Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on April 16, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a daily update on the coronavirus crisis each day in front of his home in Ottawa. Here are his remarks for April 17, 2020.
[speaking in French] This morning, I want to begin by talking about the request for assistance we received from Quebec on Wednesday and give you the most recent news about medical equipment supplies. The Minister of Public Health has been working with Quebec and the Minister of National Defence, and I can now confirm that approximately 125 of the Canadian Armed Forces with health-care training will be providing support to workers in long-term care facilities. We continue to work with the government of Quebec to find other ways to support them, including with the Red Cross and specialized volunteers registered with Health Canada. As regards the supplies of medical equipment, Bell Canada has donated one and a half million N-95 masks and we are working as quickly as possible to get them to our front-line workers. That can be added to the millions of surgical masks that we sent out to the provinces and territories this week.
Over the past few weeks, the pandemic has created anxiety and uncertainty for all Canadians, but some are going through an especially tough time. COVID-19 has brought many industries to a halt and workers across the country are struggling as a result. From the start, our goal as a government has been clear: to help all Canadians get through these challenging times. As I’ve said many times before, we’re here to support you, to lend you a helping hand when you need it most. Across the country, Canadians are standing shoulder to shoulder and we’re all in this together.
Today, our government is announcing more help for workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, B.C. and Newfoundland and Labrador. We’re also announcing more help for small businesses and more help for those who work in the arts, culture and sports sectors.
I’ll start with the energy sector. Right now, workers and families are struggling because of things beyond their control — both the devastating effects of the pandemic and the price war driven by foreign interests are a challenge. As a result, companies have had to slow down or pause their operations, leaving too many people out of work. To help these workers, our government will invest $1.7 billion to clean up orphan and inactive wells in Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C. These wells, which are no longer in use, can be detrimental not only to our environment but to people’s health. Think of the farmer who can’t grow anything on his land because of an abandoned well a few steps away from his home. Think of the small town or Indigenous community struggling with this issue that has been festering for years or even decades. Cleaning them up will bring people back to work and help many landowners who’ve had these wells on their property for years but haven’t been able to get them taken care of and the land restored. Our goal is to create immediate jobs in these provinces while helping companies avoid bankruptcy and supporting our environmental targets.
In Alberta alone, these investments will maintain 5,200 jobs. We’ve listened to the concerns of landowners, municipalities and Indigenous communities who want to make sure that the polluter pay principle is strengthened and that their voices are heard. I want to thank the government of Alberta for working with us and listening to their concerns. Our government will also establish a $750 million Emission Reduction Fund with a focus on methane to create and maintain jobs through pollution reduction efforts. This includes $75 million to help the offshore industry cut emissions in Newfoundland and Labrador. This fund will primarily provide repayable contributions to firms to make them more competitive, reduce waste and pollution and most importantly, protect jobs. Right now, many energy firms are experiencing a cash crunch so they don’t have the funds to invest in technologies to reduce emissions or fix methane leaks. Today’s announcement will allow for this kind of work to be done and create jobs people need during this difficult time. Through the wells and methane initiatives, we estimate that we will maintain roughly 10,000 jobs across the country. Just because we’re in a health crisis doesn’t mean we can neglect the environmental crisis. We’re also working with BDC and EDC to expand credit support for at-risk medium-sized energy companies so they can maintain operations and keep their employees.
Now I want to turn to what we’re going to do next for small businesses and the people they employ. Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken a number of steps to support these employers and mostly, their employees. We introduced the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to help keep people on the payroll. We launched and expanded the Canada Emergency Business Account for those businesses struggling with cash flow. But ministers Jolie, Ng, Baines and others have heard that some businesses are still falling through the cracks. To fix that, our government will provide $962 million to regional development agencies and the Community Futures Network. This funding will help ensure that more businesses, especially smaller employees based in more rural parts of the country or those who don’t have a relationship with a traditional financial institution are getting the support that they need. We’re also going to give $270 million to Futurepreneur and the Industrial Research Assistance Program to support innovators and other early-stage development firms that don’t qualify for the wage subsidy but still need help.
[speaking in French] We also have news for those working in the arts, culture and sports sectors. These industries, a little bit like small businesses that I just talked about, were not eligible, oftentimes, for the assistance we’ve already set up because their revenue models are different, or they’re not losing money in the same way. Since the beginning of the current crisis, artists have been bringing comfort, laughs and happiness into our lives. Athletes continue to inspire us and appeal to our pride. Those who work in the areas of arts, culture and sports are sharing their passion with us and make us dream. These days, when we’re all isolated at home, they make us feel a little bit less lonely. These are but some of the reasons why we have to be there for them, as they are there for us. Therefore, our government will provide $500 million dollars to Heritage Canada to support our artists, creators and our rising sports stars. Thanks to this funding, these people will be able to receive wage support and organizations will have access to funding if they are experiencing liquidity problems.
At the same time, we continue to support those who’ve lost their jobs with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. So far, over seven and a half million payments have been made. That’s money sent directly to those who need it most. I want to again thank our amazing public servants who are processing these claims at record speeds. Moving forward, we will be releasing the latest figures on the CERB through the government’s open data portal, three times a week so academics, researchers and Canadians can keep track of the work being done. We will continue to provide and open up data so that we can get the best advice from experts and continue to help Canadians.
I want to end this morning by reminding everyone that today is the 38th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which underpins who we are as a country and who we strive to be as a people. It protects the right of each and every one of us to be who we are, to worship how we want, to love whom we love. At the heart of the charter is the notion of choice, that we can choose the kind of life we want for ourselves. As our country confronts this pandemic, I’m especially grateful that Canadians have chosen to protect each other and care for one another. To everyone who has stayed home and followed public health recommendations, thank you. Making that choice together today will ensure that we remain who we are as Canadians for generations to come.
Merci beaucoup tout le monde.