COVID-19
Accessibility

Prime Minister Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Freeland announced a $19 billion “Safe Restart” plan this afternoon, targeted at the provinces, territories and municipalities. This spending package comes on the heels of several weeks of negotiations, providing $5 billion more than initially announced.

This funding is intended to be spent on a variety of needs that all levels of government have highlighted as required for their re-opening and second wave preparation activities. It is worth noting that this funding will cover at least a 6-8 month period, covering the winter when a potential second wave is expected to be most intense.

While we are still waiting for more details, the federal government identified several priority areas these funds are targeted at. This announcement includes new funds to:

        • Implement a national paid sick leave program that may be wholly or partially covered by the provincial and federal governments, at an estimated cost of $1.1 billion. The details of this program have yet to be worked out, but expect the federal government to play a leading role even though this is largely an area of provincial jurisdiction;

        • Expand COVID-19 testing and contact tracing;

        • Procure more personal protective equipment for health care and essential workers;

        • Improve conditions and health surveillance at long term care and seniors housing facilities;

        • Address immediate needs and gaps in mental health and problematic substance use challenges;

        • Support municipalities to help them cover operating costs;

        • Support public transit systems with funding matched by a 50% contribution from the provinces; and

        • Support for childcare spaces for returning workers as the economy reopens.

These new funding agreements come after a sustained period of lobbying by the provinces who do not have the ability to borrow money as cheaply as the federal government, and by municipalities who cannot fund operating costs via debt. Every jurisdiction has been hit by declining revenues and has sought help from the federal government to fill these pressing financial needs. This agreement comes with strings attached, as the provinces will be required to share a breakdown of their spending (some or all of which will be made public).

Provincial governments were quick to echo the federal announcement with their own press conferences, with Premier Doug Ford announcing that $7 billion will be coming to Ontario, Premier John Horgan announcing a $2 billion commitment to British Columbia, and Premier Stephen McNeil announcing $250 million for Nova Scotia.

The federal government has not released any background material related to this announcement. We will be sure to keep you apprised with updates as they become available.