Coronavirus

NWT says Ottawa cash isn’t enough as Trudeau plans special measures


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday said the federal government was “working on exceptional measures to protect the North” from the coronavirus pandemic.

However, NWT Premier Caroline Cochrane said the territory was currently set to receive under $600,000 of Ottawa’s planned billion-dollar Covid-19 fund.

“Our portion of that moneys is just under $600,000 if I remember correctly, and that is not enough,” Cochrane said in the territory’s legislature on Monday.

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“We’re dealing with the health issues. When the economy comes, my instinct is telling me that my first words will be: that is not enough.”

Speaking at roughly the same time, Trudeau said Canada was “making sure that everyone, no matter where they live, is prepared.” He remains in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for the virus last week.

What Ottawa’s exceptional measures will be was not immediately clear. The minister of northern affairs, Dan Vandal, was said to be working closely with the three territories.

Trudeau said the billion-dollar response fund would include support for healthcare systems so hospitals can prepare. Money from the same fund will support Indigenous communities.

Meanwhile, Canada took steps to close its borders on Monday. Only Canadian citizens and permanent residents – free of symptoms – would be allowed entry to the country, Trudeau said, with exceptions for air crew, diplomats, immediate family of Canadian citizens, and American citizens.

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“We continue to base our response on keeping Canadians as protected and as supported as possible,” the prime minister said. “We’ve decided to take increasingly aggressive steps to keep you and your family safe.

“We can still slow the spread of this virus … that window is closing.”

Canada will request that airlines bar all travellers with Covid-19 symptoms from flights. Airlines will be required to assess the health of each passenger heading to Canada before allowing them to board.

For Canadians who are abroad, the federal government is introducing an assistance program to help travellers return home or cover essential costs while waiting to return.

Starting on Wednesday, only four Canadian airports will receive international flights: Toronto Pearson, Montreal Trudeau, Vancouver International Airport, and Calgary International Airport.

The restrictions apply to passengers but not cargo, to keep supply lines open.

“I know these measures are far-reaching. They are exceptional circumstances calling for exceptional measures,” Trudeau said. “These measures will help save lives.”

As of Monday afternoon, there remained no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the NWT.

Ollie Williams contributed reporting.

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