Remarks on the COVID-19 situation, changes to the Ministry, and the new Commissioner of Nunavut
I want to start today with news about changes to our Liberal Cabinet team.
This morning, Navdeep Bains announced that he’ll be stepping down as Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry to spend more time with his family.
He will continue to serve as Member of Parliament for Mississauga—Malton, and will of course remain a key member of our Liberal team.
Over the past 5 years, Nav has worked tirelessly to build a better Canada for everyone.
Look no further than the program he worked on this spring to help businesses retool to make lifesaving personal protective equipment.
Before the pandemic, Canada produced about 1% of the domestic PPE we used.
By the fall, almost half of the PPE Canada was buying was from domestic companies.
Nav’s work helped create thousands of jobs and support promising small businesses.
He led the way with investments in cutting-edge Canadian science and in local economic growth with the Innovation Superclusters.
He did all this while being a strong advocate for his community.
So a few days ago, Nav called me up to ask to go for a walk in the snow.
And I think we all know what that means in politics, so I was a little trepidacious about it. And I was busy coming up with all sorts of arguments as to why we should continue to work together the way we have been. And as we walked around the grounds of Rideau Hall - physically distanced with masks on - it became very clear that this was the right decision for him, and for his family.
He’s been in this a long time. He was already well into politics when I got my start way back into 2006-2007 and was a great friend to me throughout the entire time.
He is continuing his MP. He is not going anywhere. But we will miss him around the Cabinet table for all the insight, all the wisdom, and all the strength he brings.
I also of course want to thank Braham, Nanki, and Kirpa for having share him with us for all these years. His service has been extraordinary and I know we’re going to miss him, but you are going to miss him less, the three of you.
Earlier today, we made a few changes to Cabinet following the announcement of Navdeep.
First off, Minister Champagne will become the new Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.
As the Minister of Global Affairs amid an unprecedented global crisis, the leadership of François-Philippe was essential when it came time for the largest repatriation of Canadian citizens in our history and for securing supply chains.
Last year was an unparalleled challenge in many respects, and Minister Champagne vociferously defended the interests of Canada on the international stage.
Thanks to his work, we were able to strengthen our alliances with other countries within our international institutions, such as the Francophonie.
His experience in the field of business, including the innovation sector, is a major asset as we rebuild a more inclusive and resilient economy.
As a member of parliament representing a rural riding, François-Philippe will continue to speak for the regions, including in this new, very important file. This I know.
As of today, Minister Garneau will serve as the Minister of Global Affairs.
Whether here on Earth or from space, Marc has always known how to represent Canada.
His recent experience in working with the international community following the tragedy of flight 752 will certainly serve him well in his new position.
As Minister of Transport, Minister Garneau moved the dial on a range of important issues, including the Safer Skies Initiative and the Oceans Protection Plan.
These files and others will be in very good hands as Omar Alghabra takes over as Minister of Transport.
I’ve known Omar for a very long time. From my early beginnings in politics.
And from his recent work as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, I know he’ll do an outstanding job.
Minister Alghabra brings to the table training as an engineer and in business, a history of advocacy for public transit in the GTA, and experience with everything from NGOs to the energy sector.
This is in addition to his leadership on files like public service renewal and diversity.
Finally, today we also announced that Minister Carr will be rejoining the Cabinet table in his role as my Special Representative for the Prairies.
While he has been focusing on his health over the past many months, Jim has remained a very active voice for Winnipeg, for Manitoba, and for the Prairies.
Having served as both Minister of Natural Resources and Minister of International Trade Diversification, as well as being a business leader in Winnipeg, Jim knows what communities and businesses need to succeed.
He will continue to be an outstanding advocate for people across the Prairies as a member of Cabinet once again.
Right from day one, it’s been all hands on deck to keep people safe, support Canadians, and get our economy ready for recovery.
Starting today, I will be holding a virtual Cabinet retreat so that our team can meet and map out our plan to continue this work.
At the top of the agenda will be the vaccine rollout.
And on that front, today I have some important news to share.
I can announce that we have reached an agreement with Pfizer to buy an additional 20 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine.
From our agreements with Moderna and Pfizer alone, we will now have 80 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines arriving this year.
We’re on track to have every Canadian who wants a vaccine receive one by September.
We have let all provinces and territories know how many vaccines they’ll be receiving, every week, between now and the end of February.
This will make sure they have the vaccines and the information they need to keep rolling out doses as quickly, as smoothly, and as efficiently as possible.
On top of that, we will of course continue to work to get even more vaccines delivered as soon as we can.
Today, I can announce that we reached an agreement with Pfizer to step up delivery of their vaccine doses.
Between now and mid-spring – between April and June – we will have enough doses to vaccinate up to 20 million Canadians.
With this news, we are even closer to reaching our objective of offering all Canadians vaccines by fall.
Major-General Fortin and Dr. Njoo will have more to say on the matter at their press conference this Thursday.
Already the most vulnerable and front-line workers have received their doses so vital to them.
Our government will continue to work tirelessly with the provinces and territories so that the vaccines are delivered and that people are immunized as quickly and effectively as possible.
Right now, that is our priority.
While our government does what it must to help you and your loved ones get through the pandemic, we are also thinking about what is next.
Recovery must be profitable for all Canadians.
That is why we have a plan to build a stronger more resilient country in which everyone will have the chance to succeed.
In addition to investing in worker training and creating millions of jobs, we know that true climate action must be the basis of our initiative.
Yesterday, I took part in the One Planet Summit, which brought together leaders from around the world to advance the fight against climate change and the protection of biodiversity.
Canada heads efforts carried out internationally in support of sustainable land management projects around the globe.
And we are doing this while pursuing efforts here in our country to protect nature and keep communities healthy.
Our government will continue to invest so that today and tomorrow’s world will be better, in good health and more prosperous.
Our focus since the start of this pandemic has been protecting you and your family.
Whether by procuring vaccines or by bringing in strict travel and border measures, our priority is your safety.
This morning, I can confirm that Canada will extend by another 30 days – until February 21st – the border measures that are currently in place with the US.
This is an important decision, and one that will keep people on both sides of the border safe.
Things are really tough right now, and we all want this pandemic to be behind us.
There have been a lot of things you’ve missed out on or given up.
But what will define this pandemic isn’t what we couldn’t do.
It’s what we could do, and what we did do.
Your parents and grandparents need you to help keep them safe.
Our frontline workers and hospital staff need you to do your part so ICUs don’t get overwhelmed.
Even small actions can make a huge difference – like wearing a mask or downloading – and using – COVID Alert.
Canada has now hit over 6 million downloads of the app – that’s great, so let’s keep going.
Of course, not everything you can do to help will be easy.
It won’t be easy when you say no to a friend who wants to get together, or when you cancel a vacation south.
But it’ll be worth it.
We can always make choices to protect the people around use.
We can all do our part to get through the pandemic.
I think of everyone in Quebec who is respecting the curfew the province has implemented.
I know that this requires sacrifices.
When you do your part, you are protecting your family and you are standing up for frontline workers.
To cope with the increased number of cases, several provinces still have difficult decisions to make, be it imposing local restrictions or announcing confinement throughout the province.
Our government is here to support Quebec and all the governments that make difficult, but necessary decisions to ensure the safety of Canadians.
We are also continuing to send essential material, such as individual protection equipment and testing kits to the provinces and territories.
It is crucial that these tests be used throughout the country when necessary, whether in schools or in long-term health care centres.
To stop the spread of COVID-19, more people must be able to take rapid tests.
As we deal with this second wave, our government will continue to support the provinces and territories with rapid tests and the other tools needed to keep Canadians safe.
Already we’ve sent over 14 million rapid test kits to the provinces and territories, with more on the way.
It’s by working together that we will get through this crisis.
This is the time to have each other’s backs, and to support the leadership communities need.
Today, I can announce the appointment of Eva Aariak as the new Commissioner of Nunavut.
Ms. Aariak has been a lifelong champion for the territory, as well as for Inuit languages and culture.
As Nunavut’s first woman Premier, and as an advocate for everything from housing to food security, I know Ms. Aariak will continue doing great work in this new role.
This pandemic is a challenge like no other.
Now, more than ever, we need to be there for each other.
A little while ago, Najma and Karim from Toronto sent me a letter about what the last year had been like for them as small business owners and as parents.
Things have been tough, but they talked about how the wage subsidy helped keep their business open, and how the Canada Child Benefit made a huge difference for their family.
Well on Friday, I gave them a call to see how things are going.
They’re staying positive, but our conversation reminded me that when we look out for the people around us, there is no challenge we cannot overcome.
This will be a tough winter, but it will end.
Spring will come and summer will follow.
But until then, let’s have each other’s backs, because together, we can get through this.