Justin Trudeau’s coronavirus update: ’We have a long winter ahead’ (Full transcript)

In a Nov. 20 briefing to Canadians, the PM reacted to sobering COVID-19 modelling that projected a massive spike in new daily cases if Canadians don’t reduce their contacts. These are Trudeau’s full remarks.
Justin Trudeau
The Liberal government’s now-cancelled contract with an organization connected closely to the prime minister will be back in the spotlight today. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Monday, July 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

After new federal modelling predicted Canada could see up to 60,000 new cases per day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a press conference on the coronavirus crisis in front of his home at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa. For months, the PM held daily briefings in the same location. Here are his remarks for Nov. 20, 2020. (This transcript excludes French-language remarks, which broadly repeated the Prime Minister’s message in English.)

So, I don’t want to be here this morning. You don’t want me to be here this morning. But here we are again. Cases across the country are spiking massively. We are facing a winter that’s going to drive people inside more and more, and we’re really at risk of seeing caseloads go up, and hospitals get overwhelmed, and more loved ones dying. So we need to do everything we can right now to slow the spread of COVID-19. To stop the spike in its tracks.

If you were planning to see friends this weekend, maybe don’t. If there is a birthday party or a gathering for dinner you were thinking about doing, don’t do it. We’re in a moment right now, where even with all the sacrifices I know Canadians have been making over these past 10 months, we are now going to have to really tighten up once again.

This is frustrating, because I know we’ve all heard stories of people who’ve thrown up their hands and are not doing their part anymore. People who have stopped wearing masks or people who are going out more than they should. And it’s tempting for all of us to say, okay, well, maybe I can loosen up a bit more, too. But the reality is we need to go in the opposite direction.

If there are people out there not following the rules when we know we need to, well, then, those of up who need to are going to have to do even more. Because it’s the future of our country, it’s the future of our children, it’s the future of our loved ones and our seniors. It’s our economy, it’s our businesses, it’s everything all together. We’re gonna need to have to do this for another few weeks, for another few months, where we can begin to see the other side of this. We can do this. We’ve done it before. We know what to do. We understand this virus much better than before. We need to reduce our contacts. We need to do it right now.

To protect jobs, to support businesses, and to keep Canadians safe, we need to work together, all of us, as a team. Yesterday, I had a briefing with Dr. Tam, Dr. Njoo, Minister Hajdu and the leaders of the opposition to discuss the current situation. All orders of government must come together to stop the spread of this virus. This was something I discussed last week with the premiers at our 21st virtual first ministers’ meeting since the pandemic began. Across the country, we’re seeing premiers and mayors making very tough choices to go into further shutdowns. I know how hard that is, and I want them to know that they have my support, our support, as a federal government.

The best way to protect the economy is to get the virus under control. Doing things to protect people’s health is the best way to minimize lasting damage to the economy. In the beginning, we thought of this as a contradiction, that the things we need to do to keep us safe are things that are actually hurting the economy. That was how we framed that first wave of shutdowns.

But we actually now know better, from seeing what’s happened around the world, from seeing how Canadians have made it through that first wave and through this second wave that’s ongoing. Doing the things that protect our health are actually the best things to do to protect our economy. Going into lockdown, and supporting businesses while we’re in that lockdown, is a better way of ensuring their success in a few months, in a few years, then trying to tough through a virus that is running around unchecked.

We know that we need to be there for each other, and the federal government is going to continue to be there to help businesses that are impacted by these shutdowns. That’s a promise I made from the beginning. It’s a promise we’re keeping. This isn’t the fault of any individual business, and we’re going to do everything we can to get them to the other side of this.

That’s why it was so important last night that our government’s bill providing unprecedented levels of supports to Canadian businesses became law. I want to thank all parliamentarians for working together to get this through.

In it, support measures include a new rent subsidy for businesses which will go directly to tenants, not the landlords. Up to 65 per cent of rent can be covered for small businesses affected by COVID-19, and if your business is facing a public-health lockdown, then we’re also providing an additional 25 per cent rent subsidy through the new lockdown support. Combined with the rent assistance, hard-hit businesses could get a rent subsidy of up to 90 per cent. Canadian businesses can begin applying for these new measures as of Monday, and they will be retroactive until the beginning of October.

Lastly, this new law also means that the wage subsidy has been extended until June of next year, securing jobs and support for workers right across the country. This program has been a lifeline for millions of Canadians, so we’re making sure people continue to get this support. Go to to find out what supports are there to help you.

While we’re here to support businesses, we’ll also send additional targeted support to areas that are seeing concerning situations with rising cases. Last week, I announced specific support for Indigenous communities in Manitoba. Today, we’re providing over $120 million in immediate funding for regions that are affected by outbreaks in Saskatchewan and Alberta. This will be used to support public-health measures, food security and other surge-capacity needs. Minister Miller and Dr. Wong will have more to say in their regular update later today, but the bottom line is that we will do everything we can to keep people safe right across the country.

This morning, Dr. Tam presented the updated COVID-19 modelling for Canada. Canada could have up to 20,000 new cases daily by the end of December if we don’t limit or reduce our contacts now. And if we loosen and increase our contacts, we could see tens of thousands more. I know this isn’t what people wanted to hear. But we have to be realistic about the situation. We’re seeing huge spikes in places like Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Nunavut, with a record number of hospitalizations across the country.

Overwhelmed hospitals are a problem for people who need COVID-19 care. But it’s also an issue for people who need other care, whether it’s cancer treatments or emergency surgery. And each new case of COVID-19, every extra week that goes on with more cases, puts added pressure on our front-line workers and our health-care system workers. Think about it.

Our doctors, nurses, personal support workers, orderlies, hospital staff. They’ve been on the front lines for almost 10 months now, putting in incredibly long hours, being creative in how they can save people and protect people while at the same time trying to keep themselves safe—while at the same time having the same worries that each of us have about our loved ones, about our kids in schools, about our parents and our grandparents. And yet they keep showing up every single day, to be there for us, putting their health, their lives and in many cases their families’ lives, on the line to keep us safe.

And they’re tired. They have been heroes. They have been going above and beyond anything they might have thought they were signing up for. We need to help them. We need to give them a break. We need to stop this spike in cases. We need to think about them, as we think about our loved ones who need medical help, who are vulnerable to COVID-19. As we think about the damage this is doing to families and to communities across the country, we need to step up now. All of us.

The numbers show that right now, more of the most vulnerable Canadians are getting COVID-19, including seniors. And outbreaks at long-term care homes and Indigenous communities are rapidly rising. The only way we can reverse the tide is if we reduce the number of people each of us come into contact with. If you live in a region that is experiencing a surge in cases, stay home if you can and avoid all non-essential travel. To employers who can do so, please make arrangements for your employees to once again work from home. And if you don’t need to, don’t leave your home.

And if you haven’t already, join the over 5.3 million Canadians who’ve already downloaded the COVID Alert app—5.3 million Canadians, that’s over a quarter of all the Canadians in jurisdictions that have used the app who own smartphones. We are on our way to making a difference with this app, because every use alerts other people that they need to be careful. And it’s in addition to contact tracing of nurses and public-health professionals calling up to see who you might have come into contact with. This’ll catch people you didn’t even know you were in contact with.

It’s an easy thing to do to download the app for free. It’s an easy thing to do to take a moment once you receive a COVID-19 positive diagnosis to plug it in. Many provinces give you that code right away, as soon as you get your positive case. So please, plug it in immediately. Some other places require you to make a phone call, which will take a minute, to get the code to plug into the app. But doing our part with this tool will make a huge difference. That’s over 25 per cent of all people in participating provinces that have the app and have smartphones.

Of course, there’s two provinces that haven’t yet made the app available through their health-care systems. I want to directly touch on that right now for people in Alberta and B.C. If you live in Alberta and B.C., you can already still download the app for free, yourself, and put it on your phone. There’s two reasons to do that right now as we go through this second wave.

First reason is I’m still hopeful that the local health systems will put together a system where they can give you that one-time code which will allow diagnoses in those provinces to be plugged in through this system to alert people. But secondly, from the minute you download that app, it starts to work in tracing your contacts with people who also have the app. So if you’re in Alberta, and you come into contact with someone inadvertently who then goes home to Saskatchewan and gets tested positive, you will be alerted that you should maybe get yourself checked. It can work even if your health system isn’t yet onboard. It’s free, it absolutely protects your privacy, and it’s an extra tool that we have at a time where we need to be using all the tools we have to keep ourselves safe. That’s what we need to do.

Help us beat this second wave and save lives, because that’s what’s at stake. Every person that we lose to this virus is someone who has family and friends who love them, who had plans for tomorrow and things they still wanted to do. I think about the woman in Toronto who survived the Holocaust and recently passed away from COVID-19. Forced to flee her home during the war, she and her family ended up at a labour camp in Siberia. She made it through and started a new life in Canada. She got married and had kids who loved her dearly. So to her loved ones, my deepest condolences for your loss. And to the thousands of other families who’ve lost someone to COVID-19, our thoughts are with you.

Every loss is a tragedy, and each story reminds us of what is at stake in this fight against the pandemic. Our parents and grandparents, our friends and neighbours, people who give so much joy to those around them. People who are loved.

I’ll be addressing you again from these steps next week. Now is the time for each of us to once again rise to the occasion and do our part. We know what to do. We know how hard it is, but we know it works because we did it this spring. Together, let’s bend the curve and keep each other safe.

This weekend, I’ll be virtually joining the G20 as part of our government’s work to respond to this virus at home and abroad. And on that note, today I can confirm that the Canada-U.S. border restrictions have been extended until at least Dec. 21. We will continue to work with our American counterparts to keep people safe on both sides of the border.

Here’s the bottom line. We have a long winter ahead. As the winter drives us indoors, we really are in danger of seeing more transmission, and far too many more deaths. It’ll be tough, but we know what we have to do. Wear a mask, keep your distance, download the app and use it, avoid gatherings of all sizes, and know that together, being there for each other, we will get through this. Thank you.