A summary of the day’s activities of Friday, September 11, follows.

Federal Government Relief Measures

  • Minister of Health Patty Hajdu announced federal funding of $13.9 million for the operation of a voluntary self-isolation COVID-19 center in the City of the Toronto.
  • Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Catherine McKenna announced a total of $19.4 million under the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS) to provide employment and paid research and skill development opportunities to students during the school year.

Statements of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford

Prime Minister Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford attended a ground breaking ceremony at the Côté Gold mining project in Gogama, Ontario, located to the north of Sudbury. After the ceremony, Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Ford responded to media questions.

Prime Minister Trudeau was asked when he became aware of the COVID-19 virus. He said he was made aware of the virus unfolding in China on January 2, 2020. He added that the federal government started planning its response at that time. He urged for continued vigilance to prevent a spike or a second wave and ultimately a return to lockdown.

Premier Ford was asked if he was planning on tabling legislation pertaining to wage replacement for parents who must stay at home to care for their children who have COVID-19. While not going into specifics, Premier Ford said he “was open to the possibility to support families in need.”

Premier Ford was then asked if he had any advice for businesses given that a second COVID-19 wave may be looming on the horizon. Premier Ford underscored the need to follow public health protocols to ensure a safe reopening of the economy.

Federal Government Briefing

This morning, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu held a news conference in Toronto City to announce federal funding of $13.9 million over 12 months for Toronto Public Health to establish a voluntary self-isolation centre. Toronto Mayor John Tory and Medical Officer of Toronto Dr. Eileen de Villa, joined the Minister.

Self-isolation is one of the most effective ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19. However, for some Canadians, crowded housing conditions and restrictive costs can make it unsafe or impossible to self-isolate, increasing the risk of community transmission.

Minister Hajdu said, “I want to thank the City of Toronto for its collaboration in helping protect Canadians. As we work together to keep COVID-19 under control, this new site will help those for whom it’s simply not possible to limit close contacts and self-isolate effectively at home.”

After thanking the federal government for the new investment, Mayor John Tory said, “This is an announcement that is welcome and necessary.”

Dr. De Villa added the facility was a “critical part of resurgence planning for fall and winter”. She explained that Toronto Public Health will identify individuals to be offered transfer to the isolation site on a voluntary basis, based on eligibility criteria recommended by the Ontario Medical Officer of Health. Individuals will be provided with lodging, including bedding and other necessities, daily meals and incidentals, and daily check-ins by phone from a Toronto Public Health Communicable Disease Investigator.

In response to media questions, Minister Hajdu said the government was working with mayors of other large Canadian cities to provide similar support.

While declining to disclose the location of the centre for safety and privacy reasons, Dr. De Villa assured journalists that the centre is comfortable, safe and secure and in a very good location in the city.

The centre will have approximately 140 rooms to provide a safe venue for voluntary self-isolation. It opens this weekend.

With the school year just getting started, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna announced new funding under the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS) to provide employment opportunities to students during the school year.

At Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Minister Qualtrough announced up to $11.6 million for the University’s Pivot 2020 project under the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS). This funding will provide paid research and skill development opportunities to more than 1,400 youth in 27 cities across Canada who face barriers to employment. It is hoped that young people under this program will gain vital skills while working on national research projects designed to enhance Canada’s COVID-19 economic and workforce recovery.

In Ottawa, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna, on behalf of the Minister Qualtrough, announced that Project Learning Tree Canada’s Green Jobs Initiative will receive nearly $7.8 million under the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS). This will provide green job opportunities to 1,200 youth across Canada who face barriers to employment, including Indigenous youth, newcomers and youth from rural or remote communities. Through this project, youth will benefit from a wide range of skills and gain hands on experience while working in the forestry, conservation and parks sectors.

Ministers Qualtrough and McKenna also announced the Government of Canada was easing eligibility requirements for Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants to allow more post-secondary students to qualify and be eligible for greater amounts. Specifically, Canada Student Grants have been doubled for full-time students to up to $6,000 for this school year, and the cap on Canada Student Loans has been increased to $350 per week of study. These fall measures represent an investment of approximately $1.9 billion and are expected to expand the reach of the Canada Student Loans Program and benefit approximately 765,000 students. These initiatives build on the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 support measures for young Canadians and students affected by the pandemic.

As reported on Wednesday, Quebec Premier François Legault and Ontario Premier Doug Ford called for increased federal health care funding in the wake of Prime Minister Trudeau’s weekly call with provincial and territorial premiers to discuss their shared response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The communiqué issued at the conclusion of that call states, “The Prime Minister is also committed to holding a meeting with First Ministers to discuss health transfers.” As noted by Premiers Legault and Ford, this will be a very important and critical conversation for provincial and territorial premiers in the context of COVID-19.

The federal cabinet is holding a retreat on Monday, September 14 and Tuesday, September 15 in Ottawa. COVID19, economic recovery, and the Speech from the Throne are likely to be the retreat’s top agenda items.

It has been 6 months to the day that the World Health Organization declared a worldwide pandemic. Canada has reached a new milestone. It now has 135, 000 cases, including 9,163 deaths. Eighty-eight per cent of people have now recovered. Over the past week, 47,806 people were tested daily, with 1.1 per cent of people testing positive. An average of 618 new cases have been reported daily during the most recent seven days.

Statement of Ontario Premier Doug Ford

Ontario Premier Doug Ford participated in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Trudeau today as noted above.

Statement of Quebec Premier François Legault

Quebec Premier François Legault gave a press briefing on COVID-19 in Quebec City. Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé joined the Premier.

Premier Legault called on Quebecers to take responsibility for preventing a second wave of COVID-19 by respecting public health directives. He also announced an Order in Council would be issued to allow police officers to intervene and fine individuals who do not wear masks or do not properly wear them in indoor public places.

Premier Legault noted that Quebec experienced an accelerated economic recovery and a lower unemployment rate than the rest of Canada. The pandemic has caused structural changes in certain sectors of the economy, particularly retail businesses, which is being addressed by Investissements Québec.

Premier Legault confirmed that the Minister Responsible for Government Administration Sonia Lebel will table a replacement bill to Bill 61, An Act to restart Québec’s economy and to mitigate the consequences of the public health emergency declared on 13 March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the National Assembly. Premier Legault said the replacement bill will provide guidelines to speed up the approval of the 200 infrastructure projects regarding schools, hospitals, seniors' homes, roads and public transit across the province.

Earlier this morning, the Ministry of Health and Social Services issued a press release formally announcing a ban on karaoke in public venues and a requirement for bar owners to keep a customer register — a measure that had previously been recommended but not obligatory. Ministerial Order 2020-063 orders the ban and the requirement for bar owners to keep a customer register.

"Due to the real risks of transmission of COVID-19 represented by karaoke activities, whether in bars or elsewhere, we have decided to suspend these in public places throughout Quebec," Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's public health director, said in the release. "This measure is part of our preventive actions in the face of a probable second wave of cases.

A karaoke night held at a Quebec City bar on Aug. 23 has been linked to more than 80 cases of COVID-19.

Elsewhere in Canada

Alberta

Yesterday, Alberta Health Services announced 113 new cases of COVID-19 and five deaths.

As promised by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw earlier this week, the province released an updated relaunch guidance documents for school re-entry.

British Columbia

Yesterday, Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer, announced 139 new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths. This was a record for the number of new cases confirmed in one day. There are 1,412 active cases in the province and 3,109 people under active public health monitoring for known exposures.

Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, announced that the British Columbia government has allocated $10 million to the construction and operation of ten hydrogen fuelling stations in the province, as well as three years of support for Hydrogen BC. George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, stated, “sustainably produced hydrogen holds enormous potential to change the way we fuel our vehicles and address the challenge of clean, low-emission heavy-duty truck transportation as we work together to build a cleaner, better B.C. following the impacts of COVID-19”.