Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday called on the country’s Senate to fast-track a coronavirus aid bill, as provinces buckled under a surge of new cases.
“We don’t have to choose” between the economy and public health, Mr Trudeau said at a press conference, noting that Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan notched record numbers of new cases last weekend.
The Senate is debating a bill that would extend the federal wage subsidy until next year and expand a business loan programme. The bill has already passed the House of Commons.
Ontario, the most populous province, has seen daily new cases of more than 1,000 for nearly two weeks straight, including 1,249 on Tuesday, prompting new restrictions, including in the city of Toronto.
Provinces and cities manage public health in Canada, and local leaders have called on the federal government to do more to help businesses affected by closures.
“These businesses need help right now,” Toronto mayor John Tory wrote on Twitter, urging the federal upper house to pass the funding bill.
“I understand the role of the Senate and think its deliberations can often be useful in the cause of good public policy,” he wrote. “But if ever there was a case for sitting late nights and weekends to get this emergency bill passed, this is it.”
Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, warned of “very troubling developments” in the pandemic, including faster spreads in hospitals, aged-care homes and indigenous communities.
“Case counts, hospitalisations and deaths continue to rise, with increasing spillover into vulnerable populations,” Dr Tam said on Tuesday.
Mr Trudeau, pictured above, said the total lockdown to be imposed in the Nunavut territory from Wednesday was a measure he hoped would be avoided elsewhere in the country.