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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Trudeau tells public ‘enough is enough’; Ontario, Quebec announce non-essential workplaces shutdown

Monday, March 23, 2020 @ 4:27 PM | By Cristin Schmitz

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 24, 2020 @ 11:02 AM


Declaring that “enough is enough,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa is willing to step in with national emergency measures, if needed, should some people continue to ignore the government’s messaging to stay at home, physically distance from others and self-isolate as required.

Trudeau was to speak with provincial premiers by telephone March 23 to discuss next steps on the COVID-19 crisis, including asking the provinces what additional assistance they require from Ottawa, and whether they want the federal government to use its own emergency powers in the wake of already announced provincial emergency measures.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

“I can tell you that we haven’t taken anything off the table from the Emergencies Act to new measures or existing measures under the Quarantine Act,” Trudeau said. “There are significant tools that are at our disposal,” he said, noting that he will be speaking with the premiers about ways to co-ordinate.

“We recognize that many communities, many provinces have declared states of emergency. They have taken measures to close certain public places,” he said. “There is more that can be done. There is more that needs to be done around messaging. That’s what we’re going to be talking about,” he advised. “Every step of the way, if we see that measures aren’t being taken up properly, aren’t being followed, we will look at different measures that could be necessary to enforce these rules.”

Trudeau reiterated that the federal government would rather not exercise its emergency powers to clamp down on Canadians’ liberties. “We know that millions of Canadians are doing their part,” he explained. “But those who are not doing their part are putting at risk everyone else, including the eventual recovery of our economy and the well-being of millions of Canadians. We’re going to continue to look very carefully at what could be next steps as we move forward.”

Adopting his toughest tone yet, Trudeau also warned that “enough is enough,” alluding to a number of recent public gatherings on beaches and boardwalks.

“Go home and stay home,” the prime minister admonished. “This is what we all need to be doing.”

He served notice to Canadians that “we’re going to make sure this happens, whether by educating people more on the risks, or by enforcing the rules if that’s needed. Nothing that could help is off the table.”

“Not having heard this message won’t be an excuse,” he warned. “We’re reaching everyone. Listening is your duty and staying home is your way to serve. Every day there are more and more people who step up and heed this call.”

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters in Ottawa that the federal government will launch a $50 million national media campaign on COVID-19 “late this week or early next week.”

In that respect, Trudeau said he is consulting premiers on what national messaging should be sent.

In Toronto, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced March 23 that Ontario will require “non-essential” workplaces to close their doors on March 25, for 14 days (effective 11:59 March 24, he said).

“We are prepared to extend this order if necessary,” Ford disclosed. The premier’s office released the list of essential workplaces on the evening of March 23. Included on the list are: “professional and social services that support the legal and justice system” and “professional services including lawyers and para legals, engineers, accountants, [and] translators.”

The question of possible compensation for businesses that have to shut down will be addressed March 25, he advised.

Asked whether Ford would agree with Ottawa invoking its emergency powers under the Emergencies Act, the premier told reporters it is up to Trudeau. But he noted that all premiers believe that they must retain their provincial authorities to protect their provinces’ economy and the specific health situation in their jurisdictions. “Every single province is different,” he emphasized.

Ford also reiterated that snowbirds and other travellers returning to Canada from abroad must immediately self-isolate for 14 days — i.e. they must go home directly, without stopping for gas or groceries.

In Quebec, the provincial government also ordered the closing, as of March 25 at 12:01 a.m. until April 13, 2020, of all non-essential stores and services. The Quebec government specified that all businesses can always engage in teleworking and e-commerce. Moreover all businesses that produce inputs or raw materials necessary for “priority services and activities” are required to “maintain their activities accordingly, bearing in mind the directives from public health authorities.”

Quebec also said that if a person believes that a business should have been designated an essential business, it should fill out an online form to be recognized as such.

Under the rubric of “priority government services,” the list includes “legal services” and “courts of law and administrative tribunals in cases that they deem urgent.”

Hajdu said that Ottawa is looking at possibly arranging transportation home, within Canada, for in-bound travellers in order to reduce the risk of them spreading COVID-19 to others, via taxis or public transportation, before they are able to self-isolate at home.

The health minister also announced that the government will soon roll out a free app to help people with their mental health as they deal with the stresses of COVID-19.

Hajdu said the government is concerned about the risk of domestic violence and child abuse as people who are cooped up together in the fallout of COVID-19 cope with “very stressful and very anxious circumstances.”

“These are real and live issues that we haven’t forgotten about, and that we are working on every moment to help people,” Hajdu said.

The federal government also announced March 23 that it is boosting by $5 billion the lending capacity of Farm Credit Canada (FCC).

Ottawa said it is committed to ensuring that agriculture producers, agribusinesses and food processors will continue to have access to the capital they need.

“Farmers and producers work hard to put food on tables across our country, and they should not have to worry about being able to afford their loan payments or having enough money to support their own families,” Trudeau said in the announcement. “The measures announced today will provide farmers and food producers across the country with important financial flexibility they will need during these challenging times.”

The FCC’s president Michael Hoffort said in a statement “if you are a producer concerned about having the cash flow required to plant your crop, or you are a food processor feeling the impact of a lost sale due to the financial downturn, FCC is here to support you in these uncertain economic times.”

Hoffort said the FCC initially will focus on addressing businesses’ cash flow challenges so they can remain focused on business-critical functions, rather than worrying about how to access funds to keep operating. “Supporting the industry will also take strong collaboration between banks, credit unions, FCC and other financial institutions,” Hoffort stated. “We will be working in partnership with other financial providers to offer the solutions needed by the agriculture and food industry to take on the challenges ahead.”

The FCC advised existing customers with cash flow or other financial concerns to contact it to discuss alternatives, such as loan payment deferrals and products available to assist with cash flow needs.

“Each business’ financial situation is unique, so there may be a combination of options considered,” Hoffort explained. “The bottom line is that FCC is being supported by [the government] to play a bigger role in supporting the success of the Canadian agriculture and food industry across Canada. The sooner we can discuss potential challenges, the more options we have.”

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact Cristin Schmitz at Cristin.Schmitz@lexisnexis.ca or at 613-820-2794.