Provinces will decide when to reopen their economies, Trudeau says

Now that Saskatchewan has announced its plan to slowly reopen its economy, pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government to roll out a strategy for restoring economic activity across the country.

Today, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called on Trudeau to deliver such a plan.

“Certain provinces have been able to flatten the curve and are now starting to talk about when they may be able to slowly start revising health restrictions over the coming weeks and months,” Scheer said.

“This has raised concerns about a possible patchwork approach across the country. Other countries have released national frameworks. So why hasn’t Canada? Does the federal government have a plan to start revising health restrictions in an orderly fashion when this crisis passes?”

Trudeau said that until Canada gets a vaccine, life here will not return to normal — but in the coming months restrictions will be eased across the country on a province-by-province basis.

“We recognize that different provinces will make different decisions about how and where to start re-starting and re-opening their economies,” Trudeau said Wednesday.

The prime minister expanded on that idea today, saying that provinces and the federal government will look at what other countries are doing to restart their economies.

“In the coming months we will be able to loosen a number of the restrictions and rules that we have right now on personal mobility, in certain sectors [and] on the economy,” he said.

“What we’re doing at the federal level is attempting to pull together and coordinate all different provinces so that we are working from a similar set of guidelines and principles to ensure Canadians right across the country are being kept safe as we look to those next steps.”

Letting science set the pace

Trudeau did not say what that “similar set of guidelines” would look like. Saskatchewan was the first out of the gate this week, rolling out its own plan for restarting economic activity.

Beginning May 4, restrictions on certain medical practices in Saskatchewan, such as dentistry, optometry and chiropractic therapy, will be lifted along with restrictions on fishing and boating. Golf courses will open mid-May and campgrounds on June 1.

The second phase of the province’s plan is to begin May 19, when some retail businesses, such as bookstores, jewelry stores, sporting goods stores and electronics shops, will reopen.

The last three of the five phases Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced Thursday had no specific dates attached to them. But even when the province arrives at the last stage, large gatherings will still be prohibited and the mandatory self-isolation rule for people returning from international travel will remain in place, as will restrictions on visiting family and friends in long-term care homes.

“We are going to work to coordinate so that we’re basing ourselves on shared values, principles and scientific approaches right across the country,” Trudeau said.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said that, regardless of when individual provinces begin to open up again, the process must be informed by science.

“It is so essential that we, not too prematurely, lift restrictions currently in place,” she said.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that provinces should look to reopen their economies only when the epidemic wave is brought under control.

She said that point will happen some time after a province has passed the peak in its infection curve.

“When we’re seeing that peak, it means that we still got the sort of downward slope of that curve, if you like, and you need to get to the bottom of that wave,” she said.


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