These are Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s full remarks, in English, as he addressed the nation from the doorstep of his home at Rideau Cottage, where he remains in self-isolation for 14 days.
Before we get going, I want to recognize that earlier today, the province of Ontario announced a provincial state of emergency. At the federal level, we’ve been coordinating with them and continue to do so. Ontario is taking the right steps to protect people and the health care system. And today’s announcement is an example of what we’re seeing across the country, national coordination and local action that makes sense for the circumstances on the ground. And I want you to know, Canada is here for you, in Ontario and in all parts of the country.
On that note, I want to recognize all the people on the front lines of our health-care system. Whether you’re a doctor or a nurse, a hospital administrator or maintenance staff, you are doing an incredible job. I know that Canadians are grateful. I also want to thank all of the retired health-care workers who are putting up their hands and coming back to help take care of Canadians. But let’s do more than just say thank you to our health-care workers. Let’s also do what we can to lighten their load.
In her update on Monday, Dr. Tam was clear about what we should and shouldn’t be doing. Do wash your hands often. Do sneeze into your elbow. And don’t gather in groups of more than 50 people. These measures, and especially social distancing, are how we can ease the burden on our doctors and nurses so they can focus on our fellow Canadians who need it most.
This is an especially important day, on St. Patrick’s Day. Lots of you probably had parties planned or were going to head out with friends. Now is the time to find another way to celebrate, and to do that at home. I know people would probably prefer to just carry on as normal. I would, too. But we all must take all action, through social distancing, to protect our health and the health of others.
Doctors and nurses need your help. Your neighbours need your help. Vulnerable people in the community need your help. As much as possible, stay home. Don’t go out unless you have to, work remotely if you can. Let the kids run around a bit in the house.
Things will get better. As the situation with COVID-19 continues to grow, our government will keep taking action, too. For example, one of the things we’re doing to flatten the curve is as of Wednesday, Parks Canada is suspending visitor services at all national parks and historic sites. What this means for our parks is that pretty much anything with a door will be closed.
We’ve announced up to $5,000 as part of an emergency loan program through Global Affairs Canada. It will help people who need immediate financial assistance return home or cover their needs if they have to wait to get back. Canadians abroad in need of emergency assistance can always call 1-613-996-8885 or email SOS@international.gc.ca.
This comes as we announce that we are closing our air borders to people who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents with some exceptions, like for air crew and U.S. citizens. Earlier today, the special cabinet committee on COVID-19 met once again to discuss our response, and full cabinet will have a meeting this afternoon. We are hard at work to create the right support package for Canadians while protecting people’s jobs and our economy. And tomorrow we will be making another major announcement on economic actions to support Canadians as quickly as possible.
By the end of the week, we will have more to say about changes for the upcoming tax season. We’re looking at giving more flexibility for people to make payments and for businesses to have more liquidity during this time. Throughout this, we’re working together right across the country. I have directed the House Leader to engage with his counterparts to discuss a brief return of the House of Commons so we can bring in emergency economic measures. There are economic pieces that will need quick passage through the House in order to support Canadians.
We are also examining the Emergency Measures Act to see if it is necessary or if there are other ways that will enable us to take the actions needed to protect people. Coordination at all levels and between all parties is vital. I have asked the chair and vice chair of the cabinet COVID committee, Ministers Freeland and Duclos to ensure that there are regularized briefings for premiers, leaders of the opposition and other stakeholders for the foreseeable future. And yesterday, our regular calls with all parliamentarians began, which the Public Health Agency of Canada is monitoring.
Right now, we must all work together. The bottom line is this: each one of us can make choices that help the people around us. In fact, we can make choices that will save lives. If we act now, even if it seems like a big ask, things will be better tomorrow. Thanks to our outstanding health professionals, we have the information we need to make informed choices. So if you can, send an email or pick up the phone instead of meeting in person. Order takeout instead of going out to dinner, and try to support your neighbours and friends if they are worried or need help.
Canada, let’s work together. I know we can do this. Merci beaucoup tout le monde.