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Prime Minister’s remarks updating Canadians on the COVID-19 situation and on tax filing

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Good morning, everyone.

It’s been just over a year since the first major flight we organized to bring Canadians home from overseas.

When we were coordinating emergency repatriations last winter, our priority was doing whatever it took to keep people safe.

And from that moment right through to today, that continues to be what we’re focused on.

From border measures, to vaccines, to rapid testing, to the wage subsidy, we’re using every tool in the toolbox to get us all through this crisis.

Let me start with some news on border measures.

Starting next Monday, February 15th, when you return to Canada through a land border you’ll need to show a 72-hour PCR test, just like non-essential air travellers.  

Today, I also have some news to share on vaccines.

This week, tens of thousands of Pfizer vaccine doses will be delivered to Canada.

This is good news for so many people who will be getting their dose.

We know we all want to feel that relief of getting vaccinated, of watching our loved ones get vaccinated.

We’re all eager to know when it’s going to be our turn.

Well, I can tell you we are still very much on track for tens of millions of doses into the spring and for everyone who wants to be vaccinated, vaccinated by September.

Moving forward, in the coming weeks and months, we’re going to get even more doses even faster. So we can all move through this together.

Next week marks the start of a major ramp-up in vaccine shipments.

Starting on the 15th, we’re expecting hundreds of thousands more doses each week – and that’s just from Pfizer.

There are also other vaccine candidates currently in the approval process.

The top experts at Health Canada are working around the clock to ensure that any of these new vaccines approved is both safe and effective.

We’ve already given more than a million COVID-19 vaccine doses in Canada.

These vital doses were given to your parents in long-term care homes, your friend who is a nurse, or your neighbour who provides personal support services.

And this is only the beginning.

We’ll continue until every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated is vaccinated.

This week, tens of thousands of additional Pfizer vaccine doses will be delivered, and we’ll receive thousands more soon after.

Despite some temporary delays, vaccination efforts are going as expected.

We’ll receive 20 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna this spring.

There are other vaccine candidates currently in the approval process.

I can tell you, you and your family will be able to get vaccinated by September.

But even though we are moving forward and delivering vaccines to Canadians as planned, we are not out of the woods yet.

By keeping your distance, washing your hands, and wearing a mask, you’ll continue to help fight COVID-19.

We must keep going.

This morning, I also want to talk about where we are with testing. Rapid testing is key to keeping this virus under control, especially in schools, long-term care homes, and workplaces.

Last Friday, this is something I spoke about with Dr. Janine McCready in Toronto.

She and her team have spearheaded an innovative testing program at several schools, getting tests directly to communities that need it.

In some neighbourhoods, she told me that as many as one in five tests – that’s 20 per cent – come back positive.

Clearly, there’s real need for this testing.

Her work shows that when people can get screened for COVID-19, and then get their results quickly, we can stop the spread.

And this is true right across the country.

Here in Ottawa, a recent program to test asymptomatic students and their families found several positive cases.

Since they weren’t showing any symptoms, without testing, these kids would have been in a busy classroom.

But because of ramped-up testing, their families knew to isolate at home instead.

Testing widely – and often – reduces transmission.

That keeps cases down, and it keeps people safe.

Our government has sent 19.6 million rapid tests to the provinces and territories, with more on the way.

We all want to see cases go down.

We know that these tests can make a difference.

Tests must be deployed – they can’t be allowed to expire.

And testing, like more contact tracing and vaccines, are going to be an essential part of the months forward as we get past this virus and this pandemic as quickly as possible.

We all need to keep working together on all these different aspects to make sure we get through the summer in right form.

In addition to discussing the need for testing in our regular First Ministers’ meetings, we are now working with the private sector to roll out rapid tests in workplaces across the country.

Testing is effective.

And we want to make sure that the tests are used.

These essential tools will help us get through the winter and ensure we are in the best possible condition when we start mass vaccinations this spring.

As Canadians, we all look forward to spring – this year more than ever.

But I know we can all agree that there’s one part of the season nobody likes: tax filing.

Even so, it’s important to file your taxes so you get things like the Canada Child Benefit, the work from home deduction, and the Climate Action Incentive.

These benefits and credits can really help, especially after such a tough year.

So that’s what you should be able to focus on.

Right now, I don’t want you to have to worry about what you may owe in taxes.

That’s why we’re providing one year without interest on certain 2020 tax debt, giving people more flexibility to repay amounts owing from last year.

If you received federal emergency benefits – like the CERB – and you made up to $75,000 in taxable income, you will not have to pay interest on 2020 tax debt until April of next year.

Our priority is ensuring that you and your family get through this pandemic and back on your feet.

The past year has been incredibly hard for people who lost their jobs or whose hours were reduced.

We want you to get back on your feet and not have to worry about paying taxes.

Last year, more than 8 million people accessed CERB to pay their rent and put food on the table.

I know that some people found the information on the net income and gross income requirements for CERB eligibility confusing.

I want to clarify this issue.

For people who accessed CERB based on their gross income instead of their net income, as long as you meet the other eligibility criteria, you will not have to return those CERB payments.

When we rolled out CERB last March, it was because people needed help in the face of a global, once-in-a-generation crisis.

Well, the pandemic isn’t yet over.

So neither is our support.

If you need help while you look for work, the Canada Recovery Benefit and enhanced Employment Insurance are there for you.

If you need to take time off to care for your family, look to the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.

If you need to stay home from work because you’re sick, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is there to help.

And if you need support on payroll for your employees or costs for your businesses, the wage subsidy and business loans are made for you.

It’s not easy to run a business from home or adapt to new public health rules.

Yesterday, I spoke with Kerin and Fahiye.

They’re two young Black entrepreneurs who have big plans.

Kerin showed me her photography studio and talked about the great work she’s doing supporting Black-owned businesses and products, and her excitement about moving forward to a bricks-and-mortar storefront as we move through this pandemic. Right now she’s all online.

And Fahiye talked to me about the costs of shipping coffee across the country and his excitement about building his business and also moving towards opening a coffee shop once we get through this pandemic as well.

They all have big plans, and for all the young entrepreneurs across the country – all the entrepreneurs who are looking to go digital, to change their way of doing things, to grow through this pandemic and beyond – know that we are there to help you get through the hurdles and barriers in your way and create success, not just for you, but for employees, for communities, and for our whole economy.

We’re here to support Canadian business owners, from training on e-commerce to targeted initiatives like the Black Entrepreneurship Program and the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy.   

Because no matter who you are – an entrepreneur, a worker, a parent – we’ve got your back.

The pandemic isn’t easy for anyone.

And in the winter, it can be even more difficult.

Sometimes in February, we think spring will never come.

It’s normal to not feel your best.

Remember there are resources that can help you.

This Thursday is national 2-1-1 day, reminding us that we all have access to a free, confidential helpline by dialling 2-1-1.

Whether you need mental health support or information on community services, just pick up the phone and call.

Service is available 24/7, in 150 languages.

The agents who answer will help you find the resources you need.

You are not alone.

Please, ask for help.

Take care of yourself.

Before I close, I’d like to take a moment to recognize a great public servant, Ian Shugart, the Clerk of the Privy Council.

Ian has been an extraordinary leader through this public health crisis. He’s leading the public service in tremendous efforts and supports to get Canadians through this pandemic.

As he faces health challenges, I want him to know that we’re all pulling for him.

Thank you, everyone.