Trudeau prepares for possible ‘disruptions’ after U.S. election outcome; More Quebec regions to become ‘red zones’

On Thursday, Oct. 8, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canada needs to be ready for “all outcomes” of the U.S. presidential election, such as if there are any “disruptions” following the result.

Trudeau shared his thoughts on the controversy in the U.S., after announcing a $295 million investment from the federal government into a Ford Motor Co. assembly complex in Ontario. The investment, which was matched by Premier Doug Ford’s provincial government, will make it a global hub for battery electric vehicle production.

In Alberta, a record-high spike of 364 new daily cases was announced. Dr. Deena Hinshaw said that a worrisome trend may have developed in its epicentre of Edmonton — where new voluntary restrictions have been introduced — because some people will only follow public health recommendations if they’ve been “personally impacted” by COVID-19.

Officials in Quebec, Canada’s worst-hit province, announced that more regions will become “red zones.” It means they’ll face the highest level of restrictions as health officials try to limit the spread of the virus.

In Prince Edward Island, the province’s top doctor raised concern about the current “Atlantic bubble,” after an outbreak was reported in New Brunswick, where there are now more active cases than the rest of the Atlantic provinces combined. In New Brunswick, officials announced new mandatory mask restrictions on Thursday, while they also suspended non-essential travel between itself and a Quebec border community.

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

Trudeau’s focus on Canada’s COVID-19 response, not U.S. election debates

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked repeatedly to share his thoughts regarding the U.S. presidential election, especially on Canada’s response if Donald Trump doesn’t accept Nov. 3’s results.

It’s a rumour that has gained traction with Trump and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence not providing clear answers as to how they would respond to potential defeat in the 2020 election, such as if there will be a peaceful transfer of power.

The prime minister on Thursday said that he’s watched “clips” from both the U.S. presidential and vice-presidential debates, but “my focus right now needs to be on keeping Canadians safe and working with premiers across this country to engage in everything we need to do to control this second wave.”

“Of course what happens in the United States is going to be impacting Canada after the election. But our job is to be ready for all outcomes.”

Trudeau was then pressured to elaborate on what “all outcomes” could mean. 

“Well I think we’re certainly all hoping for a smooth transition or a clear result from the election, like many people are around the world,” said Trudeau. “If it is less clear, there may be some disruptions and we need to be ready for any outcomes, and I think that’s what Canadians would expect of their government, and we’re certainly reflecting on that.”

The prime minister said that he doesn’t comment or weigh in on American political processes.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the integrity of the upcoming U.S. election due to the significant amount of Americans who will be using mail-in ballots.

More Quebec regions to become ‘red zones’ with new restrictions

Quebec officials announced on Thursday that more regions of the province will soon become “red zones.” 

It marks the highest level on its COVID-19 alert colour-scale, which indicates the severity of the virus in regions around the province and dictates what restrictions should be put in place. The recently added red zones now include nearly every municipality between the Montreal region and Quebec City area along the St. Lawrence River. 

“In fact, all the St. Lawrence Valley is red,” said Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé on Thursday. 

The announcement on Thursday comes after Quebec reported at least 1,000 daily cases for the sixth time over the past seven days. No other province has ever recorded 1,000 daily cases even once throughout the pandemic.

New red zones include Bécancour, Nicolet-Yamaska, Drummond, Portneuf as well as the city of Trois-Rivières. They join the Greater Montreal region, the provincial capital and Chaudière-Appalaches.

It means as of Sunday, restaurants and bars will only be able to offer takeout options. Dining rooms and most entertainment venues will have to close, as well as gyms. High schools in red regions will also be given to Thursday to apply additional hygiene rules, such as full-time mask use, while extracurricular activities will be suspended. 

In red zones, people are not allowed to have visitors from other households, except under unique circumstances, such for those who live alone. Private gatherings are prohibited, except for places of worship and funerals, where there can be a maximum of 25 people. 

“Our role is to stay ahead of the wave as much as we can,” Dubé said. “That’s why we are making these difficult decisions.”

Dubé said that police checkpoints are being set up at five locations to ensure Quebecers are aware of the rules, such as if they attempt to travel between regions, which is currently being discouraged. Those who live in a red zone must follow the same rules throughout the entire province.

“We won’t stop people from travelling, but don’t go elsewhere and do things you’re not allowed to do at home,” said Dubé, referring to those who might attempt to eat at a restaurant in an orange zone, for example.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, said residents should stay home for the rest of the month, which includes this Thanksgiving weekend. 

“If all Quebecers decrease their social contacts over the next 14 days, we will see a decrease in the number of new infections, guaranteed,” he said.

Edmontonians may not be following restrictions because they were not ‘personally impacted’

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health shared some insight into what may be contributing to a rise in cases in the Edmonton zone, which recorded 276 of the province’s record-high spike of 364 cases on Thursday.

Over the past month, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province has been holding focus groups to understand why people aren’t following restrictions and what would prompt them to do so. 

“Unfortunately for some people, the answer is that they would follow restrictions if they were personally impacted,” said Hinshaw. “We are seeing rising numbers in Edmonton and it is going to impact more of us. Now is the time to be motivated to turn that tide.”

Over the course of the pandemic, some Edmontonians perhaps haven’t had the same personal impact of COVID-19 compared to people in other parts of the province, said Hinshaw. For example, the Calgary zone had consistently higher case numbers at the beginning of the pandemic. As a result, more effort was put in place by public health officers for that population to understand the risks of COVID-19. 

“In the past eight months, typically Edmonton has had a bit of a lower case count. It’s possible that people have maybe not paid as close attention to the rules. Again, I don’t know that for sure,” she said.

Of Alberta’s active 2,097 active cases, 1,251 of them are in the Edmonton area. Alberta’s top doctor said that it’s “concerning” that about 11 per cent of active cases in Edmonton attended work or social gatherings while symptomatic. 

On Thursday, Hinshaw introduced new voluntary restrictions for the area. 

As part of the voluntary restrictions, all family and private social gatherings should be limited to no more than 15 people. This doesn’t impact schools or gatherings such as at theatres, worship services, or other formal gatherings where an organizer is ensuring all COVID guidance is in place, such as funerals or weddings. However, those are still encouraged to be limited to 15. 

Hinshaw also recommends that masks should be worn in all indoor work settings, except when alone in workspaces, such as cubicles or offices, where you can safely distance yourself from others.

Thirdly, people in the Edmonton zone should limit themselves to three cohorts: their core household cohort, their school cohort and a social, sport or other group. In a cohort, you don’t have to follow COVID restrictions all the time, which should not be the case in workplaces, said Hinshaw. Young children are also given an exception for care centres, since risk of transmission is considered low.

The restrictions aren’t mandatory, because Hinshaw said she’d like to be consistent with their reopening framework. They will become mandatory if hospitalizations rise over 5 per cent over two weeks, and at least 50 per cent of ICU beds are in use. Two weeks ago on Sept. 24, there were 58 people in hospital and 14 in intensive care. As of today, there are 77 and 13, respectively.

Potential changes may be on the way to the Atlantic Bubble

A recent outbreak in New Brunswick has raised concern for Prince Edward Island’s chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison, which could have an impact on the Atlantic bubble. 

“We have lots of connections with New Brunswick, and the Moncton area, and it does raise concern for us here on Prince Edward Island,” said Morrison to CBC News: Compass in an interview Thursday afternoon. 

“At this time it is a concern, but [we are] watching carefully what is going on.”

Currently, the Atlantic bubble allows residents of four provinces — New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia — to travel to each other’s jurisdictions without having to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival and return. 

Currently, New Brunswick has more active cases (24) than the other three other jurisdictions combined (10). 

“I think New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. in particular will all be looking at whether or not we need to make any changes to the Atlantic bubble,” said Morrison. 

P.E.I.’s top doctor urged all those in the province to think about whether they really need to travel elsewhere, especially with uncertainty surrounding the circumstances of the outbreak in Moncton. She said that this upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, officials will make an extra effort to remind visitors or Islanders returning for the weekend to get tested if they feel that they have symptoms. 

Along with the outbreak at the special care home in Moncton, Manoir Notre-Dame, potential public exposure warnings have been released at the Moncton Costco Optical Centre and Moncton St-Hubert restaurant in New Brunswick.

PM, Ford announce COVID-19 job boost with auto investment

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford announced contributions as part of a $1.8 billion investment into car manufacturer Ford’s Oakville Assembly Complex, in order to make it a global hub for battery electric vehicle production.

Both the Ontario and federal government will invest $295 million, to go along with an investment by the Ford Motor Co., in order to make zero emission electric vehicles. The Ontario premier said that the investment will make Ford’s Oakville assembly complex the largest electric car manufacturing facility in North America.

“By investing in technology that protects the environment, we’re also taking action on our plan to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday. “For our environment, for our auto-sector, this is a win-win.”

Trudeau said the announcement secures 5,000 middle-class jobs, while positioning the country to use its talent to be a leader in electric vehicles, a growing market. The announcement comes after a deal was reached last month by the Ontario premier and auto-worker union Unifor to start making five new electric car models at the Oakville, Ont. plant.

“Announcements like this today indicate that not only are we going to make it through this pandemic because we’re working together, but we’re going to ensure that there are good jobs for the long term, as we come out to this pandemic,” said Trudeau.

Ford said that today’s announcement represents the largest investment in Ontario’s auto sector in over 15 years.

“This is a historic moment,” said Ford at a press conference in Oakville.“Today, we’re laying the groundwork for the long term recovery and prosperity of our province.”

In addition, with the town of St. Paul and federal partners, the Ontario government will be purchasing 73 new electric buses and 32 charging stations, while they’ll be looking to create 244 internships to prepare students for “jobs of the future.”

Ford noted that Ontario has the manufacturing facilities, tool manufactures and mold makers to be able to take on this leadership role in the electric car manufacturing industry. They also have the nickel, cobalt and lithium in Ontario, “so there’s no better place to manufacture batteries.”

However, Ford and Trudeau faced questions about how in 2018, the premier cancelled electric car rebates in Ontario. According to CTV News, it makes electric vehicles more expensive to consumers in Ontario than in Quebec or British Columbia.

“We’re a strong believer in electrical cars and putting a battery plant here, along with supporting Ford work,” said the premier. “We’re all in and we put our money where our mouth is.”

Trudeau said that as technology advances and there are more innovators, it will bring down costs, which will make buying an electric car an “easier choice to make.”

“I will continue to encourage all governments across this country to do their part, and encourage people to be able to do the right thing for their families, for their kids, for their pocketbooks, and for the environment at the same time.”

New Brunswick makes masks mandatory in most public spaces, restricts travel with Quebec

New Brunswick officials announced on Thursday that they are making masks mandatory in most indoor public places starting at midnight, while also restricting travel with neighbouring Quebec.  

The news comes after the province reported 17 new cases in connection to a special care home in Moncton on Wednesday. Three new unrelated cases were also announced on Thursday, increasing the province’s active case count to 24, the highest it has been since June 21, according to provincial data. 

“Based upon what we are seeing in our neighbouring provinces and the outbreak in Moncton, we know how quickly the virus can spread through a community,” said Premier Blaine Higgs in a press release. “We must take every possible measure to prevent that from happening in our province.”

According to the press release, masks will be required in these areas:

  • public spaces where the public and employees interact (retail businesses, malls, service centres, places of worship, restaurants and bars except while eating, etc.) and organized indoor gatherings in public spaces (e.g. weddings, funerals, etc.)

  • common areas like lobbies, elevators and hallways, and public shared spaces including those in private sector and government workspaces

An investigation by the province’s Department of Justice and Public Safety, which surveyed 600 public spaces, estimates that about 36 per cent of people wear masks when required. 

“Unfortunately, there are too many people who are not wearing their masks when required,” said Higgs. “We recognize this is a major announcement and businesses and individuals may need time to adjust. We are asking for people to comply immediately. Peace officers will be monitoring to ensure people are wearing masks as required.”

On Thursday, the province also announced new travel restrictions relating to a Quebec border community. Starting at midnight, the agreement that allowed non-essential day trips by residents of Listuguj First Nation and Pointe-à-la-Croix, Quebec has been suspended.

“With a significant outbreak in Quebec, we agreed we had to make that change,” said Higgs on Canada’s worst-hit province, which leads the nation with 8,492 currently infected patients.

Travel for reasons such as obtaining groceries, prescription medications or essential goods and services that aren’t available in their community will still be allowed. People can still cross the border for work, medical appointments and school, among other reasons, but the province is working to provide remote learning for affected high school students beginning on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

British Columbia surpasses 10,000 cases of COVID-19, but it’s an ‘under representation’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, announced on Thursday that the province surpassed 10,000 total cases of COVID-19, after 110 new patients were identified in the latest 24-hour stretch.

“Today we’ve reached a threshold which is one that makes us pause,” said Henry. “We know that that’s an under representation of the impact of this virus and that there have been more people particularly early on when our access to testing was limited, who have been infected with this virus.”

Henry said B.C. and Canada have been fortunate to fare better than other areas around the world, however the grim milestone should serve as “a reminder that many people have been impacted by this virus.”

Henry made a focus to encourage people to continue to make smart choices in order to limit the spread of the virus. Of the province’s 10,066 total cases, there are 1,394 who are still considered infectious. Throughout the pandemic, 245 people have died in British Columbia due to the respiratory virus, which includes one more person in the province’s latest 24-hour stretch in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

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