A summary of the day's activities for September 30 and October 1, follows.
Federal Government Relief Measures
- There were no new COVID-19 funding announcements today.
Statement of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Trudeau laid out the broad strokes of the Canada Infrastructure Bank's (CIB) Growth Plan in a press conference alongside Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna and Michael Sabia, Chair of the CIB.
The Prime Minister announced a three-year $10 billion infrastructure plan to help build healthier and strong communities with investments in clean energy, zero-emission buses, building retrofits, high speed internet and irrigation infrastructure for farmers. (Note: This is not new money. This $10 billion investment is part of the federal government's commitment of $35 billion to support infrastructure projects across the country.)
The Prime Minister said the announcement was part of the government's campaign to create over one million jobs to rebuild from the pandemic as announced in last week's Speech from the Throne. “This plan alone will create about 60,000 jobs right across the country,” the Prime Minister said. “With smart targeted investments, we can get people back on the job and grow the economy while building a safe, sustainable future for everyone,” he told reporters.
Michael Sabia provided details on the breakdown of the CIB's $10 billion investment:
- $2.5 billion for clean power to support renewable generation and storage and to transmit clean electricity between provinces, territories, and regions, including to northern and Indigenous communities.
- $2 billion to connect approximately 750,000 homes and small businesses to broadband in underserved communities.
- $2 billion to invest in large-scale building retrofits to increase energy efficiency.
- $1.5 billion for agriculture irrigation projects.
- $1.5 billion to accelerate the adoption of zero-emission buses and charging infrastructure.
For Michael Sabia, impact, value, and return on investment are the main operating objectives of the CIB. “Every dollar of public investment in these initiatives is intended to attract additional dollars from private and institutional investors. In that way, the CIB can have bigger impacts that benefit Canadians and Canada's economy. We will be moving forward quickly to implement the $10 billion Growth Plan and deliver results,” he said.
In describing the challenges of the CIB, Michael Sabia said the issue was not the bank's ability to attract capital. For foreign investors, “Canada is a stable country, a good place to invest and has strong economic potential.” For Canadian investors, “the steady returns offered by infrastructure projects are highly attractive.” The challenge is project identification and structuring, including the structuring of the project's finances. Michael Sabia said he was confident the CIB now had a solid foundation to move forward.
In lieu of an in-person update to the media, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, issued the following statement today:
"There have been 158,758 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,297 deaths. Over the past week, labs across the country tested an average of over 71,000 people daily with 1.8% testing positive. Daily case counts continue to rise with an average of 1,572 new cases being reported daily across Canada during the most recent 7 days. The majority (around 80%) of these cases have been reported by Quebec and Ontario. Both of these provinces have also observed a rise in the number of cases hospitalized over the past few weeks. Nationally, there have been on average 480 individuals with COVID-19 in Canadian hospitals each day and 8 deaths reported daily over the past week.”
Federal Government Briefings
During the very early hours of Tuesday night, the Liberal minority government survived its first confidence vote. Bill C-4, An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19, the bill that includes New Democrat-negotiated changes to the Canada Recovery Temporary Benefit and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, passed unanimously in the House of Commons. The Senate is sitting today to approve the legislation that replaces the now-defunct $500-per-week Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
During Wednesday's question period in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Trudeau said Health Canada had confirmed official approval of the rapid test. This approval came a day after Minister Anita Anand had announced an agreement with Abbott Rapid Diagnostics ULC to purchase up to 7.9 million ID NOW rapid point-of-care tests.
The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) expired on Wednesday and there's no replacement ready. Another emergency bill to address rent relief for small businesses is likely be tabled in the House of Commons sometime soon.
Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair announced that the Canada-U.S. border will continue to be closed for non-essential travel until at least October 31, 2020, in a continuing effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
This morning, the office of the Prime Minister issued a news release announcing that Canada's COVID-19 exposure notification app was now available in Manitoba. In addition to Manitoba, COVID Alert is available for download to the people of Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Statement of Ontario Premier Doug Ford
Yesterday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford shared highlights of the modelling data that was provided by Ontario public health officials earlier in the morning. He said the trend was “very troubling” as cases were “doubling approximately every 10 to 12 days” and Ontario “could be around 1,000 cases per day in the first half of October.” He also highlighted that Ontario may see “between 200 and 300 patients with COVID-19 in ICU beds per day if cases continue to grow.”
Premier Ford urged Ontarians to adhere to public health measures, including avoiding large gatherings, physical distancing and wearing a face covering, to reduce the spread and the number of new cases. Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams, who joined the Premier at the news conference, echoed the same message when addressing journalists.
The Ontario Hospital Association has reported that acute care is at 89% capacity in hospitals and without hot spots such as Ottawa, Toronto and the GTA moving back to Stage 2 reopening hospitals may be overwhelmed. Deputy Premier Elliott replied that the government's COVID-19 fall preparedness plan includes significant measures to expand hospital capacity.
Asked to comment on a potential cabinet decision regarding the closure of bars and restaurants, Premier Ford acknowledged that “everything is on the table”. He then confirmed, “We are not rolling back today, that's not a conversation that will happen in Cabinet.”
(Note: According to analysis from Restaurants Canada, full service restaurants would lose 80% of their business and fast service restaurants would lose 44% of their business if they are mandated to close in Ottawa and Toronto. This would translate into a loss of 33,000 jobs in Toronto and 12,000 jobs in Ottawa.)
Premier Ford reiterated that he believes in a measured, surgical and regional approach to tightening restrictions. Dr. Williams said that public health advice and recommendations to cabinet are no longer framed on the basis of restrictions linked to the various stages of reopening. “We are not emulating those times, we are not emulating those measures.”
Also yesterday, Toronto City council voted unanimously to strengthen bylaws to prevent continued COVID-19 resurgence by approving new restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the virus within bars and restaurants and passing a five-point plan to help the struggling industry to survive.
On the recommendations of Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eillen de Villa, City council approved lowering the allowed capacity at restaurants and bars from 100 to 75 and the maximum number of people permitted at any one table from 10 to six. Restaurants and bars are also required to collect contact information for each patron they serve as opposed to one per person per table while reducing the noise of background music to no louder than normal conversation.
Today, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced $461 million to temporarily enhance wages of personal support workers (PSWs). This investment is part of the part of the government`s fall COVID-19 preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19.
"We know the wages of PSWs do not reflect the critical role they have played throughout this pandemic, in addition to their ongoing care of our loved ones," said Premier Ford. "Today's temporary investment will bridge that gap and ensure this vital profession receives the appreciation and respect it deserves."
Effective today, the province is providing a temporary wage increase to over 147,000 workers who deliver publicly funded personal support services:
- $3 per hour for approximately 38,000 eligible workers in home and community care;
- $3 per hour for approximately 50,000 eligible workers in long-term care;
- $2 per hour for approximately 12,300 eligible workers in public hospitals; and
- $3 per hour for approximately 47,000 eligible workers in children, community and social services providing personal direct support services for the activities of daily living.
The press release issued by government states, “The temporary wage enhancement will be reviewed on a regular basis and could extend through March 31, 2021, in connection with regulations made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020.”
When asked by a journalist why this raise was not permanent, Premier Ford said “he was working to make this raise permanent after March 20, 2021.”
Rumors of an imminent ban on indoor dining in Ottawa, Toronto and Peel region resurfaced again. Premier Ford reiterated that a ban was not imminent because bars and restaurants were struggling. Dr. Williams did not exclude the application of more stringent measures for bars and restaurants. Dr. Williams said measures would be “more strategic, more meticulous and more targeted” in the event that restrictions are tightened.
Statement of Quebec Premier François Legault
Quebec reported 933 new COVID-19 cases as strict new COVID-19 measures are now in effect for 28 days in the three “red” maximum alert zones of Quebec: Montreal Metropolitan area, the Capitale-Nationale area (Quebec City) but excluding Portneuf and Charlevoix and the Chaudières-Appalaches region (south of Quebec City).
Yesterday, Quebec Premier François Legault announced that fines will range from $1,000 to $6,000 for those not complying with the new COVID-19 measures. Deputy Premier and Minister of Public Safety Geneviève Guilbault and National Director of Public Health Dr. Arruda joined the Premier.
In addition, Premier Legault confirmed that:
- Police officers will enforce the ban on home gatherings through a “telewarrant” system allowing them to communicate directly with a judge to obtain a warrant when they have reasonable grounds to believe the ban is being ignored.
- Demonstrators will be fined $1,000 if they fail to wear a mask during demonstrations. This applies to all regions of Quebec regardless of their COVID-19 alert level.
- Social gatherings are banned in public parks. Only people who live in the same home can gather in public parks.
- Movement between regions for people who live in the “red” alert zones is banned. They are in lockdown within their zone.
Deputy Premier Guilbault said police officers will not issue fines unless their warning to comply with the new measures remains unheeded.
Premier Legault reiterated that there will be no tightening of restrictions in schools located in the “red” alert zones. While the Premier wishes to avoid closing schools, he did not exclude the possibility of having to take that action in the future, if required. Dr. Arruda added that the situation in schools is being closely monitored.
Today, Premier François Legault began his remarks by saying “the situation is critical in Quebec,” with cases, hospitalizations and deaths on the rise. He then announced the government would reimburse 80 per cent of the rent, taxes, and electricity for bars and restaurants that must close because of new lockdown measures in red zones.
Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said the measure will cost between $80 million and $100 million. The funds will be distributed via forgivable loans to an estimated 12,000 companies that must partially or completely close because they are in red-alert regions. The loans will cover fixed expenses including municipal taxes, mortgage interest, electricity and rent that are not covered by an existing federal program. Up to 80 per cent of the loan amount — to a maximum of $15,000 — will not have to be repaid if conditions are met.
Elsewhere in Canada
Since Monday, Alberta Health Services announced 313 new cases of COVID-19 and two deaths, bringing the total number of cases and deaths to 18,062 and 267, respectively. To date, 64 individuals are hospitalized, with 13 of those in intensive care. There are 1,582 active cases of COVID-19 in the province.
The province released updated relaunch guidance documents for farmers' markets, canvassing and campaigning, door-to-door, home-based and mobile businesses, bingo halls, outdoor events, public rallies, marches, parades and demonstrations, graduation ceremonies and rodeos.
Alberta's government is working to build value-added agriculture capacity and bolster economic activity with an aggressive private investment attraction target of $1.4 billion. As part of Alberta's Recovery Plan, this investment attraction initiative will create more than 2,000 jobs in emerging sectors like hemp, agri-technology and value-added processing of grain, oilseed, plant protein and meat.
According to a new report titled “Alberta's Opportunity: The Ins, Outs and Benefits of Greater Job Mobility”, improving labour mobility could add about $2.8 billion per year to Alberta's GDP. The report identifies steps that could help make it easier for Canadians to move to Alberta for work, such as streamlining the recognition of credentials and training. The report also highlights how reducing these barriers will be critical to help Alberta recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and global energy crisis.
Since Tuesday, British Columbia's Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Deputy Minister of Health, Stephen Brown, announced 230 new cases of COVID-19. Currently, 72 individuals are hospitalized, 21 of whom are in intensive care. There are 1,284 active cases of COVID-19 in the province and 3,202 people under active public health monitoring as a result of known exposures.
The province has formally extended the provincial state of emergency, allowing health and emergency management officials to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support the province's COVID-19 pandemic response. The state of emergency is extended through the end of the day on October 13, 2020.
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