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Coronavirus Updates Canada: Justin Trudeau Wants More Emergency Powers, Opposition Pushes Back

The Liberals tabled legislation that allows them to make economic decisions quickly during the COVID-19 crisis, while Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to slash hydro rates.
March 24, 2020, 12:29pm
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
MPs will congregate in Canada's House of Commons on Tuesday to vote on an $82-billion relief fund introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week. Photo by Justin Tang/CP

Updated at 1:45 p.m. (EDT): A select few Canadian MPs are going to temporarily recall Parliament on Tuesday to vote on an $82 billion funding package—introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week—that aims to lessen the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Liberals will also table legislation that would give the Trudeau government broad powers to change tax and government spending policies until December 2021, without

parliamentary approval.

During his address to Canadians on Tuesday, Trudeau said he has an “unwavering commitment” to protect and uphold the country’s democratic institutions and values.

His assertion comes after party leaders said they don’t support legislation that would concentrate long-term economic oversight in a select few Liberal hands.

Trudeau responded on Twitter by explaining that the new legislation will be tabled without “clause 2,” but didn’t specify what the clause entails.

A debate between the political parties will take place Tuesday afternoon to further fine-tune the proposed legislation.

The scheduled vote in the House of Commons follows a virtual meeting Trudeau had with Canada’s premiers late Monday to discuss the Emergency Act, legislation that gives Trudeau and his cabinet sweeping powers to issue orders, such as curfews, and fines or jail time for anyone who disobeys the orders.

Trudeau said he and the premiers agreed that invoking the act is a “last resort,” especially if Canadians don’t comply with calls from public health ministers to maintain stringent social distancing.

Non-essential businesses shuttered in Ontario

On Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford ordered all non-essential businesses across the province to close, including bars, nightclubs, various shops, and dine-in restaurants.

The Ontario government released a statement late Monday that outlines which businesses are allowed to remain open. Businesses that keep Canada’s supply chain running—manufacturers, distributors, grocery stores—will remain open, as will publicly run liquor stores, pet stores, newspapers, financial institutions, research institutions, mining operations, healthcare and senior services, emergency services, and more.

The premier announced slashed electricity rates for families, farmers, and small businesses on Tuesday. Effective immediately for at least six weeks, Ontarians will pay lower, off-peak electricity rates all the time.

COVID-19 cases top 2,000, 24 dead

As of Tuesday morning, Canada had more than 2,000 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, with more than 20 recorded deaths. Every province is affected and in a state of emergency. The Northwest Territories and Yukon both confirmed COVID-19 cases, prompting Nunavut—the sole region without a reported case—to limit travel in and out of the territory. Here is the breakdown of COVID-19 cases across Canada:

British Columbia: 472

Alberta: 301

Saskatchewan: 66

Manitoba: 20

Ontario: 503

Quebec: 628

Newfoundland and Labrador: 24

New Brunswick: 17

Nova Scotia: 41

Prince Edward Island: 3

Yukon: 2

Northwest Territories: 1

Nunavut: 0

There are nearly 350,000 COVID-19 cases globally, with about 15,000 deaths.

Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.