Liberal Procurement Minister Anita Anand said on Sunday that the Canadian government would "consider all options" when asked whether Canada would considering invoking the Emergencies Act to help deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Global News reports.
The Emergencies Act allows the federal government to appropriate what are normally provincial responsibilities, such as control over health and commerce, and allows the Prime Minister to issue executive orders. It also allows the federal government to appropriate or forcefully move property,
The act, which has never been invoked, was passed in 1988 as a replacement for the War Measures Act, which itself was invoked three times in Canadian history. It was last invoked by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Justin Trudeau's father, to deal with the October Crisis, when the Deputy Premier of Quebec and a British diplomat were kidnapped by the FLQ, a Quebecois nationalist group. The War Measures Act was also invoked during both world wars.
The federal government reportedly considered using the act last year during the first wave of the pandemic, but ultimately did not make use of it.
According to Anand, the federal government wants to help the provinces "in every way we can," pointing to mobile health units being procured for hospitals in Toronto and Hamilton, two areas which have been heavily hit by a third wave of the pandemic.
"That is something that we can do from the federal government perspective, is to provide these hospitals, in essence, to help to deal with capacity issues," she said.
She did not go into detail about the potential invocation of the Emergencies Act.
The Canadian government is considering such a measure as the country faces a third wave of coronavirus, largely driven by more infectious strains brought from overseas. The country has reported over 9,000 cases per day in mid-April, matching numbers seen at the height of the second wave experienced in January.
Cases in Ontario in particular have skyrocketed with no end in sight. The province estimates that up to 18,000 people could be getting sick with coronavirus on a daily basis by the end of May if the spread of the virus is not brought under control.
The province is already reporting more than 4,000 cases per day, shattering records from the second wave. Nearly 2,000 Ontarians are currently hospitalized for coronavirus, including 701 in intensive care units (ICUs).
The third wave also comes as Canada struggles to vaccinate its citizens against coronavirus. Many have compared Canada to the United States in terms of vaccine procurement, pointing out that while less than 20 percent of Canadians have received a single dose of the vaccine, over half of American adults have received at least one dose.
"We're doing whatever we can in an extremely competitive global environment… with no domestic production at the current time… to bring in as many vaccines as possible," Anand said of the vaccine procurement.
She told Canadians, however, that vaccines are not the only key to ending the pandemic. "Social distancing, staying at home and isolating and wearing masks and reducing travel, all of that is also important in terms of addressing the pandemic," she said.