Donald Trump’s suggestion the United States could ban exports of medical supplies to Canada has infuriated the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Dwight Ball made a point Sunday of reminding the president how the province helped thousands of stranded airline passengers after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“In 2001, our province stepped up in the biggest way possible,” Ball told a news conference in St. John’s, N.L.
“When the United States was in crisis … Newfoundland and Labrador accepted with open arms thousands of people from around the world. With no questions asked, with no prompting, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians acted fast and did what was necessary.”
On Friday, American manufacturer 3M — one of the largest producers of N95 medical-grade face masks — said it had been told by the White House to stop exporting the equipment to Canada and Latin America — a charge the White House has denied.
The White House later issued a statement that suggested its order was aimed at ”wartime profiteers” who could divert protective equipment away from U.S. hospitals to foreign purchasers willing to pay significant premiums.
Media reports suggest Trump had singled out 3M after a Fox News report accused the Minnesota-based company’s American distributors of selling its masks to “foreign buyers” that were outbidding U.S. customers.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Trump’s comments landed with an ugly thud, Ball said.
“To say that I’m infuriated with the recent actions of President Trump is an understatement,” the Liberal premier said. ”I cannot believe for a second that in a time of crisis that President Trump would even think about banning key medical supplies to Canada.”
Ball isn’t the only premier to be critical of U.S. actions in recent days. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford also expressed their disappointment on the medical supply situation recently.
Despite his anger, Ball said the province’s population — renowned for its unqualified hospitality — would always be there to help those in need.
“Newfoundland and Labrador will never give up on humanity,” he said. “We would not hesitate for one second if we had to repeat what we did in 9/11. We would do it again.”
Ball’s harsh words for Trump came as the province reported 14 new cases of COVID-19, which raised the province’s total to 217 confirmed cases. Ten people remain in hospital and there were three in intensive care.
The province reported the Atlantic region’s first death related to novel coronavirus on March 30. The four provinces have not reported any deaths related to COVID-19 since then.
However, three of the provinces reported a total of 83 new cases on the weekend. Prince Edward Island did not record any new cases on either Saturday or Sunday.
In Nova Scotia, health officials reported 26 new cases on Sunday. The province’s total now stands at 262 confirmed cases — the highest number in the region.
With the virus now spreading in communities, Nova Scotia has ramped up testing at the province’s main laboratory, where the processing of results is expected to become a 24-7 operation as of Monday.
Premier Stephen McNeil confirmed Sunday that police in Halifax had handed out dozens of tickets on the weekend to people violating emergency health orders aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.
He repeated a warning he issued on Friday, which has since become a trending topic on social media.
“Stay the blazes home!” he said, acknowledging that his quaint Maritime turn of phrase is now being printed on T-shirts, coffee cups and all manner of kitschy memorabilia.
“On Friday, I told all of you to stay the blazes home,” he said. “You had some fun with it and … after all, we could all use a bit of humour now.”
However, the premier doubled down on his original message.
“People are still walking on beaches and in parks, having garage parties and gathering in large groups,” he said. ”But what the reckless and selfish don’t get is that they are putting everyone else at risk … This virus spreads, and it spreads fast. Just look at what’s going on in Ontario and Quebec.”
In New Brunswick, health officials reported three new cases, bringing the province’s total to 101 confirmed cases. Like Nova Scotia, most of the cases are travel-related, but five were the result of community spread.
“This is the time to be sensible, to be prudent and, more than anything, to be kind,” Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, said in a statement.
“But remember, you would not put someone else’s oxygen mask on before your own. I urge you to think about your mental health the same way. Take care of yourselves so you can take care of others.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2020.
Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press