New Brunswick

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Higgs doesn't agree with invoking federal Emergencies Act

Premier Blaine Higgs says he doesn't want a federal state of emergency triggered in New Brunswick but supports efforts to get protests in Ottawa under control.

Premier says it's not needed here, but acknowledges Ottawa protest 'needs to end'

Premier Blaine Higgs said if Ontario Premier Doug Ford believes additional measures are needed for his province, then that would be up to him and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 'to talk about and decide.' (Government of New Brunswick/YouTube)

Premier Blaine Higgs says he doesn't agree with invoking the Emergencies Act to give the federal government extra powers to handle anti-COVID-19 mandate protests across the country but does support efforts to get the Ottawa protest under control.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday afternoon that he has invoked the act for the first time in Canada's history.

The Emergencies Act, which replaced the War Measures Act in the 1980s, defines a national emergency as a temporary "urgent and critical situation" that "seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians and is of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it."

It gives special powers to the prime minister to respond to emergency scenarios affecting public welfare (natural disasters, disease outbreaks), public order (civil unrest), international emergencies or war emergencies.

Trudeau said the measures will be geographically targeted and "reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address."

I don't think it's necessary to invoke additional national measures at this time.- Blaine Higgs, premier

Before the announcement, Higgs told reporters that Trudeau had discussed the move with premiers and sought their input on what additional measures were required.

"I don't think it's necessary for New Brunswick," he said, noting the province already has its own act in place.

"We have put in the measures that allowed the police to do what they needed to do for the demonstrations that we've had here. And I think it worked very effectively.

"I believe we're on the tail end now of the pandemic, as most do. And we've got opening plans as we start to move forward in living with COVID and going beyond. And people are seeing that, so one would question that, you know, that that would be a regressive move at this time.

"And certainly for New Brunswick it's not required."

Higgs said the protest in Ottawa, now into Day 18, "should have been long over by now and it needs to end."

But New Brunswick and other jurisdictions are "seeing the light at the end of this tunnel," he said.

"And I don't think it's necessary to invoke additional national measures at this time."

While many protesters have flocked to Ottawa to voice their opposition to vaccine mandates, others have said their goal is to force the dissolution of the elected federal government.

A protest outside the New Brunswick Legislature, which began Friday, continued Monday, with about 30 people toting placards and flags on the sidewalks and roughly another 10 in vehicles.

There was a smaller presence of demonstrators outside the legislature Monday. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

The unprecedented deployment of the Emergencies Act gives police more tools to restore order in places where public assemblies constitute illegal and dangerous activities, such as blockades and occupations, said Trudeau. It will also enable the RCMP to enforce municipal bylaws and provincial offences where required.

The government is also designating and securing critical areas such as border crossings and airports after protesters blocked multiple border crossings across Canada over the weekend.

All measures are subject to the protections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people's jobs and restoring confidence in our institutions," Trudeau said.

'Prevalent' theme among premiers

Higgs said the premiers had "varying messages" for the prime minister during their call before the announcement. But the "prevalent" theme was that the situation in Ottawa needed to be addressed and "could be worked directly with Premier [Doug] Ford and Ontario. And then the other provinces were basically not in the same situation.

"And I certainly reiterated that here, that I wanted to encourage people that we're moving forward rather than going into another emergency measures act with additional restrictions."

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe does not support the Trudeau government invoking the Emergencies Act.

"The illegal blockades must end, but police already have sufficient tools to enforce the law and clear the blockades, as they did over the weekend in Windsor," he posted on Twitter before the announcement.

"If the federal government does proceed with this measure, I would hope it would only be invoked in provinces that request it, as the legislation allows," he wrote.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who has been dealing with a protest blockade at the border crossing in Coutts, said he doesn't believe invoking the act is necessary in his province and could hurt.

"I am concerned that there's a certain kind of person that if the federal government proceeds with this, who will be further inflamed and that could lead to prolongation of some of these protests," he said.

The premiers of Manitoba and Quebec also expressed concerns about invoking the act.

Speaking before his call with Trudeau, Ford gave his initial approval.

"I support the federal government and any proposal they have to bring law and order back to our province, to make sure we stabilize our business and trade around the world," he told a news conference.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Higgs spoke in favour of invoking the Emergencies Act, saying the country needed a consistent, national approach to stop the spread of the virus.

"It helps with any sort of cross-border issues, but it starts to unify our approach as a nation."

Once cabinet declares an emergency, it takes effect right away — but the government still needs to go to Parliament within seven days to get approval. If either the Commons or the Senate votes against the motion, the emergency declaration is revoked.

2 more deaths as province starts last stretch toward Level 1

New Brunswick recorded two more COVID-related deaths Monday, as the province headed toward the least restrictive level of the COVID-19 winter plan.

The latest deaths include a person in their 90s in the Moncton region, Zone 1, and a person in their 70s in the Fredericton region, Zone 3.

There have now been 64 deaths in the 17 days since the province moved to Level 2 from the most restrictive Level 3. The pandemic death toll has gone up to 292. The province moves to Level 1 late Friday night.

Thirteen people are in intensive care. Ten are there because of COVID-19, and the other three have tested positive for the virus. (Thaiview/Shutterstock)

The number of hospitalizations has decreased by four to 112 since the last report, including 54 people admitted for COVID-19 and 58 people admitted for something else when they tested positive for the virus.

Thirteen people are in intensive care, a decrease of two, including seven on ventilators, down one.

Three of the people hospitalized are 19 or under. Three people in their 40s are the youngest requiring intensive care.

The seven-day average of hospitalizations decreased again to 131 from 136, while the seven-day average of the number of people in intensive care remained steady for a third straight day at 15.

The key metric the province uses to assess whether to tighten or loosen restrictions — the seven-day average of new daily hospital admissions — is still not available to the public.

Department of Health officials have not responded to questions about when or if this data will be included on the COVID dashboard.

Overall hospital capacity provincewide is listed at 90 per cent, while ICU capacity is at 69 per cent.

The number of health-care workers off the job after testing positive for COVID has decreased by 10, to 331. That includes 145 from the Horizon Health Network, 131 from the Vitalité Health Network and 55 from Extra-Mural Ambulance New Brunswick.

New Brunswick Public Health recorded two more COVID-related deaths Monday. (CBC News)

Through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) lab tests, Public Health has confirmed 190 new cases of COVID, putting the province's active case count at 3,365.

An additional 471 people self-reported they tested positive on rapid tests.

The regional breakdown of PCR-confirmed cases includes:

Moncton region, Zone 1

  •  79 new cases and 1,216 active cases

Saint John region, Zone 2

  • 25 new cases and 678 active cases

Fredericton region, Zone 3

  • 33 new cases and 601 active cases

Edmundston region, Zone 4

  • 24 new cases and 322 active cases

Campbellton region, Zone 5

  • Two new cases and 80 active cases

Bathurst region, Zone 5

  • 16 new cases and 319 active cases

Miramichi region, Zone 7

  • 11 cases and 149 active cases

A total of 710,644 PCR tests have been conducted to date.

As of Monday, 47.9 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have received their booster shot, up from 47.8 per cent, 86 per cent have received two doses of a vaccine, unchanged, and 92.6 per cent have received one dose, also unchanged.

When it comes to the province's total population, 45.6 per cent are boosted and 81.8 per cent are doubled-dosed, according to CBC's Vaccine Tracker.

New Brunswick has had 33,066 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with 29,407 recoveries so far.

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