It is rare for a Prime Minister to give a national address, but Justin Trudeau spoke Wednesday night in an effort to calm and assure Canadians concerned over the state of COVID-19. Trudeau, just hours after the speech from the throne, reiterated parts of the Throne Speech and spoke to Canadians to encourage them do their part as Canada enter a second wave.
The Takeaway: If Wednesday night’s national address made one thing clear it’s that Canada is officially in the second wave of COVID-19.
With the daily number of cases rising exponentially, the Prime Minister took the opportunity with all the cameras on him from the Throne Speech to project a sense of warning and optimism to Canadians.
- Wednesday there were 1,090 cases in Canada, the 5th day in a row above 1,000 daily cases
- Canada now has 147,753 total cases and 9,285 total deaths, mostly in Ontario and Quebec.
We Can Still Save Christmas
Aside from the fact many Canadians do not celebrate Christmas, the Prime Minister made it a point that if Canadians act responsibly now, then we can flatten the curve heading into the winter holidays.
- Trudeau outlined parts of the Throne Speech where the federal government’s added investments and resources will be directed to help provinces and territories fight against COVID-19
- Washing hands, wearing a mask and getting the flu shot, were also urged by the Prime Minister.
- Downloading the COVID-19 Alert App (which you can do here) was also encouraged, due to how critical contract tracing is to monitoring the virus
You Down With PPE?
There were not a lot of specifics in the Throne Speech for how the federal government’s approach to the second wave will differ from its initial response in the first wave, but the emphasis was placed on how the federal government will play an active role with provinces and territories to make sure Canadians are safe.
- The federal government has secured $19 billion for personal protective equipment (PPE) as part of the Safe Restart Agreement with provinces and territories.
- The federal government announced new investments for First Nations Communities to fight COVID-19 in their return to school.
- The vast majority of PPE will be manufactured in Canada and some manufacturing sites are to be remodelled to make PPE instead of other products.
The Throne Speech outlined no specifics other than commitments to making sure Canada is ready for a vaccine once one is approved by Health Canada but Canada has made significant moves recently to securing vaccine candidates:
- The federal government has made agreements with 6 vaccination candidates, securing 282 million doses for vaccine candidates in total and investing $1 billion overall.
- This month, the government also secured 150,000 vials of remdesivir, which is the only known effective anti-viral drug for treating COVID-19 patients.
Only a handful of times have Prime Minister’s previously addressed the country, an event often used to uplift the country in times of war or political turmoil.
- In 1995 Prime Minister Jean Chrétien famously addressed the nation amid a referendum vote on Quebec sovereignty, which saw Canada dangerously divided and the vote notoriously close with the No side winning only 50.58% of the vote.
- The national address has also been used to address political turmoil, notably in 2008 when Prime Minister Harper faced a vote of no confidence in a tense minority parliament and in 2005 when Prime Minister Martin addressed the Sponsorship Scandal
Criticism Over Provincial and Territorial Jurisdiction
The Prime Minister’s Throne Speech was met with criticism from both the Conservative Party and the Bloc Québécois with allegations of infringement upon provincial and territorial jurisdiction.
- The Prime Minister was cautious to avoid making the federal government appear to be crossing into provincial and territorial jurisdiction, but made a strong commitment to doing whatever is necessary to keep Canadians safe
- Under the Canada Health Act the line between federal and provincial lines on health care is a bit blurred, but in times of a national health emergency collaboration has proved effective for the most part.
The Bottom Line: The national address was viewed as political opportunism, but it was necessary to address the nation in a time of crisis. Canadians need to hear that the situation is serious and that’s exactly what the national address delivered.
Canadians are dying and the most vulnerable among us are the ones who are suffering with no fault of their own. As Canada enters a second wave, we need to do our part in the fight against COVID-19, whether you are the Prime Minister’s biggest fan or not.