Mar 23, 2020
Justin Trudeau Coronavirus Press Briefing Transcript March 22
Justin Trudeau continued his series of daily news briefings for Canadians on COVID-19. Read the transcript of the March 22 briefing here.
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Justin Trudeau: (00:51)
… Working overtime to keep us safe and keep the country moving. Hospital staff, border agents, store clerks, cashiers, postal workers, delivery folks, pharmacists, cleaning staff, first responders, truck drivers, train conductors and so many others. They’ve been working every day so we can work from home and practice social distancing. Thank you for being there for us. Know that all Canadians are grateful for your service.
Justin Trudeau: (01:25)
I know that many of you are worried about what might happen next. You’re wondering how long this is going to last. You’re wondering about your job and your savings. You’re worried about your kids not being in school and we get it. These are uncertain times and families across the country are concerned. That’s why this week we took important steps to support Canadians, protect jobs, and limit the spread of the virus. We unveiled an $82 billion plan to help people in businesses who’ve fallen on hard times because of COVID-19. As part of this plan, we want to boost the Canada child benefit, introduce new benefits to help people who don’t qualify for employment insurance, and supplement the GST credit, amongst many other things.
Justin Trudeau: (02:15)
Our government also announced new funding for research and a new strategy to mobilize industry to fight COVID-19. After conversations with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, I can now confirm that the House of Commons will be recalled on Tuesday at noon so we can pass emergency legislation that will put our plan into motion. On that note, I want to thank the House leaders for their cooperation and the members of the opposition for their efforts as we work together to slow the spread of this virus. I know that together we can protect Canadians, save jobs, and set the groundwork for our economy to rebound after this crisis.
Justin Trudeau: (04:19)
You can find more details on what we’ve announced so far on the government website at Canada.ca. And since there’s more support coming this week, that’s where you’ll find all the information you need and the help you deserve.
Justin Trudeau: (04:33)
I want to thank you all for helping us slow the spread of COVID-19. To those of you who usually spend your Sundays in a place of worship, thank you for staying home today. I know it’s not easy, but it is deeply appreciated. And to all the kids out there, all of a sudden you’ve heard you can’t go on play dates or have sleepovers. Your playgrounds and schools have closed and your March break was certainly different than what you’d hoped for. I get it from my kids as well. They’re watching a whole lot more movies, but they miss their friends, and at the same time they’re worried about what’s going on out there in the world and what their future may hold. I know this is a big change, but we have to do this not just for ourselves but for our grandparents, our nurses, our doctors and everyone working at our hospitals, and you kids are helping a lot.
Justin Trudeau: (06:18)
The doctors and scientists have been clear that social distancing, which means staying at least two meters apart and staying home as much as possible, is the best way to help each other and you’re having to wash your hands a lot. So a special thanks to all you kids. Thank you for helping your parents work from home, for sacrificing your usual day, for doing math class around the kitchen table, and for trusting in science. We’re going to have more to say to you soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, let’s make sure we all do our part. Let’s fight this together.
Justin Trudeau: (08:25)
I recognize that millions of Canadians are practicing social distancing, are choosing to stay home, are looking for ways to keep two meters apart from each other and taking this very seriously. That’s great because this is a situation in which individual Canadians behaving responsibly will help themselves, help their neighbors, and mostly protect our healthcare workers. This is something we need to do together. We are of course continuing to work very closely with all provinces, with different orders of government to make sure that people are understanding what they need to do and doing it.
Justin Trudeau: (09:07)
We will continue to look at possible next steps that may become necessary, but for now we are telling people stay home, engage in social distancing, protect yourselves, protect our system, and let’s get through this strongly as a country.
Ashley Burke: (09:22)
Ashley Burke, CBC news. Encouraging people to stay home and to social distance is not enough. There is mounting evidence of social media, pictures of people packing on the beaches in Vancouver, for example. Why not invoke something stricter like the Emergencies Act? Why not restrict people’s civil liberties to protect their health?
Justin Trudeau: (10:31)
There are many things that are being done and can being done at the local level, at the municipal level, and at the provincial level. The Federal Emergencies Act is a significant step that can and should be taken when we’ve exhausted all other steps at other orders of government and the legislation and regulations available to the federal government do not respond or are insufficient to respond to the situation at hand. We continue to work very closely with provinces, with other jurisdictions to make sure that they’re able to do the things that need to be done and we will continue to look at if it’s necessary to move forward with the Emergencies Act.
Ashley Burke: (11:14)
Your party took down a public appeal that used the COVID crisis to fundraise for the liberal party. Why was that taken down and what did you do about it?
Justin Trudeau: (11:23)
I can’t speak for that decision. Obviously, this is a situation in which Canadians need to pull together. We need to be there to support each other. We need to make sure we’re using all different methods to connect and pass important messages to Canadians on how to stay safe and how to make sure that we are properly protecting ourselves, our communities, and protecting healthcare workers. I know that everyone needs to use whatever methods of communications have, but it’s not a situation for fundraising.
Annie Bergeron-Oliver: (11:57)
Hi, it’s Annie Bergeron-Oliver with CTV National News. Companies across Canada have said that they’re willing and able to retool their production lines and to ramp up production, but they say that they need assurances from the federal government. Will your government guarantee that it will buy supplies like masks and ventilators if companies start producing them immediately?
Justin Trudeau: (12:21)
That is very much part of our industrial strategy that we just announced to get companies across the country to manufacture essential equipment, whether it’s ventilators or masks or gowns. We’ve had already a tremendous positive response from companies. It both creates things that we need in Canada and that will be necessary elsewhere around the world as well as keeping Canadians at work in factories contributing to our economic activity. These are things that we’re going to continue to do and we can assure companies that produce these things that we need them and we will use them.
Annie Bergeron-Oliver: (12:59)
So is that a yes, that companies that are producing them immediately will have their purchases, their products purchased? And two, are you considering any incentives to keep people home?
Justin Trudeau: (13:10)
We are looking at ways of ensuring that people can stay home by sending EI supports to people who don’t normally qualify for them, income replacements that’ll make sure that people don’t face a choice between having to go out there and work in order to feed their family and possibly put their neighbors and themselves at risk. We want to be able to be able to choose home.
Brian Mullen: (13:35)
Brian Mullen at the Global News, I have a question about economic aid for Canadians. Denmark has a very aggressive plan, paying about 75% of people’s salaries to avoid mass layoffs and let them keep their jobs and encourage them to stay home, basically freezing their economy in the hopes that it’ll eventually thaw out with less damage in the long run. Did your government consider this option and rule it out?
Justin Trudeau: (13:55)
We have not ruled out anything. As I said, we put forward a significant package of $27 billion directly into the economy to support workers, to support small businesses, but that was only the initial phase of what is necessary. We are continuing to talk about next steps, looking at best practices from around the world, looking what other countries and jurisdictions are doing to ensure that our economy remains solid, if at a standstill, so that it can pick up again once this crisis is through.
Brian Mullen: (14:28)
And a question about personal protective equipment, not just for frontline hospital staff but for other essential workers. Once the virus ramps up, people will burn through it fast. Do we have what we need now? Are you bringing in shipments right now from other countries including China?
Justin Trudeau: (14:41)
We are confident in our capacity to ramp up to provide protective equipment for frontline hospital staff and others who need it so importantly. This is something that Canada has been working towards for a while now. We will ensure that the equipment is available for those who need it right across the country.
Sean Silcoff: (15:02)
Good morning Prime Minister Trudeau, Sean Silcoff for the Globe And Mail. I hope your family’s doing well, as well as convening circumstances like every other person in Canada. Just picking up on my colleague’s question about freezing the economy, it seems to be a fairly significant move by a number of countries. Can you share with us your views and your government’s views about taking this approach?
Sean Silcoff: (15:25)
I’ve talked this morning to several business leaders including Goldy Hyder, and they’re all concerned that this economy will go into a tailspin and they think it would be better to push money from the government through them to their employees rather than seeing another week of 500,000 or a million Canadians applying to EI and overwhelming your government’s resources to process those applications and then again to fill in more paperwork to apply for their jobs back. Can you tell us a little bit more, maybe go into more detail about your thinking about this approach, because it seems to be the thought leadership that everyone is looking at in the last couple of days.
Justin Trudeau: (16:05)
We’ve been listening and speaking with business leaders in this country, top employers, small business groups, representatives right across the country to hear their ideas on how to move forward. We’ve been listening to opposition leaders who are making different suggestions as well. I can tell you that nothing is off the table but I can also tell you that there is no one measure that is going to be sufficient to get us through this situation. We are going to need to bring in many different measures that have different impacts on employers, on employees, on workers, on families, on vulnerable Canadians, on Canadians of all sorts of different challenges and situations in order to be able to hold strong through this time of economic stoppage of so much activity so that we can then, as we are through this, pick up without having lost too much or anything and without too much delay.
Justin Trudeau: (17:05)
Yes, it is obvious that big companies that are able to keep people on the payroll longer will find it easier and not have to rehire later and that is certainly something that we are looking, it’s something we’ve taken steps already towards with the payroll credit, but there is more to do and these are the things that we’re absolutely looking at. But like I said, there is no one silver bullet. It is going to be many, many different measures brought together in the most efficient way that will help us through this.
Sean Silcoff: (17:34)
And what guidance can you provide Canadians and employers about how long the current maximum containment phase will last before you can shift gears to a more targeted containment where most people can return to work? Will it be weeks, months, or several quarters?
Justin Trudeau: (17:50)
That is a question for scientists. Obviously we are taking the best advice from top researchers around the world. We’re looking at the track of the spread of the disease in China, in places like South Korea, in places like Taiwan and Singapore, looking at the challenges facing Europe and particularly Italy right now, and trying to make sure that we are taking the best possible decisions here in Canada. We know that self isolation and social distancing is going to be extremely important in the coming weeks, we’re going to have to maintain it.
Justin Trudeau: (18:24)
We also know that testing on a much larger scale is going to be very important, which is why we’re ramping up the amount of tests done by tens of thousands every single day. We will continue to look to do exactly what we need to do in the time it takes. I wish anyone could give a date at which point this will all be behind us, but that really depends not just on what we do today, but what we keep doing tomorrow and into next week and into next month and that’s why we all need to be working together to get through this, as I know Canadians will.
Speaker 8: (19:01)
Thank you. We’ll now go to the phone for a few questions. You’ll have one question and a quick followup. Moderator?
Thank you. The next question is from an [inaudible 00:19:13] The next question is from [inaudible 00:19:14], your line is open. [Foreign Language 00:19:16].
The next question is from [inaudible 00:20:33] your line is open.
Speaker 8: (23:09)
The last question, moderator?
Thank you. [Foreign Language 00:23:19] The last question is from David Ljunggren from Reuters Ottawa. [Foreign Language 00:23:23] Your line is open.
Justin Trudeau: (23:30)
David, you might be on mute as well.
David Ljunggren: (23:35)
Good grief, and there I was sending a tweet mocking another colleague for having [crosstalk 00:23:38]
Justin Trudeau: (23:38)
Oh, there you go. Yeah. You’re live now David, so you can ask your question.
David Ljunggren: (23:45)
Thank you kindly. You talked about the next weeks of social isolation, but Patty Hajdu, your Health Minister may have said yesterday that we’re talking about months, not weeks. Now this is surely, the need to keep the economy from freezing over months rather than weeks surely means as my other colleagues have asked you, that you kind of have to boost your reaction. The fiscal stimulus plan’s going to have to be much bigger than the $27 billion you’ve announced.
Justin Trudeau: (24:12)
Yes. As we’ve said, what we announced this past week, that $27 billion directly into the economy, the $55 billion in deferred taxes, these are only a very first step. We are looking now at what those next steps are to ensure that our economy is able to pick up again once we’re through this, whether it takes weeks or months. It is likely to take months before we’re fully through this. That’s why supporting directly to Canadians, support directly to small businesses, to large businesses, to industry, to various sectors that will be much harder hit, these are things we are busy looking at in order so that once we move through this, we are able to get back to where we were before as quickly as possible.
David Ljunggren: (25:15)
Great. Thank you.