A summary of the day's activities of Wednesday, September 16, follows.
Federal Government Relief Measures
. There are no federal government relief measures to announce.
Statement of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a press conference at the conclusion of the three days of meetings of the federal cabinet. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Mary Ng, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson and Pablo Rodriguez, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, joined the Prime Minister.
The introductory paragraphs of the Prime Minister's speech set the tone of his remarks and the likely direction of the upcoming Speech from the Throne.
"We just wrapped up a cabinet retreat here in Ottawa to map out our plan to keep Canadians safe and healthy while building a more resilient Canada. Canada and the world continue to face the ongoing threat of the global pandemic. Over the last few months we've learned that we can never let our guard down. The fight against COVID-19 is far from over. So, we must stay focused on the task ahead. We need to rebuild our economy will keeping Canadians safe. These two goals are not mutually exclusive; they go together. Healthier Canadians will mean and have already meant a stronger and healthier Canada.
.We are continuing to look at the world in which we are living. This new approach will be presented in detail to Canadians next week during the Speech from the Throne. We must continue to support Canadians who need support during this crisis. The pandemic has shown certain inequalities that still continue to exist in our society. We must seize this opportunity within the context of restarting the economy to build a more secure and healthy Canada. A Canada that is "inclusive, safe, competitive and just."
.On the world stage, Canada will continue to work with our G7 allies and other international partners to come up with bold solutions to the challenges we face. Here at home, we will continue to work closely with provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous Peoples, and businesses to drive the most important economic recovery of our generation."
The Prime Minister also shared the details of the investments that will be made through the $19 billion Safe Restart Agreement with the provinces and territories. Provinces and territories were asked to outline in a letter how these funds would best be allocated within their jurisdictions based on their priorities. The Premiers have now submitted the letters and the federal funding will be transferred to the provinces and territories.
Challenged by reporters on his "green" agenda and spending limits, the Prime Minister responded that his government's priority is to ensure Canadians are safe. "We need healthy and confident Canadians," he said. While recognizing that "green" jobs are essential to economic recovery, the Prime Minister noted that the recovery must also address the gaps in the social safety net. "At the same time, we are not out of pandemic," the Prime Minister told reporters. "Actions matter on how we keep each other safe and how we keep our economy going."
The Prime Minister said he was looking forward to sitting down with the leaders of opposition parties this weekend "to hear their concerns and preoccupations in the months ahead". He fell short of saying that he would be consulting with leaders of the opposition parties to gain their support on the Speech from the Throne.
On the matter of a federal election, the Prime Minister said "I don't want an election, my government does not want an election, opposition parties do not want an election and I don't think Canadians want an election." He believes it is inappropriate to describe an election as "reckless" or "irresponsible" in the current circumstances, as one journalist did. The Prime Minister said he had confidence in the strength of our institutions to support an election and confidence in Elections Canada to prepare for a safe election, should Canadians go to the polls.
Regarding the return of Parliament, the Prime Minister expressed a preference for the hydrid model of Parliament. He referred to the need for remote voting when the House of Commons reconvenes because voting is essential to the work of MPs. Remote voting is more important than ever because the entire Bloc Québécois caucus is in isolation as Nancy Déziel, the wife of BQ leader Yves-François Blanchet, and a member of his staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Leader of the CPC Erin O'Toole is in isolation with his family. They will be tested tested for COVID-19 after a staffer has tested positive for the virus.
While the Prime Minister failed to confirm if an economic update or federal budget would be tabled in the House of Commons this fall, he did say that ministerial mandate letters would be issued shortly after the Speech from the Throne.
Federal Government Briefings
Minister of Health Patty Hajdu and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair gave statements to the press after today's cabinet meeting.
Minister Hajdu confirmed that Health Canada will approve a rapid COVID-19 test once an accurate test is available for use.
Minister Hajdu believes that a wide scale shutdown is no longer the answer to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. She believes a more surgical approach is required to manage the outbreaks of COVID-19. She supports the regional approaches adopted by Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Quebec Premier François Legault on this matter.
Minister Blair confirmed that discussions are underway with the U.S. administration to extend the closure of the Canada-US border to non-essential travel to October 21. He said a decision would be announced shortly.
Written Statement of Dr. Tam, Chief Public Officer of Canada
In lieu of an in-person update to the media, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, issued the following statement today:
"There have been 138,803 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,188 deaths. 88% of people have now recovered. Labs across Canada tested an average of 47,111 people daily over the past week with 1.4% testing positive. An average of 722 new cases have been reported daily during the most recent seven days."
Dr. Tam's statement also corrects an error that was made during yesterday's media availability and Monday's statement.
"The correct average daily case count for the period September 8th to September 14th is 696 cases. In addition, the correct average for the daily case count for the period September 7th to 13th is 618, not 681 as reported in our statement on Monday."
While apologizing for the error, Dr. Tam expressed her concern about the steady increase in national daily case counts reported during recent weeks.
Statement of Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Ministers
In a news conference at Queen's Park, Ontario Premier Doug Ford provided an update on the government's response to COVID-19. Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Education Minister Stephen Lecce, Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy and Dr. Derek Huyer, Coordinator, Provincial Outbreak Response, joined the Premier.
Premier Ford provided an update on the implementation of the province's back to school before announcing the launch of the new voluntary interactive screening tool to assist parents, students and staff with the daily assessment of COVID-19 symptoms and risk factors. This tool, which represents another layer of prevention, will let parents, students, and education staff know whether they should attend school each day or guide at-risk individuals to proper resources.
Prior to today's news conference, the media had reported that Premier Ford was to announce measures to curb the acceleration of new COVID-19 cases in the province by clamping down on social gatherings. The Premier did confirm that announcement was coming. He said he was discussing the matter with his cabinet after the press conference. He also said he consulted with the mayors and public health officials of Toronto, Ottawa and Peel region to seek their support for the new measures. Premier Ford added, "Yes, there will be severe, severe fines for those ignoring the regulations, the highest in the country."
Several journalists addressed the long line-ups in assessment centres again today. Premier Ford promised that he would make an announcement very soon on this matter.
A journalist asked why the government was caught completely caught off guard with respect to testing. Premier Ford disagreed with that assessment. He said his government has been working to increase testing capacity through the establishment of additional testing centres and testing mobile units. He ended up announcing that tests would also be conducted in pharmacies. Premier Ford said once retailers are up and running they will conduct tests for asymptomatic people. Testing centers will conduct tests for people showing symptoms.
Deputy Premier Elliott added that the province is regularly testing 25,000 to 35,000 people a day and working to ramp up testing to 50,000 people a day within a month.
Premier Ford and Dr. Huyer confirmed that Ontario is considering adopting a colour-coded COVID-19 alert system similar to the one introduced by the government of Quebec to manage outbreaks in the various regions across the province.
Ontario reported 315 new COVID-19 cases today, 64 per cent under the age of 40. This is the sixth day in a row that Ontario reported over 200 new cases.
Statement of Quebec Premier François Legault
Although not scheduled to hold a press conference, Premier Legault did take part in a media scrum for about 20 minutes this morning.
Premier Legault confirmed there was little the government could do to curb the high transmittal rates that are linked to private gatherings. He explained that the government had to rely on the good faith and compliance of Quebecers, as taking additional measures with regards to private residences would require warrants. Premier Legault reiterated that his government did not intend to take action in response to the anti-mask protests as it is impossible to generally ban protests.
Quebec reported more than 300 new COVID-19 cases in past 24 hours, the highest total since the first day of June when the Quebec Institute of Public Health reported 326 new cases.
Elsewhere in Canada
Yesterday, Alberta Health Services announced 124 new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths.
The province announced a plan to spend $43 million to enhance, repair and protect Alberta's provincial parks as part of Alberta's Recovery Plan. The plan will create more than 290 jobs in tourism, hospitality and services. The government will also strengthen ties with non-profits and conservation societies to help maintain and protect parks and Crown land.
Yesterday, Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's Provincial Health Officer, announced 97 new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths. Sixty-three individuals are hospitalized, with 20 in intensive care. There are 1,590 active cases of COVID-19 in the province with 3,001 people under active public health monitoring for known exposures.
The provincial government has formally extended the provincial state of emergency, allowing Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support the province's COVID-19 pandemic response. The state of emergency is extended through the end of the day on September 29, 2020.
Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, issued a statement on the excessive number of students gathering publicly at the University of Victoria. Minister Mark stated, "The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has been very clear about the need for individuals, organizations, communities and our province to work together in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and follow orders and guidelines around social gatherings. To learn that some students are blatantly ignoring the advice and orders of Dr. Henry and gathering in large numbers is unacceptable, completely irresponsible and could lead to enforcement measures".
According to a CBC online news article, Heiltsuk Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and Tsilhqot'in National Government are calling for an order forcing the British Columbia Ministry of Health to release data on confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases near their communities. The coalition alleges that the province is violating the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and endangering lives by keeping the information private. The coalition filed their petition with the province's Privacy Commissioner on Monday.
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