The federal government is moving ahead with plans to spend more than $3.5 billion on an expensive, time-shifting plan to block out unwanted telephones and other electronic devices, but the move may not be enough to address the growing number of Canadians who are calling 911 because of the virus.
The spending plan, dubbed the Canada-U.S. Safety Strategy, was announced Friday by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and the heads of the provinces, territories and territories of Canada and the United States.
In the last week, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that there have been nearly 4,000 calls from Canadians reporting they had been affected by the virus, more than double the number in the last month alone.
The plan includes a new system to block all incoming and outgoing calls and text messages to and from Canada for three hours a day, and to block incoming and outbound texts for up to 24 hours.
While the new technology will be deployed across Canada by the end of next year, the provinces will have to make sure they have enough staff to implement it.
Goodale said he has spoken to health-care providers across Canada and said they have no problem with the new plan.
“I’m sure there are a number of concerns and concerns, and that’s why we’re moving ahead,” Goodale told reporters.
“This is a priority for the minister and I believe that, at this point, it’s a good time to look at what is the best way to deal with the situation and how we can best support that.”
The minister acknowledged that the plan will not be perfect.
“What I want to emphasize is that there are still a lot of things that we need to work on,” Goodalf said.
“There’s still a number that we’re going to need to fix.”
Goodale also promised that all federal departments and agencies will be notified and the new systems will be rolled out gradually over the next year.
But he said the government will continue to support health- care providers to help them get the technology up and running quickly.
He said he will also meet with health- services providers to learn more about the technology.
Goodal said he would like to see a system that is easily accessible to all Canadians.
“It will not just be a matter of the federal government,” Goodal told reporters at a news conference.
“But it will also be a question of provinces, municipalities and territories.”
Goodal also promised the federal and provincial governments will work with local governments to ensure all provinces and territories have the tools they need to respond to the crisis.
Goodall said the federal strategy includes a review of all 911 calls in Canada, including the volume and frequency of incoming calls, the nature of the emergency and the type of emergency.
It will also assess how to better respond to an individual call and how best to use telephones, he said.
Goodalf also said that in the next few days, he will visit Toronto, Montreal and Halifax.
He promised the three cities would be able to host an international summit on the issue to be held in the coming weeks.
“If we can do that, I think we will have a much better opportunity to help Canadians,” Goodall told reporters in Vancouver.
Goodaling said the goal of the strategy is to reduce the number of calls to emergency services in Canada by one-third over the coming years.
“We know that this is a crisis that is out of control,” Goodali said.