Trudeau announces non-essential Canada-U.S. travel ban and massive stimulus: Full transcript

Trudeau’s Wednesday address from Rideau Cottage announced unprecedented measures at the border and $82 billion in economic measures for Canadian workers and businesses

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is silhouetted as he speaks to the media about Canada’s response to the COVID-19 virus in Ottawa, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

These are Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s full remarks, in English, as he addressed the nation from the doorstep of his home at Rideau Cottage, where he remains in self-isolation for 14 days.

Good morning, everyone. Before we get into things, I have some news to share regarding the Canada-U.S. border. Over the past few days, I’ve spoken to President Trump about what we can do to slow the spread of COVID-19. Deputy Prime Minister Freeland has been in touch with Vice-President Pence and Secretary Pompeo. I just spoke to President Trump again this morning, and we have agreed that both Canada and the United States will temporarily restrict all non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border.

Travellers will no longer be permitted to cross the border for recreation and tourism. In both our countries, we’re encouraging people to stay home. We’re telling our citizens not to visit their neighbours if they don’t absolutely have to. This collaborative and reciprocal measure is an extension of that prudent approach.

I want to be clear, though, that essential travel will continue. Our governments recognize that it is critical that we preserve supply chains between both countries. These supply chains ensure that food, fuel and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border. Supply chains including trucking will not be affected by this new measure.

Canadians and Americans cross the border every day to do essential work or for other urgent reasons. That will not be impacted.

COVID-19 is forcing us all to change our ways, and for many people that’s a huge adjustment. If you work in a restaurant, drive a cab, organize events or freelance to pay your bills, working from home is not so simple. Just like if you work in the oil and gas sector or the tourism and seafood industries, you’re looking at the uncertainty in the global economy, and probably wondering not only how long this is going to last, but how long your savings are going to last.

No matter who you are or what you do, this is a time where you should be focused on your health and that of your neighbours. Not whether you’re going to lose your job, not whether you’re going to run out of money for things like groceries and medication. Last week, we announced a whole range of measures to protect jobs, small businesses and the economy, from waiving the waiting period for employment insurance sickness benefits to kick in, to increasing support for employers and businesses.

We introduced special measures under the work sharing program to help employers who fall on hard times during COVID-19. And if your business falls on a cash crunch, we will help you bridge to better times. We’re working with our financial crown corporations through the business credit availability program to protect jobs and businesses with $10 billion in credit.

In these extraordinary times, our government is taking extraordinary measures. The measures we are announcing today will provide up to $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses, plus $55 billion to meet liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households through tax deferrals to help stabilize the economy. Combined, this $82 billion in support represents more than three per cent of Canada’s GDP.

Let’s start with people who don’t qualify for employment insurance and don’t have access to paid sick leave. Our government will introduce the emergency care benefit which will provide money every two weeks to workers who have to stay home. People will receive this benefit for 14 weeks for an amount comparable to what would be paid through EI. This applies to people who fall ill, people who’ve been placed in quarantine or have to self-isolate. It also applies to those who have to take care of a family member with COVID-19 but as I said fail to qualify for EI.

If you lose your job and you do not qualify for EI, we will be introducing a COVID-19 emergency support benefit to help you. This will apply also to people who are self-employed and have to close shop because of the virus.

As part of this economic plan, our government will take additional steps to protect jobs. We will provide employers of small businesses with a temporary wage subsidy equal to 10 per cent of salary paid to employees for a period of three months. This will encourage employers to keep staff on the payroll during these uncertain times.

And I know a lot of people are wondering what COVID-19 means for their personal finances. For those who’ve filed their taxes and find out that they owe money, they will have until August 2020 to pay.

That brings me to the next measure we are announcing today, which is designed for parents. Those with young kids are going to find the coming months especially difficult, with school closures and additional child-care responsibilities. Parents already know how the Canada Child Benefit helps with the costs of raising kids.

To take some of that pressure off, our government will temporarily boost the CCB in the coming months.

With this plan we’re also going to do more for lower-income people. In May our government will supplement the GST credit, a tax-free payment sent to low-income Canadians every few months to offset the consumer tax that they pay. Every adult who qualifies will receive $300, with $150 for every child.

While all Canadians are feeling the impacts of COVID-19, some groups are particularly vulnerable, including people who are still paying off their student loans, including young people and those who are starting a family, our government will put in place a six-month interest-free moratorium on their Canada Student Loans.

For people experiencing homelessness, we are doubling the Reaching Home program, which provides funding to communities to help them address their local needs.

For anyone fleeing domestic or gender-based violence, we will boost funding for shelters that provide sanctuary when self-isolating at home is simply not an option.

And to support immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit and Métis nation communities, we are setting up a distinctions-based Indigenous community support fund.

This list is by no means exhaustive. But these are some of the things our government is doing to make sure that no matter where you live, what you do or who you are, you get the support you need during this time. In Canada, public health should never hinge on financial considerations.

In Canada, public health should never hinge on financial considerations.

I want to turn to additional measures for businesses as part of this economic plan. To help businesses navigate these uncertain economic times, Export Development Canada will provide support to Canadian companies affected by the global situation. For farmers and our primary food producers, we will boost Farm Credit Canada. And we know some sectors of our economy are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others; that’s why in the coming days we’ll be looking at  ways in which we can support them all, including through instruments like the Canada Account.

We’re paying close attention to the economic impacts of decisions we make across the board to slow the spread of this virus. On Monday, I announced that Canada was closing its air borders to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents, with some exceptions. We also announced a range of other measures on travel. But travel restrictions will not apply to commerce or trade. We’re working continuously to ensure the supply of important goods to Canada.

Today, we’ve announced $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses, plus $55 billion to meet liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households to help stabilize the economy through tax deferrals. Economic measures will ensure that our economy rebounds after this. And while we are taking a significant step today to help families get through these challenging times, our government is prepared to do more.

But whether we’re talking about economic, travel or health measures, collaboration and coordination remains essential. Our team is in constant communication with our colleagues in the provinces and territories, as well as Indigenous leaders and communities, to ensure that we have a co-ordinated, Canada-wide approach so we face this and recover from this together.

We are also working with our international counterparts, over the last number of days I have spoken with leaders from around the world, including with fellow G7 leaders. Working together is how we’ll get through this, as families, as a community, as a country.

Like many of you, over the past few days, I have seen stories of people doing just that. Of people donating money to food banks to help those in need. Of friends setting up online groups to chat. Of retired nurses and doctors stepping up to help. Of young people giving a hand to elderly neighbours by dropping off some extra groceries at their door. I have to tell you, it gives me a lot of hope.

I want to close by recognizing everyone on the frontlines who’s doing an incredible job of keeping Canadians safe and healthy. Grocers keeping their shelves full and our families fed. Postal workers helping us stay home. Pharmacists filling our prescriptions. Health care professionals caring for our most vulnerable. Public health officials and first responders looking out for our safety.

I know it’s a hard time, but that’s exactly why we need to keep supporting each other. Our government is here for you, and your fellow Canadians are here for you, too. Merci, thank you everyone.