Remarks updating Canadians on COVID-19, the economy, and strategies to fight racism
This week is off to a productive start.
Yesterday, Minister Miller signed a new, co-developed protocol with National Chief Bellegarde to move forward on much-needed reforms of Indigenous child and family services.
It should be up to Indigenous peoples to decide what is best for their children, families, and communities, and with this protocol, we’re taking another important step in the right direction.
We also announced new investments to expand access to cultural, emotional, and mental health support services for those affected by the national tragedy of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, as well as the Federal Indian Day Schools Settlement Agreement.
To continue walking the road of reconciliation, we must work with survivors, families, communities on the support they need.
There’s still much to be done, but yesterday’s announcements are another important step along our shared path.
Over the past two days, we held a virtual Cabinet retreat.
It was an opportunity for our team to get together after an eventful start to the year and to establish our priorities for the weeks and months ahead.
We first talked about the pandemic, its consequences on the economy, and what our government can and must do to fight systemic racism.
I will start with our discussions on the pandemic.
On Monday, we spoke with Dr. Tam, the Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Nemer, the Chief Science Advisor, and Dr. Naylor, who heads the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.
From the start, our response has been based on science and data, and that’s what we will continue doing as we restart certain activities.
It’s the only way to protect Canadians and to put a stop to COVID-19 for good.
Earlier this week, we held a two-day virtual Cabinet retreat.
We talked about how the virus is progressing across the country as well as our response so far.
Later today, we’ll be releasing a public health modelling update on COVID-19 in Canada.
We’ll have more details then, but for now, I want to give a quick overview.
Last week, we said that nationally, the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths is declining over time.
That is still the case today.
The situation is stabilizing in Canada because Canadians did their part and followed public health instructions.
But, we still have to be very careful. Things can change quickly.
As Dr. Tam will explain later, we still have some hot spots in some parts of the country, including in long-term care facilities and agricultural work settings.
So, as we continue to gradually reopen the economy, we have to remain vigilant. We have to keep following public health advice.
COVID-19 caused not only a health crisis, but also an economic crisis.
This was one of the main subjects we discussed during our Cabinet retreat.
A lot of people were unable to work for weeks and others lost their jobs.
And while all sectors of the economy have suffered the consequences of this pandemic, some have been hit harder than others.
better understand the consequences the pandemic has had on our economy, we will be releasing a fiscal and economic snapshot later this afternoon.
Minister Morneau will have more details for you, but this is the bottom line.
When the pandemic hit, a lot of people lost their jobs overnight. They didn’t know how they would feed their families or pay their bills.
Faced with this unprecedented challenge, our government had two choices.
We could either let Canadians figure things out on their own and hope that this would all be over soon, or we could act quickly to help Canadians.
We chose to help Canadians.
Today, Canada has one of the most ambitious and comprehensive plans in the world to fight the pandemic.
We increased financial support for vulnerable groups, like seniors and students.
We provided loans to businesses with cash flow problems, we helped employers rehire their employees, and we supported those who lost their jobs.
Nearly 11 million Canadians have been supported by the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy or the CERB.
Our government took on debt to prevent Canadians from having to go too far into debt.
And we were able to do this because, when the crisis began, Canada was on solid footing, with a net national debt-to GDP ratio considerably lower than in other G7 countries.
Our government was in a good position to help Canadians and to lay the foundations that will allow our economy to bounce back.
Four months later, we have slowed the progression of the virus and are now at a stage where we can see some parts of the economy reopening.
And with historically low interest rates, the cost of borrowing remains low, so our government will continue to invest in Canadians and in our economy.
Obviously, there are several challenges to reopening. Some sectors will rebound quicker than others. Some people will be able to find a new job quickly, but it will take more time for others.
As we move into the recovery stage, Canadians can count on us to always be in their corner.
To better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on our economy, we will be releasing a fiscal and economic snapshot this afternoon.
Minister Morneau will have more to say on this later today, but for now, I want to talk about the main takeaways.
When the pandemic first hit, a lot of people lost their jobs overnight. They didn’t know how they were going to feed their families or pay their bills.
Faced with this unprecedented challenge, our government had two options.
We could sit back, let Canadians fend for themselves, and hope that it would all be over soon – or we could swiftly and substantially choose to support Canadians.
We chose to support Canadians.
As we measure the cost of helping Canadians, we shouldn’t forget that the cost of doing nothing would have been far more to both on our health and our economy.
This is not, and has not been, a time for tightening of belts or for austerity.
By building a bridge for Canadians through this crisis, we can and will build a stronger, more resilient Canada.
Today, Canada has one of the most ambitious and comprehensive plans to counter the economic impacts of this pandemic.
We increased financial support to vulnerable groups like seniors and students.
We provided loans to businesses struggling with cash flow, helped employers rehire their employees, and supported those who had lost their jobs.
In fact, nearly 11 million Canadians have been supported through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy or the CERB.
Our government took on debt to reduce the amount that Canadians themselves had to take on.
We were able to do this because Canada entered this crisis on a strong footing, with a net debt-to-GDP ratio considerably lower than the rest of the G7.
Our government was well positioned to be there for Canadians and lay the groundwork for our economy to bounce back.
Four months later, we’ve slowed down the progression of the virus significantly and we’re now seeing parts of the economy reopen.
And, historically low interest rates mean manageable borrowing costs as we continue to invest in Canadians and in the economy.
Now, the road to recovery will not be an easy one.
Some sectors will bounce back more quickly than others. Some people will be able to find work, but others won’t right away.
As we move into this recovery phase, Canadians can count on us to always be in their corner.
Over the past two days, our team also talked about what concrete steps this government must take to fight racism and build a more inclusive Canada.
Because here are the facts.
Prejudice, discrimination, and violence are a lived reality for far too many Canadians.
And it’s the result of systems which all too often condone, normalize, perpetrate, and perpetuate inequality and injustice against racialized people.
Our government pledged to work with racialized communities and Indigenous peoples to address systemic racism.
Over the last five years, we’ve invested in mental health resources for Black youth and worked to close the gaps in services for Indigenous communities.
And we now have Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy, which has begun its work to change the way we do things and break down barriers.
We’ve made progress, but it’s nowhere near enough.
So, Cabinet has put together a work plan for the summer months.
Our goal is to come up with strong policies that will help eliminate barriers facing Indigenous peoples, racialized people, and persons with disabilities.
Minister Lametti is working on justice reforms.
Minister Blair is focused on modernizing policing structures and updating standards regarding the use of force.
Ministers Bains and Ng are looking at improving access to capital and generating more capacity.
Ministers Mendicino and Qualtrough are exploring ways to ensure better protection for temporary foreign workers.
And ministers Blair and Miller are committed to co-developing a legislative framework, which recognizes First Nations policing as an essential service, and expand the number of communities served by First Nations policing.
We have our work cut out for us, but we’re ready.
Fighting systemic racism, unconscious bias, and discrimination is a top priority for our government and we will continue to listen and work with communities, and allies to build a better Canada.
I want to end today by congratulating Bob Rae on his appointment as Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Ambassador Rae has dedicated his life to serving Canada, most recently as Canada’s Special Envoy on Humanitarian and Refugee Issues and before that, as Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar.
In these roles, he worked closely with the UN and the international community to help lead Canada’s humanitarian efforts.
I know he will build on the work of Ambassador Marc-André Blanchard and defend our interests and our values with integrity.
I would also like to thank Ambassador Blanchard for his many years of outstanding service.
Marc-André strengthened our relationships and build bridges with new partners throughout his mandate.
I wish him all the best for the future.