Individual provinces might move at different paces to reopen their economies, though they have all agreed to adhere to guidelines drafted in collaboration with the federal government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.
“Every region, every province, every territory is facing a very different situation right now with different industries, different-sized cities, and different spread of COVID-19,” he told reporters during his daily press availability.
“That’s why we needed to make sure that the foundational elements were there, that we could all follow as Canadians, but recognize that different jurisdictions will act differently.”
The federal-provincial guidelines were announced Monday in a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office. At the core of the guidelines are four main principles on reopening that include taking a science and evidence-based approach to decision-making, coordination and collaboration between all Canadian jurisdictions, accountability and transparency of all governments, and flexibility and proportionality to respond to changes.
The governments also agreed on a criteria that must be met in order to take steps to restart the economy. Specifically, they agreed that first, COVID-19 transmission must be controlled so new cases are contained at a manageable level and that there is sufficient public health capacity to test, trace, isolate, and control the spread of the virus, and to support the needs of all COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.
They also said that there must be supports in place for vulnerable groups, communities, and key populations, and continued support and monitoring of workplace protocols, while stressing that restrictions on non-essential travel must be “eased and managed in a coordinated manner.”
Trudeau’s comments on Wednesday come as the country’s two largest provinces take different approaches to restarting their economies. While Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Monday released a phased plan that included no timelines, Quebec Premier François Legault has announced this week the gradual opening of some non-essential retail operations and the reopening of primary schools.
“Everyone understands that the danger of opening up too quickly or the wrong way could mean we come back into the situation where we are right now and nobody wants that. So we’re going to keep moving forward responsibly according to the guidelines,” Trudeau said.
During Wednesday’s in-person meeting of the new House of Commons COVID-19 committee, Conservative MP Alain Rayes pressed the governing Liberals for their thoughts on Quebec’s plan to start relaxing some social distancing guidelines.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu responded by citing the provincial-federal guidelines for reopening the economy, while noting that conversations on reopening the economy are ongoing and vary by local considerations.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister on Wednesday announced a plan to reopen some nonessential businesses in his province starting on May 4.