Repeating a warning he delivered last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday the country is not out of the COVID-19 woods and warned that failure to heed anti-pandemic measures could mean a return to extreme lockdowns like those put in place last March.
“The last thing anyone wants is to go into this fall in a lockdown similar to this spring, and the way we do that is by remaining vigilant,” he told reporters as he headed for a two-day cabinet retreat in Ottawa.
Last week, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said she was concerned about a steady increase of COVID-19 cases across the country.
Tam is expected to address cabinet ministers at the retreat, which was originally slated to focus on plans to rebuild Canada’s shattered economy.
The retreat–the first time the Liberal cabinet has met in person since the pandemic struck–comes ahead of next week’s speech from the throne, which Trudeau has promised will outline “a detailed vision for the future and a plan to keep Canadians safe while we rebuild a stronger Canada that works for everyone.”
The Canadian Press reports that–according to sources–the speech itself will focus more on getting through the pandemic than how to rebuild the economy after it’s over.
According to insiders, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter, CP says it will include three main priorities:
- measures needed to protect Canadians’ health and avoid another national lockdown.
- the economic supports needed to help keep Canadians financially afloat while the pandemic continues.
- And longer-term measures to eventually rebuild an economy that, as Trudeau has put it, is “healthier, safer, cleaner, more competitive, fairer and more inclusive.”
And, while there were indications that the government would use the speech to launch an aggressive environmental agenda, the CBC’s David Cochrane reported sources saying the recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the country means the immediate focus will remain on the public health crisis and the economic challenges it has created.
In a CBC News story today, Kathleen Harris quotes Justice Minister David Lametti as saying the priority for the government is to tackle the twin challenges of controlling COVID-19 while planning economic recovery.
“We have to map out where we’re going to take the country,” he said. “Obviously we’re listening to Canadians and we’re going to do, we hope, some very positive things as we come out of COVID.”
The Liberal caucus, CP says, is calling on the government to adopt the idea in a priority policy resolution for consideration at the party’s upcoming national convention in November.
The MPs want a resolution on the matter to go directly to the floor for debate and a vote.
With files from CBC News (Kathleen Harris, David Cochrane), The Canadian Press (Joan Bryden),