Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has struck a new cabinet committee to co-ordinate Canada’s response to COVID-19, warning that the global outbreak could take a heavy economic toll on Canadian industries such as travel, tourism and manufacturers that rely on a Chinese supply chain.
Speaking at an event in Saint-Jérôme, Que., Wednesday, Trudeau said many people and industries are seeing “challenging situations” because of the new coronavirus that is spreading around the world.
“This is not a situation that Canada created, but it is a situation we are going through and we will continue to work with our partners, with communities, with industry to ensure that we’re minimizing the impact and the disruption on Canadians,” he said.
Trudeau pointed to the travel and tourism sector, as well as any businesses that rely on parts or supplies from China, as particularly vulnerable to a slowdown.
The new cabinet committee tasked with overseeing Canada’s response to COVID-19 will co-ordinate efforts to limit the health and economic effects of the virus.
“We recognize that basing our decisions on evidence, on facts, on the best science available is going to be extremely important for keeping Canadians safe,” he said.
The committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, will complement the work done by the Incident Response Group, meeting regularly to co-ordinate and prepare for a response to the health and economic impacts of the virus.
‘All possible measures’ to limit COVID-19 impact
Trudeau said the committee will work with provincial, territorial and international partners to make sure Canada’s response “takes all possible measures to prevent and limit the spread of the virus in Canada.”
Other ministers on the eight-member committee include Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
Kirsty Duncan, deputy government House leader and scientist who wrote a book on the origins of the 1918 Spanish flu, will also be a core participant of the meetings.
Central bank cuts interest rate
Morneau scheduled a teleconference with his provincial and territorial counterparts Wednesday to discuss the economic impact of COVID-19.
Earlier Wednesday, the Bank of Canada cut its key interest rate target by half a percentage point in response to what it called the “material negative shock” from the outbreak.
In a statement about the cut, the bank said that before the outbreak, Canada’s economy had been operating “close to potential with inflation on target.”
“However, COVID-19 represents a significant health threat to people in a growing number of countries. In consequence, business activity in some regions has fallen sharply and supply chains have been disrupted. This has pulled down commodity prices and the Canadian dollar has depreciated,” the statement reads.
There have now been 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada; 20 in Ontario, 12 in British Columbia and one in Quebec.