it’s a good idea to propose a bill to broadly tax and spend without parliamentary approval until December 2021? Many opposition members say they can’t support this overreach. Why would you bring politics into a pandemic?
Justin Trudeau: (11:46)
We recognize that this pandemic is moving extremely quickly and it is an exceptional situation that requires extreme flexibility and rapidity of response by governments to be able to help Canadians and react to a situation that we’ve seen is moving quickly every single day. So saying we have a parliament that works, we have an opposition that is doing its job of making sure that we’re taking the right steps the right way, and that’s why we’ve been working on drafting the right legislation. Up until the last minute, we’ve been in close discussion with the opposition parties to find a way to both get that flexibility, to be able to get measures out the door and keep in place our democratic institutions and the values that are so important to us all. We will always ensure that our system works in a robust way both around accountability and helping Canadians as quickly as is necessary in these exceptional circumstances, and that’s exactly what we’re going to see this afternoon and what I’m sure will be robust, but extremely cooperative and collaborative, debate this afternoon in the House.
Justin Trudeau: (13:02)
Justin Trudeau: (14:53)
I think we recognize that in an emergency situation we need to take certain steps that wouldn’t be taken in nonemergency situations, but as far as I know that is not a situation we’re looking at right now. But as I said, all options are on the table to do what is necessary to keep Canadians safe in these exceptional times.
Dylan Robertson: (15:17)
Good morning, Prime Minister. Dylan Robertson, Winnipeg Free Press. How many premiers asked you to invoke the Emergencies Act, and what is your tipping point to enact it?
Justin Trudeau: (15:27)
We had a good discussion on the Federal Emergencies Act, recognizing that most provinces and territories, if not all, have brought in their own Emergencies Act to be able to deal with the situation. The Federal Emergencies Act is really a step above that would involve powers of coordination, of rearranging logistical supply chains to cover challenges in various parts of the country. It is not something that the premier is largely thought was necessary at this point. Most of them indicated that if it became necessary they would of course support it, but they didn’t feel it was there yet. I impressed upon them the need to further coordinate and provide data on things like how many ventilators they have so that we can make sure that they are going to the areas, maybe not in their province, but next door, that need them the most and ensure a better level of flow of emergency equipment to the places that need it.
Justin Trudeau: (16:31)
But as long as we are doing that in a robust way, there probably isn’t yet a need for the emergencies act. But as we know, things are changing very, very rapidly. Some premiers were more open to it than others, but all of them indicated an openness to continue the discussions to make sure that we’re able as individual jurisdictions, but also as a country, to do everything necessary to keep Canadians safe.
Justin Trudeau: (16:57)
Speaker 6: (17:09)
Speaker 7: (17:12)
Thank you, [French 00:17:48]. First questions is from Teresa Wright from Canadian Press. Please go ahead, your line is now open.
Teresa Wright: (17:56)
Good morning, Prime Minister. I’m wondering if you can tell me if you’re worried about signs that the U.S. is keen to move away from COVID restrictions in the name of trying to help jumpstart the economy, and how such a move would impact the Canada/U.S. border agreement.
Justin Trudeau: (18:13)
Obviously, the agreement we have with the United States is a limiting all nonessential travel for tourism, for recreational purposes. We recognize the deeply integrated supply chains that go back and forth across the United States and we’ll continue to ensure that essential supplies of medication, of industrial equipment, of food continue to flow. At the same time, we are continuing in Canada to base our decisions and our recommendations and guidelines to Canadians on science. We recognize that the need for social distancing, which means keeping two meters apart and not gathering in groups, is going to be in place for many more weeks. We will ensure that we are giving the support to Canadians, to small businesses, so that as we get through this we are able to restore the economic activity that keeps us all prosperous when it is safe to do so. Our priority is keeping Canadians alive and healthy and that is what we will continue to focus on in Canada.
Speaker 6: (19:20)
Speaker 7: (19:24)
Thank you, [French 00:19:25]. Next question is from Steve Scherer from Rueters. Please go ahead.
Steve Scherer: (19:30)
Hello, Prime Minister. Today, the WHO said that the United States could become an epicenter for the coronavirus. You already have border controls in place for non-essential travel, but are you prepared to do more to get tougher on the border? We’ve heard anecdotally that truckers, for example, are just asked if they’re healthy or not. Is the government prepared to do more on the border, and what could that be?
Justin Trudeau: (20:00)
As I’ve said, we are a braced for a broad range of scenarios. We have put contingency plans for next steps depending on what trajectory the virus takes in Canada, or indeed around the world. We are looking at a broad range of things, nothing is off the table, but we will respond every step of the way with the necessary actions at a given moment. At this time, we feel the measures that we have taken to restrict flow across the border to goods and essential travel is the important thing that we’re doing to keep Canadian safe. Of course, as the situation evolves, we will be ready to shift our posture with that.
Speaker 6: (20:45)
Speaker 7: (20:50)
Thank you, [French 00:20:52]. Next question, Lina Dib, La Presse Canadienne.
Lina Dib: (22:10)
Justin Trudeau: (22:10)
Speaker 6: (22:10)
Justin Trudeau: (22:10)