OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is looking into recalling Parliament for a brief period in order to pass additional legislative measures, such as changes to employment insurance and potentially even enacting some aspects of the federal Emergencies Act, as Canada continues to ratchet up its response to COVID-19.
He is also imploring Canadians to heed public health authorities' advice to protect themselves and others amid the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizing the importance of social distancing at this time.
A more fulsome support package for Canadian workers and businesses as well as measures to stimulate the economy will be rolled out by Trudeau on Wednesday.
He said the Liberals are looking at changes to the upcoming tax season and ways to grant more flexibility for people to make payments and for businesses to have more cash flow upfront, given the sweeping shutdowns impacting numerous industries.
While the government has already been granted parliamentary approvals to spend money in response to COVID-19, Trudeau said further steps need to be legislated.
Formerly known as the War Measures Act, the federal government evoking the Emergencies Act and declaring a national public emergency would grant them considerable powers to lead the nationwide response. Doing so would require parliamentary oversight, meaning a small number of politicians would have to reconvene in Ottawa in the coming days.
"There are economic pieces that will need quick passage in order to support Canadians," Trudeau said. "We are also examining the emergency measures act to see if it is necessary or if there are other ways that will enable us to take the actions needed to protect people."
For now, Trudeau said that his officials are exploring whether it's possible to activate certain emergency protocols or take additional safety precautions without having to go as far as declaring a state of emergency.
Trudeau offered thanks to all Canadians working on the front lines of this health crisis, and implored Canadians to do what they can to help lighten their load, including staying home.
"Things will get better," he said, but said he isn't sure if that will be in weeks, or months. "Each one of us can make choices that help the people around us. In fact, we can make choices that will save lives."
Trudeau provided Canadians with an update on the federal government's COVID-19 measures from self-isolation at Rideau Cottage, emphasizing steps Canadians should be taking to limit the spread of the pandemic, like social distancing, vigilant hand washing, not gathering in groups of more than 50 people, and sneezing into your elbow.
Parks Canada will also be closing visitor services, meaning heritage sites and national parks will not be staffed.
The latest update from the federal government comes after Trudeau promised additional measures to help families on Monday. The virus has been spreading quickly across the world, and Canada is no exception.
The entire federal cabinet will be discussing what Trudeau called a "major" economic announcement, later Tuesday.
As the government announced this week, effective Wednesday, Canada will be shutting its border to non-citizens looking to enter, with some exceptions, and offering a $5,000 loan to Canadians trying to get home. Several new measures are also being implemented at airports to enhance screening of travellers returning from abroad.
Trudeau cautioned on Tuesday that the reality is, not everyone who is out of the country will get home in the next few weeks.
In advance of his address to the nation, Trudeau chaired a meeting with the special federal cabinet committee focused on the COVID-19 response.
Immediately after Trudeau spoke, ministers and government officials provided an update on the novel coronavirus from Parliament Hill.
Additional measures would be on top of the previously announced $1-billion health and economic response package that includes relaxing EI rules, and would go beyond the $10 billion being made available to businesses who are being impacted by the virus.
At the time Trudeau began speaking, there were 450 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada, and minutes later a fifth person was announced to have died after contracting the virus.