More time needed before U.S., Canada border can open: PM Trudeau
OTTAWA -- Canada is still a ways out from lifting border restrictions with the U.S., says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as the country recorded its worst day of the outbreak so far.
Trudeau says there is a "significant amount of time still before we can talk about loosening such restrictions," while reassuring there remains a good deal of collaboration and cohesion with the U.S. in their response to COVID-19.
On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump indicated there could be a loosening of measures soon rather than later at the border, stating that "Canada is doing well."
"Our relationship with Canada is very good -- we'll talk about that. It will be one of the early borders to be released," the president said during a press briefing in Washington. "Canada's doing well, we're doing well -- so we'll see."
Trump unveiled a three-stage plan on Thursday for reopening the U.S economy that includes guidance for areas with low transmission of the virus and tougher measures for hard-hit regions. U.S. officials acknowledged that some physical distancing measures may need to be enforced until the end of 2020.
It's been nearly a month since the two countries negotiated their 30-day agreement that exempted the flow of trade and commerce, as well as vital health-care workers like nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border. That agreement is due to expire by Tuesday.
Thursday marked Canada’s worst day so far since the outbreak began, with 1,727 new cases and 185 deaths. In total, 1,195 people in Canada have died from COVID-19 and 30,106 have been infected, with 9,729 recoveries.
Sources tell CTV News that the Canadian government is prepared to keep the current arrangement in place for at least several more weeks.
Prior to Trudeau’s address on Thursday morning, the prime minister joined a call with his G7 counterparts to discuss the global response to the pandemic.
"We all remain committed to doing whatever it takes to help people and our economies rebound after this crisis. We're working together to support international efforts to develop a vaccine, expand treatment, expand testing and ensure that critical medical supplies get to the frontlines," said Trudeau.
Trudeau said his team is having conversations with the White House "all the time" about the two countries’ coordinated response and their shared friendship, but at this time those talks don’t include easing border constraints.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday that the decision of when to lift restrictions will not be made unilaterally by the U.S.
"Decisions about Canada’s border are taken by Canadians, full stop. When it comes to easing border restrictions of all kinds our government will only do that when it is appropriate and when it is not a risk to the health and security of Canadians."
When asked about the exchange, Ontario Premier Doug Ford – who has spoken out against the Trump administration when they called on manufacturing powerhouse 3M to withhold N95 exports to Canada, a decision that was later withdrawn – said the prime minister should have been more firm in his response.
"Trudeau should say no right away," Ford said Thursday. "Until we have this under containment, we need to have our borders closed."
The NAFTA Advisory Council continues to meet regularly to discuss border issues related to COVID-19. Rona Ambrose, a member of the council and the former interim leader of the Conservative Party, said in an interview on CTV’s Power Play on Thursday while Canada should "never underestimate" the pressure applied by Trump, she is comforted so far by the government’s response.
"We are a sovereign country and we need those decisions around border restrictions being lifted in our own best interest, and I’m sure there are many discussions going on behind the scenes with the U.S. to make sure that that happens in a way that is staggered, measured, and appropriate."
With files from The Canadian Press and CTVNews.ca's Graham Slaughter