Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives for the Liberal cabinet retreat today in Ottawa. The prime minister repeated a warning he delivered last week: the country is far from out of the COVID-19 woods. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

Cabinet gathers for retreat ahead of next week’s speech from the throne

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.”

Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland arrives for the first day of a Liberal cabinet retreat on Monday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

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.”

Last week, CBC News reported that the government also would use the speech from the throne to signal its intention to make child care more widely available and to launch a green recovery plan.

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.

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 11:01 a.m. EDT on Sept. 14, 2020: There are 136,972 confirmed cases in Canada. — Quebec: 64,986 confirmed (including 5,780 deaths, 57,268 resolved) — Ontario: 44,817 confirmed (including 2,816 deaths, 39,974 resolved) — Alberta: 15,415 confirmed (including 253 deaths, 13,718 resolved) — British Columbia: 6,962 confirmed (including 213 deaths, 5,273 resolved) — Saskatchewan: 1,726 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,603 resolved) — Manitoba: 1,428 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 1,173 resolved) — Nova Scotia: 1,086 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,020 resolved) — Newfoundland and Labrador: 271 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 266 resolved) — New Brunswick: 193 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 189 resolved) — Prince Edward Island: 55 confirmed (including 47 resolved) — Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved) — Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved) — Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved) — Nunavut: No confirmed cases — Total: 136,972 (0 presumptive, 136,972 confirmed including 9,172 deaths, 120,564 resolved) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2020. (The Canadian Press)

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.”

Trudeau prorogued Parliament last month and the speech from the throne will lead to a confidence vote, which could possibly topple the government and trigger a fall election.

New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh and his wife, Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu, react on stage at his election night headquarters in Burnaby, B.C., on Oct. 22, 2019. Singh and the NDP have the power to bring down the government this fall. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Meanwhile, CP is reporting that a guaranteed basic income for all Canadians has emerged as the top policy choice of Liberal MPs.

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), 

Categories: Economy, Health, Politics
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