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Prime Minister’s remarks on the COVID-19 situation and support for Canadians and businesses

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Happy Friday everyone.

We’re headed into the first weekend of December and, in many parts of the country, the situation is very serious.

Wednesday, Quebec reported a single-day record of new cases.

And across the country, we’re seeing numbers rise.

The Health Minister spoke with her counterparts last night and assured them that the federal government will offer all support needed.

Especially in Alberta, where the numbers are rising alarmingly.

Earlier this week, Minister Hajdu had a bilateral conversation with Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

We will do whatever is necessary to help all provinces and territories deal with these outbreaks and get this situation under control.  

Across the country, cases are too high, and hospitals are filling up.

And when hospitals fill up, everyone suffers the consequences, not just those with COVID-19.

We all know healthcare workers who are tired or stretched out or doing overtime.

Canadians with surgeries are getting cancelled, and people can’t visit their loved ones in hospitals when they do go into hospital.

This is what’s at stake.

This is why we all need to do our part.

Now is not the time to blame one another or point fingers.

Now is the time for us to keep working together.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have distributed hundreds of millions of pieces of personal protective equipment across the country.

In recent months, we have also distributed more than 6.7 million rapid screening tests to the provinces and territories.

We are encouraging them to use them to help protect the public. 

Now, let’s talk about the vaccine.  

On Wednesday, the United Kingdom was the first country to license Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.

That’s very encouraging news.

While we continue to talk with our international colleagues, Health Canada’s independent review of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is ongoing, and regulators are working around the clock.

I can tell you that the teams are working very hard.

It’s important that we make sure the vaccine is effective and safe for Canadians, and that it meets our standards.   

The analysis of a vaccine represents hundreds of thousands of pages of data.

Additional resources have been allocated and while waiting for the response, we are accelerating work on the ground to ensure that we are ready with a solid distribution plan.  

Let’s also remember that Canada’s deal with Pfizer is just one of many.

We also have agreements with six other promising vaccine manufacturers, including Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford.

The National Operations Centre is working closely with the provinces and territories every day.

The Centre will be managing and tracking the distribution of vaccines once they are authorized. 

Yesterday, Major-General Dany Fortin briefed the media and talked about how military expertise will be key to our vaccine rollout plan.

For the first vaccines that could be authorized for use, or for what we call Track 1, specific logistics will be required to keep the doses at very, very cold temperatures.

The Canadian Armed Forces are already holding simulation tests of this distribution plan with a series of exercises and run-throughs.

Freezers have been purchased, and dry ice contracts for cold shipping are being put in place.

When vaccines get authorized and shipped, we’ll be ready.

Protecting you and your family, and defeating COVID-19, is our top priority.

Every Canadian deserves to be safe, and that includes the seniors who helped build this country.

We’ve seen over the past many months far too many terrible tragedies in seniors’ residences.

We need to do better. For our parents, for our grandparents, and for elders across the country.

This week, we presented our economic update in which we made one thing very clear: we want to help the provinces and territories protect seniors in long-term care facilities.

Through the Safe Restart Agreement, the federal government has already provided $740 million to help provinces and territories address the immediate needs of vulnerable populations, like those in long-term care.

Building on what we learned from the deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces this spring, we are committing up to $1 billion for a Safe Long-term Care Fund.

This fund will help provinces and territories carry out infection prevention, improve ventilation, and hire staff or top up existing employees’ wages.

On the subject of prevention, I am announcing today an investment of $1.8 million that will allow 12 research teams to work in partnership with various long-term care facilities to study the measures in place.

These teams will then be able to make recommendations that will help better protect seniors, now and in the future. 

We are ready to keep doing our part for our seniors, and for all Canadians.

This morning, we learned that Canada’s labour market gained another 62,000 jobs in November.

This means 2.4 million Canadians have returned to work after they lost their jobs during the pandemic.

We’re making progress, but there’s still much more work to be done. 

This is a tough time for everyone, and the small business owners at the heart of our communities are no exception.

The small business owners are our neighbours and our friends.

They are incredibly hard-working, devoted people.

They are there at the heart of our communities. There, at the foundation of our economy.

And this is the time where we need to be there for each other.

We need to be there for everyone. Since the spring, the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) has helped almost 800,000 small businesses right across the country.

This program has made a real difference, and people still need this support.

To help small businesses through this crisis, we are now expanding CEBA.

Starting today, if they need it, eligible small businesses can access a second CEBA loan of up to $20,000, on top of the initial $40,000 that was already available to them.

And again, $10,000 of this additional financing will be forgivable if repaid by the end of 2022.

These measures will protect jobs, and make sure the local businesses that we love don’t have to close for good.

I’m calling on everyone to do their part.

As you begin your holiday shopping, consider helping local merchants.

In this holiday season, it is a moment for generosity. Everyone’s trying to care for their loved ones. Try and make sure you’re also supporting local businesses, and ordering takeout from local restaurants.

We all have friends, neighbours and family members who work for local businesses.

December is a critical month for businesses across the country and for months they have been adapting to the situation. Your local business owners are adapting, are getting creative, are figuring out ways to continue to serve you.

So let’s continue to encourage them.

Don’t forget the local stores, the local online stores too. And remember that the holiday season is a time to be generous to our families, to our loved ones. But it’s also a time to think of others above all else. Think about our vulnerable small businesses to help them get through this pandemic.

We must continue our efforts.

So we need to do our part as Canadian to lean on each other, to be there for each other, and to support everyone as we get through this pandemic.

Keep your distance, wear a mask, avoid gatherings, and use the COVID Alert app. To date, more than 5.6 million people have downloaded it. 

And in the coming weeks, even if we don’t feel like it, we will have to continue to follow the guidelines of local public health authorities.

There are lives at stake, and we can’t afford to slow down our efforts.  

Before we end today, let me take a moment to talk about our introduction yesterday of Bill C-15, legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

On this, I want to recognize Minister Lametti, Minister Bennett, and their teams, but more importantly, Indigenous leaders and partners who have worked tirelessly for decades in the efforts that led to this legislation.

Bill C-15 mandates the federal government, in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous Peoples, to take all measures to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the Declaration.

This is a momentous step forward on the path of reconciliation as we work together to build a better Canada for everyone.

Our government is committed to seeing this Bill reach the finish line within our mandate, and I call on all Parliamentarians to help make this a reality.

Thank you everyone.