Remarks by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Addressing Canadians on the COVID-19 Situation
September 23, 2020
My fellow Canadians, good evening. In the West, good afternoon.
I want to speak directly to you today because Canada is at a crossroads.
I know that the fight against COVID-19 has been difficult for all Canadians over the past six months.
For too many people, it’s a matter of life and death.
And for all of us, collectively, it’s the fight of our generation.
In the spring, we all worked together to flatten the curve, and our efforts paid off. But now, the virus is coming back in full force in several parts of the country.
In our four biggest provinces, the second wave isn’t just starting – it’s already underway.
The numbers are clear. Back on March 13, when we went into lockdown, there were 47 new cases of COVID-19. Yesterday alone, we had well over 1,000.
We’re on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring.
I know this isn’t the news that any of us wanted to hear. And we can’t change today’s numbers or even tomorrow’s – those were already decided by what we did, or didn’t do, two weeks ago.
But what we can change is where we are in October, and into the winter. It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving, but we still have a shot at Christmas.
Together, we have the power to get this second wave under control.
I know we can do it, because we’ve already done it once before. In the spring, we all did our part by staying home. And this fall, we have even more tools in the toolbox.
People are wearing masks. That’s critical, so keep it up.
We’ve got the COVID Alert app.
Take the teacher who felt fine, but who tested positive after the app warned her she’d been exposed. COVID Alert meant she went home instead of the classroom.
It’s a powerful, free tool that’s easy to use and protects your privacy. So if you haven’t already, download it off the App Store or Google Play. It’s one more way to keep ourselves and others safe.
Another is to get your flu shot this fall.
The steps we’re taking today will make all the difference in what will happen in two weeks and in two months.
Wear a mask – it saves lives.
Wash your hands.
Keep your distance.
Get your flu shot.
Listen to public health agencies. As Dr. Tam said yesterday, limit your social circle. Avoid taking unnecessary risks.
This is not the time to have parties.
No one is invincible. Your loved ones aren’t invincible.
We cannot let our guard down, even in places where the number of cases is still low.
And everybody, please, download the COVID Alert app. It is free and easy to use, it protects your privacy, and it will protect you and the people around you.
This is the time for all of us, as Canadians, to do our part for our country, as the government does its part for you.
There is a covenant between [the] government and the people [the] government serves.
You need to know that you can rely on us, just like you can rely on each other.
As we face this crisis, as we get ready to rebuild, we will continue to be there for you.
The government put forth a four-part plan to respond to this crisis.
The first thing we have to do is to protect people’s health.
The actions of our parents and grandparents – the generation that faced the Great Depression and the Second World War – remind us that we have to be resilient and patient in times of crisis. They built the world of today. Now it’s up to us to build the world of tomorrow, and we have to start by protecting them.
The situation experienced by too many of our seniors in long-term care centres is unacceptable.
It must change, and it will change.
In the spring, we sent the Canadian Armed Forces to help, and the Canadian Red Cross is still on the ground.
We will work immediately with the provinces and territories to establish new national standards for long-term care.
Job one is keeping people safe.
That’s why we’re signing deals on multiple potential vaccines, on therapeutics, on personal protective equipment (PPE). In fact, because we mobilized this spring, Canadians are now producing almost every type of PPE we need.
We’re helping the provinces and territories ramp up their capacity on testing, while creating a federal response team for surge demand. And, as soon as there’s approval for faster tests to be used safely, we’ll get them out across the country. If you need a test, you should be able to get one, and get it quickly. This is about safety, and it’s about what’s right for Canadians.
Protecting your health is the best thing we can do for the economy.
So that’s what we’re working on first.
And that brings me to the second part of the plan – supporting Canadians through this pandemic.
The federal government will have your back, whatever it takes, to help you get through this crisis.
Maybe you were one of the almost nine million people who used the Canada Emergency Response Benefit this spring. We will continue to support all those who need it with a strengthened and broadened Employment Insurance system.
Maybe your boss was able to keep you on the job, or hire you back, because the Emergency Wage Subsidy helped with the payroll. People still need this program, so we’re extending it right through to next summer.
Or perhaps you’re a business owner, needing extra help to bridge to better times. For you, among other measures, we’re expanding the Canada Emergency Business Account.
And there’s a lot more we’re going to do.
Go to Canada.ca/coronavirus to see what support is available right now, and how to apply.
I know some people are asking how we can afford to do all this for Canadians. That’s fair.
Low interest rates mean we can afford it. And in fact, doing less would end up costing far more. Doing less would mean a slower recovery and bigger deficits in the long run.
While we’re dealing with this pandemic, I don’t want you – or your parent, or your friend – to take on debt that your government can better shoulder.
So yes, in the short term, we’ll keep investing.
But beyond the emergency, as we start to build back better, we must do that in a fiscally (and) sustainable way. Investing for our recovery must be done responsibly.
You know, the pandemic is revealing the fundamental inequalities in our society, but now, we have the opportunity to take action to change that.
We will build a better society for everyone, while at the same time making the economy better for everyone.
This is the third part of the government’s approach.
By creating a Canada-wide early learning and childcare system, we’ll ensure that kids have access to care, and that no parent – especially no mother – has to put their career on hold.
This pandemic has reminded us all that building strong social supports is essential to growing the economy.
By accelerating progress on national, universal pharmacare, we’ll get people the medicine they need, while alleviating pressure on the health care system.
By investing to eliminate chronic homelessness, we will create healthier, more prosperous communities.
Housing is not just a problem – it’s also a solution.
It creates jobs.
It enables people to grow and contribute.
We all want to build a stronger country for everyone. To do this, we must redouble our efforts to fight climate change.
This is also the best way to ensure good jobs for today and for the future.
Energy workers innovating to decarbonize. Auto workers building zero-emissions vehicles. Engineers and construction workers delivering green retrofits for our homes and buildings.
These are some of the people who will create a competitive economy of the future.
As we do this work – protecting people’s health, supporting Canadians, building back better – we can’t forget what it’s all for:
Making sure that everyone can participate to their full potential. And that’s the final part of the plan.
As a country, we must keep making progress on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and on fighting systemic racism.
Diversity is not just our strength; it’s our competitive edge.
Our differences make us stronger, no matter the colour of our skin, our beliefs, our culture, or our language.
In our country, we are proud to have two official languages – English and French – that we will continue to protect.
In Canada, we know that we are stronger when we come together and when we help each other. We face challenges together.
That is what has helped us manage the crisis better than many others.
This is not the first time our country has been called to stand united and strong.
In the face of change, our Greatest Generation showed us that overcoming crisis isn’t easy.
They didn’t give up. And neither can we.
To parents feeling like you can’t get your life under control;
To kids wondering why mom and dad can’t just fix this;
To seniors feeling like there’s nothing you can do, and thinking about all the things you can’t do:
But “can’t” will not define us.
We can bend the curve.
We can build a stronger future.
We can define the change.
As Canadians, we are people who say, “I can”.
In every sector, all across the country, every one of us is doing our part.
The story of this pandemic is the story of people who are making sacrifices. It’s the story of people who work hard every day to be there for each other.
This is especially the story of our frontline workers – heroes, from coast to coast to coast, who have never hesitated, who have never backed down from this fight.
You are an inspiration to us all.
We are at a crossroads, and the future is in our hands.
There are many days to go before we get to the other side of this.
But there are also many of us to get us there, so long as we each remember to do our part. And I know that we will.
We are Canadians.
And together, there’s nothing we can’t do.
Take care of yourselves, my friends.