Trudeau: U.S. limiting respirator exports a 'mistake'

GST credit for low-income Canadians coming in April instead of May

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the Donald Trump White House's request to medical goods maker 3M to cease exports of N95 respirators to Canada, saying the move is a "mistake" - and that Ottawa will do everything in its power to keep the trade route open in both import and export directions.

At the prime minister's regular daily briefing Friday, Trudeau said Ottawa continues to talk with Washington on the importance of the integration of trade between Canada and the United States, adding that Canada also supplies significant medical services and goods to the American market - such as a large number of nurses who live in Windsor and commute to Detroit to work in hospitals there.

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"We've been working very closely with the Americans to highlight what Canadians know very, very well: That the level of integration between our economies goes both ways across the border," Trudeau said. "We are receiving essential supplies from the United States, but the United States also receive essential supplies, products and - indeed - health care professionals from Canada every single day... These are things that Americans rely on, and it would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the amount of back-and-forth trade of essential goods and services."

However, Trudeau declined to respond directly to questions of whether Ottawa would consider a retaliatory trade measure, noting the focus right now is on keeping the flow of goods and services open: "I'm confident that the close and deep relationship between Canada and the U.S. will hold strong, and we will not have to see interruptions in the supply chain in either directions."

Trudeau also address the question of releasing national projections of COVID-19's spread in Canada, since Ontario premier Doug Ford is scheduled to release that province's official medical projections Friday afternoon. Trudeau said Ottawa is committed to releasing as much information as possible (and have already done so for current numbers of deaths and infected cases on a daily basis), but added his office's focus is for the data to be accurate before it is released.

"We need to make sure the projections we will be releasing are based on the most accurate, the deepest, and the most properly collated information out there," Trudeau said. "We are working with the provinces to be able to build a robust model to give the projections that people want to see."

Among the other measures Trudeau announced Friday are items such as the signing of an agreement with Amazon Canada to help distribute medical goods and suppliers across Canadian provinces and territories, as well as an announcement that Canadian military will help with getting needed supplies and aid to remote communities in northern Quebec - as was requested by that province's government. Trudeau also announced a $100-million package on meeting the food needs of vulnerable Canadians, although no details on the package were released.

As well, Trudeau said the previously promised supplementation of GST credit for low-income Canadians - which would amount to $300 for every qualifying adult - will now be delivered sometime this month, rather than the previously announced date in May. The prime minister added Ottawa continues to talk with Alberta specifically on something to help the beleaguered energy sector, but - again - did not offer details of the measures being explored.

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