Military heading to Quebec, $100M coming for food banks: PM
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is providing $100 million to address the “urgent food needs” of Canadians struggling to put meals on the table as they wait for federal emergency benefits to kick in and, he says, the military has been asked to deploy to Quebec.
On Friday, Trudeau announced that Quebec is the first province to ask for the Canadian Armed Forces to be called in to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The province has asked that members of the Canadian Armed Forces deploy to northern Quebec to help isolated communities combat local outbreaks.
Their work on the ground will include helping install tents and medical infrastructure, Trudeau said.
Trudeau started the week saying that the military would be ready to deploy once a request was made.
Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance has told CTV News that the Canadian Armed Forces is taking "extraordinary" measures to ensure its members are healthy and able to deploy quickly to help to fight this invisible enemy.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said on Monday that there are up to 24,000 regular and reserve forces ready to deploy, and 10 units across the country that could react immediately to any request for assistance whether it be humanitarian, delivering supplies, or other actions.
$100M FOR FOOD BANKS
The prime minister also announced new funding to help food banks and local food organizations deliver food to vulnerable populations across Canada that need help.
Calling the work done by food banks and their volunteers “essential,” Trudeau said there is no question that they need more support at this time, encouraging those who have the means to consider helping out.
Of the $100 million:
- $50 million is going to Food Banks Canada;
- $20 million will be divided up between the Salvation Army, Second Harvest, Community Food Centres Canada, and Breakfast Club of Canada; and
- $30 million will go to local-level organizations focused on food insecurity.
Thanking those who have been volunteering and organizing to help Canadians in poverty during this pandemic, Trudeau said he was “grateful for the incredible, tireless work you do... especially in these extremely difficult circumstances. You are doing essential work for our most vulnerable,” he said.
Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said she is encouraging all 338 MPs to reach out to the food banks in their ridings, many of which she said are having to adapt to the current circumstances.
The government will also be accelerating the timeline of the previously announced GST credit for low-income people, saying that qualifying adults will now receive the credit in April, instead of May.
They’ve also made an agreement with the major banks to make it easier for all who are receiving the emergency benefits to set up direct deposit, meaning they’ll receive their money a little bit sooner.
Trudeau had previously announced targeted economic supports for vulnerable groups including seniors, the homeless population, Indigenous people and women and children fleeing domestic violence. The federal government has also earmarked additional funding for charities to assist seniors and youth.
The prime minister has been facing calls to present a clearer picture on the projections for the COVID-19 pandemic’s spread across the country.
With Ontario releasing its COVID-19 modelling Friday afternoon, Canadians in that province will be headed into their weekend with a sense of what the best and worst case outcomes could be, based on the information so far.
Ontario is forecasting that between 3,000 and 15,000 people in the province will die from COVID-19 with health measures that are already in place, and the early modelling predicts that the pandemic could last between 18 months and two years.
Trudeau said, in advance of the province releasing them, that he has seen the Ontario numbers and he will be sharing the federal outlook “in the coming days.”
“At the same time, we need to make sure that the projections that we will be releasing are based on the most accurate, the deepest, the most properly collated information out there. We are working with the provinces to be able to build a robust model to give the projections that people want to see,” Trudeau said, adding that the data will include estimations on how long the pandemic will last and how many Canadians may be severely affected.
Federal officials have not yet ventured further than to say that public health measures like physical distancing could be in place for weeks or months to stave off a surge that would cripple the health-care system, with an estimation early on in the outbreak that between 30 and 70 per cent of Canadians could contract the virus.
Canada's Chief Officer of Public Health Dr. Theresa Tam stressed on Friday that Canadians "must take this disease seriously," saying she knows it is a “frustrating time as we continue with strict public health measures while waiting for signs of improvements.”
PUSH FOR SUPPLIES CONTINUES
On Thursday evening Trudeau held a two hour call with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Canada’s premiers on the pandemic situation.
According to a summary of the meeting released by the PMO, both the federal and provincial leaders “reaffirmed their commitment to continued collaboration and coordination,” and discussed the ongoing stockpiling of medical supplies and protective gear.
The call also included a discussion about sharing information, and the emergency actions already taken by the various provinces and territories.
On the ongoing procurement, Trudeau announced Friday that the federal government has signed an agreement with Amazon Canada to manage the distribution of this essential equipment to the provinces and territories. Various regions and municipalities continue to express concerns about supply shortages and this week the federal government said it is aggressively pushing forward with procuring more.
Though, personal protective gear is now being sold at inflated prices, in a competitive global market with countries worldwide vying for the much-needed supplies, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said.
Late Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act and requested manufacturing giant 3M cease exports of U.S.-made N95 face masks to Canada despite the company’s warning of “humanitarian implications.”
Trudeau faced questions about the impact this will have on Canada getting the life-saving protective gear that front-line staff need.
He said it would be “a mistake” to reduce the amount of goods exchanged across the Canada-U.S. border, and said it would be a move that “could hurt Americans as much as it hurts anybody else.”
Awaiting a recall of Parliament to pass the major expansion of the wage subsidy program, outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Friday that his caucus wants the government to be more transparent and accountable.
He’s suggesting some form of daily “accountability sessions” where the ministers take questions from opposition MPs, but also wants to see the current modelling and projections that show the federal scope of the pandemic over the next six months.
“Mr. Trudeau says his government is being guided by the evidence, so it’s time to release that evidence,” Scheer said.