Home Page Election 2019 News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Store Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising
Log In
News

A timeline of Canadian COVID-19 developments

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau started the week off by announcing a number of Canada-wide COVID-19 measures, a pace of federal announcements that ramped up not long after he went into isolation March 12. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

Jan. 25, 2020

  • Canada records first “presumptive positive” case in Ontario, a man in his 50s who fell ill after returning from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak started.

Jan. 28, 2020

  • B.C. records its first case of the virus, and within a week, several more are confirmed, but all who had been connected to people who had travelled to or visited from the affected region in China.

Feb. 6, 2020

  • Ottawa begins repatriating what will eventually be hundreds of residents, chartering two planes to China and airlifting others from Japan on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The Diamond Princess had been quarantined off the coast of Japan since Feb. 3 with about 3,700 passengers on board. It wasn’t until early March when Canada’s public health officer started warning Canadians to “think twice” about cruise travel.

Feb. 26, 2020

  • Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo tells the House Health Committee that the government is looking at the possibility of calling for social-distancing measures, which would involve the cancellation of mass public gatherings. Such measures are outlined in the government’s pandemic influenza plan.

March 4, 2020

  • Bank of Canada cuts interest rates by 50 basis points to 1.25 per cent amid coronavirus concerns, following in the U.S. Federal Reserve’s footsteps, in an effort to soften the economic impact.
  • Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is named chair of a new cabinet committee tasked with managing the federal response to the outbreak, convened to “complement” the work of the Incident Response Group that typically meets during a crisis.

March 8, 2020

  • First COVID-19 death recorded when a B.C. resident in a nursing home died. Officials said the man was in his 80s and had other underlying health issues.

March 11, 2020

  • World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic.
  • The federal government announced a $1-billion fund aimed at mitigating the spread of the coronavirus, including $500-million in support to provinces and territories, an additional $275-million in funding for research, and waiving one-week waiting period for employees who need to claim Employment Insurance sickness benefits on account of being quarantined or having to self-isolate.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family went into quarantine March 12 after his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, returned from a trip abroad with flu-like symptoms. The Hill Times file photograph

March 12, 2020

  • The prime minister’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, who returned from a trip to the United Kingdom, was tested after having flu-like symptoms, and by evening, the PMO reported she had tested positive.
  • Justin Trudeau starts 14-day self-isolation, but with no symptoms, officials said meant he would not be tested. The in-person First Ministers’ Meeting, planned for the same day, was cancelled, with Mr. Trudeau instead speaking with premiers over the phone.
  • The impact of the outbreak, combined with diving oil prices, helped push the Canadian stock market to its worst one-day plunge in eight decades.

March 13, 2020

  • Parliament agrees to suspend for five weeks until at least April 20 after unanimous agreement among all parties.
  • Senate is recalled to sit on Friday (after it adjourned the day before) to finish business, most notably to pass the new NAFTA.
  • Canada upgrades advice that international travellers should self-quarantine, but over the weekend, some passengers coming from abroad said they weren’t properly screened, prompting some provinces—like Quebec, Alberta, and Nova Scotia—and Montreal city officials to send their own personnel to make sure the federal job was being done.
  • Treasury Board Secretariat issues directive to federal public servants permitting them to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, per their managers’ discretion.

March 15, 2020

  • Emergency cabinet meeting held in Ottawa where ministers said new measures were coming, but rebuffed reporters’ questions about why the government was waiting, and why there was insufficient screening at several airports.
  • Canada’s public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warns the window to flatten the curve is closing.

Chief Public Health officer Dr. Theresa Tam, pictured on Jan. 26, warned Canadians on March 15 that the window to flatten the curve was closing. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

March 16, 2020

  • Mr. Trudeau announces major new measures, including banning entry to most foreign nationals, except for U.S. citizens. Anyone with symptoms, regardless of citizenship, will also be denied boarding of flights to Canada.
  • Canadian death toll rises to four, and all are connected to the B.C. nursing home where the first Canadian victim died.
  • Conservative Party says leadership race and rules will go forward, but it would give leadership candidates online tools to support efforts to canvas members from a safe social distance, including making easier to gather online signatures, but declined calls from some to push off the March 25 deadline.

March 17, 2020

  • Mr. Trudeau announced Parliament will be recalled for an emergency session to pass legislation and that the government would announce a major economic aid package on March 18 to help workers.
  • A fifth Canadian person, a 77-year-old man, dies with COVID-19 detected post-mortem, the first in Ontario.

March 18, 2020

  • The new border measures come into effect, with only four airports in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary accepting international flights.
  • Canada and the U.S. announce that non-essential travel between the two countries will be barred, not including trade and commerce.
  • Mr. Trudeau announces $82-billion support package, which includes two packages nearly totalling $15-billion of employment insurance support for Canadians facing unemployment who are not eligible for EI, as well as $300-million to address “immediate needs” in Indigenous communities, and a six-month moratorium on student loans, among other measures.
  • Deadline for Canadians to file taxes is extended from April 30 to June 1.
  • COVID-19 deaths in Canada increase to nine with seven dead in British Columbia, one in Ontario, and one in Quebec—the province’s first.

March 19, 2020

  • Mr. Trudeau announces that closure of the Canada-U.S. border to discretionary travel will likely take effect on Friday night, March 20.
  • He says the U.S. and Canada have also struck a deal to temporarily extend the Safe Third Country Agreement to unofficial ports of entry. That means refugee claimants will not be allowed to cross the border and remain in Canada while their claim is heard, a reversal from the government’s position.

March 21, 2020

  • Canada-U.S. border closes to non-essential travel for a period of 30 days, with the possibility of an extension.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu, pictured Feb. 4, warns criminal penalties could be coming for travellers who fail to self-isolate upon return. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

March 22, 2020

  • Health Minister Patty Hajdu warns that the feds could impose criminal penalties if travellers continue to defy advice to self-isolate after returning home from abroad.
  • The government announces it is launching an ad campaign, which will begin airing on March 23, to appeal to Canadians to practice social distancing and good hygiene.

March 23, 2020

  • Mr. Trudeau announces a $5-billion credit package for the farming industry, with loans to be dispensed through Farm Credit Canada. That includes a six-month deferral for the repayment of existing loans, amounting to $173-million. He also pledges another $192-million to fund efforts to fast track the development of a potential vaccine.
  • The feds’ COVID-19 ad campaign starts airing.
  • The prime minister schedules a call with premiers to discuss the possibility of enforcing the Emergencies Act, which would temporarily grant the federal government the authority to, if necessary, curtail movement within the country to curb the spread of COVID-19. He says no province has “formally” asked it to invoke the act.

The Speaker’s parade brings the mace into the House of Commons to open the sitting day after parliament is recalled to discuss emergency measures to help Canadians with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 24. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

March 24, 2020

  • The House emergency sitting to consider the COVID-19 bailout bill stalls as opposition parties balk at conditions that gave the Liberal cabinet unfettered spending powers.
  • Mr. Trudeau says provinces have “largely” decided that it’s unnecessary at this stage to invoke the federal Emergencies Act.

March 25, 2020

  • The House stalemate ends in the early-morning hours and the Senate later sits, and without amendments passes Bill C-13, passes the $107-billion aid package.
  • Mr. Trudeau announces a $2,000-a-month benefit for workers who don’t have a paycheque, promising the money will come within 10 days and would be ongoing over four months.
  • Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault says support for media will come in the form of a $30-million ad buy to raise awareness on efforts to fight the pandemic. The government also says it is working to rollout the previously announced tax credits for qualifying media outlets.
  • Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne participates in a conference call with his G7 counterparts. The group fails to issue a joint communiqué over the Trump administration’s insistence on referring to the pandemic as the “Wuhan virus,” despite the WHO’s guidelines discouraging nations from linking it to a place or animal.
  • Ms. Hajdu announces all returning travellers—except essential workers—will be under mandatory 14-day quarantine.
  • Ontario MP Kamal Khera, who re-registered as a nurse, tests positive for COVID-19.

March 26, 2020

  • Mr. Trudeau participates in a call with G20 leaders, and is officially clear to leave Rideau Cottage after his 14 days in self-isolation.
  • Ms. Freeland says the government has pushed back against the Trump administration’s suggestion to deploy troops to the border, as the number of cases in the U.S. climbs to more than 75,000: “What we have said is, ‘We really do not believe at all that there would be a public health justification for you to take this action.’ ” The U.S., in response, appears to back off.
  • Following the PM’s videoconference with G20 counterparts, the multilateral group announces $5-trillion in global stimulus to help other countries battling COVID-19.
  • Citing the pandemic, the Conservative Party’s Leadership Organizing Election Committee decides to suspend the leadership race indefinitely after resisting numerous calls to do so.

March 27

  • Mr. Trudeau ups the federal wage subsidy from 10 per cent to 75 per cent for small- and medium-sized businesses. It will be backdated to March 15. GST and HST tax payments on imports will also be deferred until June.
  • The government introduces the Canada Emergency Business Account, through which banks will offer up to $40,000 in interest-free loans for the first year, $10,000 of which will be forgivable, depending on the business’ eligibility.
  • Mr. Trudeau also signals that a package is in the works for youth, marginalized communities, and those in poverty.
  • Bank of Canada cuts key rate to 0.25 per cent, marking its third cut this month.

March 28

  • Mr. Trudeau gives 48 hours’ notice that the government now expects airline, train operators to screen would-be passengers travelling domestically for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • He also pledges $9-million for United Way Canada’s senior-focused efforts, and $7.5-million for the Kids Helps Phone.

March 30

  • Mr. Trudeau says that employers, regardless of the size of their business or organization, can recoup up to 75 per cent of their employees’ salaries on the first $58,700 earned, if they can demonstrate they have lost at least 30 per cent of their revenue (or operating costs, for non-profits).
  • Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says that 24,000 reserve and regular troops are ready to be deployed, should the need arise.

March 31

  • Mr. Trudeau says the feds plan to spend $2-billion to scale up the production of medical supplies, including ventilators, surgical masks, and personal protective equipment, in anticipation of a looming shortage across hospitals. Ottawa has signed three contracts with Canadian companies, and secured five letters of intent with others.
  • Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains says that at least $50-million will be spent through the feds’ manufacturing supercluster to produce ventilators, face masks, and test kits.

Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez takes his seat in the interim West Block Chamber on April 20, when a skeletal Parliament met to debate the government’s motion to extend the suspension of regular sittings. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

April 1

  • Mr. Trudeau says the government is looking to recall Parliament again to consider passing the “biggest economic measures” in Canada’s history. It’s unclear whether he was referring to the expanded wage subsidy, which was adjusted after the House passed its relief bill, though outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer suggested that was the case. 

April 3

  • Mr. Trudeau announces $100-million in funding for food banks to meet the needs of vulnerable populations, including Indigenous communities. He says the government has struck a deal with Amazon to deliver medical supplies to provinces.

April 11

  • A small contingent of MPs return to the Hill to pass the feds’ legislation to boost the wage-subsidy program from 10 per cent to 75 per cent.

April 14

  • The feds announce plans to increase funding support for the North’s transportation, health, and economic needs, including a $72.5-million transfer to Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut to bolster the operations of health and social services, and $17.3-million to support northern air carriers. A further $25-million will go towards increasing subsidies through Nutrition North, a program to help improve access to affordable food.

April 15

  • The prime minister says Ottawa is expanding access to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to seasonal and part-time workers and those who have seen their income trickle down to less than $1,000 a month. He also says there will be a salary top-up for essential front-line workers earning less than $2,500, in co-ordination with provinces and territories.

April 16

  • Mr. Trudeau outlines the feds’ plans to expand the eligibility for the Canada Emergency Business Account to include businesses that paid between $20,000 and $1.5-million overall for payroll in 2019. The threshold was changed from the initial requirements of between $50,000 and $1-million.
  • He also says the government plans to offer commercial rent relief for small businesses. Such relief will come in the form of loans (some forgivable), and will be retroactive to April. It will also apply for May and June.

Trudeau’s penchant for political appointees shows lack of appreciation for ambassadors’ work: former senior diplomat

News|By Neil Moss
'[Trudeau] neglects the fact that you need experience and competent people,' says Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016.

A look at rookie MP Sloan’s underdog leadership campaign

Team Sloan is led by former Scheer staffer Paula Iturri, and includes Ashley Brown as tour director and Daniel Paolini, who’s currently a member of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party executive.

Wernick’s warning of political violence reflects increasing polarization, say politicos, experts

There’s been a normalization of hateful language online, says terrorism expert Jessica Davis, who noted a ‘Trudeau effect’ in the extreme animosity voiced by some online.

Prison watchdog has ‘grave’ concerns that CSC rates Indigenous, Black inmates as higher risk

Disproportionate number of Black and Indigenous offenders placed in higher security institutions by the CSC 'doesn’t add up,' says Sen. Bernard.

More nuanced, test-focused approach needed to reopen Canada-U.S. border, say experts

News|By Neil Moss
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has called for Canada and the United States to 'immediately craft a comprehensive framework for phased reopening of the border.'

Canada, host countries should bolster efforts to mitigate COVID-19 spread in ‘displaced communities,’ says refugee advocacy group

News|By Beatrice Paez
'It is hard to imagine a crisis—even one half its dimension—where the international community had done so little to rally together,' says Refugees International.

Ex-Liberal MPs running in next election eagerly await start of nomination process

News|By Abbas Rana
The Liberal Party is consulting MPs and grassroots members to determine rules for candidate nominations in held and unheld ridings for the next election, says spokesman Braeden Caley.

Too soon to say if StatsCan will bring in more racialized researchers, says official; ‘we’re just building those relationships’

News|By Palak Mangat
In July 2019, the agency established the Centre for Indigenous Statistics and Partnerships. It also employs 11 Indigenous liaison advisors to help it collect data on Indigenous people in Canada.

Opposition MPs decry lack of transparency around government’s COVID-19 advertising spending

News|By Mike Lapointe
Just over $48.5-million was added to the Privy Council Office’s budget for 'communications and marketing (COVID-19)' in the most recent round of supplementary estimates, which were passed by Parliament on June 17.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.