Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference as he unveils plans for greater support for Black businesses, at HXOUSE in Toronto, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Trudeau takes questions in Liberal party’s first-ever virtual fundraiser

Trudeau appeals to Canadians to ‘continue to be vigilant’ about pandemic

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Thursday that Canada is still in the middle of the COVID-19 health crisis and will be for many months to come.

“Let’s make no mistakes,” he told a virtual Liberal fundraising event.

“We’re still in this crisis mode. We are still in the middle of a pandemic. We’re going to have to learn how to continue to live with COVID-19 for many, many more months.”

Trudeau made the remarks in response to a question from a Liberal supporter during the party’s first-ever virtual fundraiser.

Donors who ponied up any amount — but $25 is what the party suggested — were able to submit written questions to the prime minister.

The party said it received more than 500 questions but just five were actually put to Trudeau during the 45-minute event, all of them friendly.

The party said almost 4,000 people tuned in for the event — the largest gathering of Liberals since their 2018 national convention.

Trudeau used the opportunity to appeal to Canadians to “continue to be vigilant” about the pandemic. He repeatedly urged them to keep washing their hands, wear masks, avoid large gatherings and keep physical distance from one another.

“As we do this and the better we do this, the more chances we’ll have of coming out stronger, quicker and being able to really build that better future that I know we’re all really impatient to get to.”

While he acknowledged the pandemic has meant difficult times for Canadians, Trudeau also said he’s excited about the opportunity it now presents for rebuilding “a better, stronger Canada.” His government intends to sketch its plan for economic recovery in a throne speech on Sept. 23.

“Our country and our world is facing an unprecedented challenge but we’ve also been given an unparalleled opportunity,” he said.

“We have the chance to build a Canada that is safer and healthier, a Canada that is greener and more competitive, more welcoming and more fair. This is our moment to define the path ahead.”

In response to a question from an Alberta supporter, Trudeau acknowledged that the province has been particularly hard hit by the double whammy of COVID-19 and the collapse in demand for its oil and natural gas.

He pledged that his government will rely on the “hard work, the engineering skills, the innovation that people in Alberta and in the oil and gas sector” have always shown to gradually transition away from fossil fuels and reach the Liberal commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“None of us can be part of a better future until all of us are part of that better future,” he said.

Trudeau normally attends multiple fundraisers across the country but the COVID-19 pandemic has put an end to large in-person gatherings and all political parties have had to find other ways of raising money and conducting voter outreach.

The Liberal party is in the process of debating and prioritizing policy resolutions for its upcoming national convention entirely online.

It has yet to decide whether the convention itself, scheduled for Nov. 12-15 in Ottawa, will be conducted virtually or through some hybrid of online and in-person sessions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2020.

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