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'Enough is enough,' Trudeau says to Canadians ignoring COVID-19 advice


OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's tone hardened Monday as he warned Canadians there are limits to the government's patience for those ignoring COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Trudeau said across the country, people need to clearly understand that ignoring distancing protocols puts others at risk, from the elderly to essential workers.

"Enough is enough. Go home and stay home," Trudeau said.

"This is what we all need to be doing and we're going to make sure it happens."

How exactly the federal government will or could make sure it happens has been the subject of debate for days, and will be on the agenda for an expected call later Monday between Trudeau and the premiers of the provinces and territories.

Many provinces have implemented states of emergency, which among other things, give authorities latitude to impose fines or other penalties on those who violate quarantine orders.

Cities are also following suit.

A few days after photographs circulated of Vancouver residents flocking to the city's famous beaches in flagrant violation of social-distancing protocols, city council approved fines of up to $50,000 on businesses and $1,000 for residents not doing their part.

Still, as COVID-19 testing increases across the country, and the number of confirmed cases continues to rise, the provinces were escalating containment measures.

Ontario and Quebec ordered all non-essential businesses to close by Tuesday night, while Nova Scotia imposed new restrictions at its provincial boundary with New Brunswick.

That province's premier, Blaine Higgs, said he'd like to see a national conversation about provincial border closures, noting the intense one around closing the U.S.-Canada border.

"I would like to get a standardization there on what we should be imposing one border to another interprovincially," Higgs said.

Trudeau has so far resisted the idea of invoking legislation that could allow for a more co-ordinated national response, the Emergencies Act, which vests the federal government with power to override the provinces and restrict the flow of people and goods.

He held a conference call with provincial and territorial leaders Monday evening about whether the federal government should invoke the Emergencies Act, said a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the call publicly.

Justice Minister David Lametti joined the call to explain what the act allows the federal government to do and what the impact could be on provincial measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

While some premiers want the act invoked, others are concerned that it could impede their efforts to respond to unique circumstances in their provinces.

The federal government continues to consider the Emergencies Act to be a "last resort."

Provinces must be consulted before it is invoked.

Higgs said he is in favour, calling it a move that would "unify our approach as a nation."  

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, however, said the provinces need to be able to act unilaterally.

"We want to make sure that we still have the authority to make the decisions that we require for the health and the economy in each province," he said. 

The act also brings with it a requirement for parliamentary oversight. Parliament is being recalled Tuesday to start consideration of the Liberals' aid package for affected businesses, a process expected to take two days in all.

Premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba said Monday they want more information from Trudeau on how that money is going to flow.

"That's part of, I think, the purpose of the call," said Manitoba's Brian Pallister.

"Just to clarify what resources the federal government will make available and on what basis, and how soon and so on."

For its part, the federal government is looking for greater harmonization of data.

Trudeau announced a contract Monday with a Toronto-based firm, Blue Dot, to use its analytics to support modelling and monitoring of the spread of COVID-19.

But the provinces have also been asked to increase and standardize the data they collect, said Health Minister Patty Hajdu. Another issue on the table will be medical supplies. Hajdu said co-ordination is needed to ensure regions are prepared for what might lie ahead but also for what they are facing now.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said his priority is to have the materials needed to do the tests as demand for them increases.

"We have it for the next few weeks, but clearly it will accelerate," he said.

Pallister echoed a demand for a discussion about supplies.

"We all need to be aware that we're in this together and supplies unavailable in any part of the country is bad news for all of us."

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said one of his goals for the call is to highlight companies such as Stanfields and Michelin that are available to re-tool in support of efforts to provide more equipment to hospitals and front-line health workers.

As of Monday afternoon, there were more than 2,000 confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Canada.

Most people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the majority of those who contract the virus recover. Some may have few, if any symptoms, or may not know they're infected because symptoms of the novel coronavirus are similar to a cold or flu.

However, for some, including Canadians aged 65 and over, those with compromised immune systems and those with pre-existing conditions, the illness can be much more severe. Among the Canadians diagnosed with the illness so far, 10 per cent have required hospitalization, with fewer than five per cent of cases requiring admission to the ICU.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2020.

—With files from Kevin Bissett, Keith Doucette, Allison Jones, Steve Lambert, Morgan Lowrie and Holly McKenzie-Sutter

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

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