A summary of the day’s activities of Thursday, September 3, follows.
Federal Government Relief Measures
In Ottawa, Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau made an announcement about an increase in benefits for workers in the transportation sector.
He announced that the Canada Revenue Agency has increased the fixed rate used to calculate meal expense or the meal portion of a travel allowance. In all cases, the amount has gone from 17$ to 23$ per meal. Effective immediately and retroactive to January 1st 2020. These increased meal allowance rates ensure that the truckers and other essential workers can access affordable meals as they travel long distances transporting critical goods and supplies.
Statement of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not hold a press briefing on COVID-19 today.
Federal Government Briefing
Dr. Tam gave an update on COVID-19 in Canada.
There have been 129,923 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,135 deaths. 88.5 per cent of people have now recovered. Labs across Canada tested an average of 46,000 people daily over the past week with 0.9 per cent testing positive. An average of 501 new cases have been reported daily during the most recent seven days.
In order to get and stay healthy, we must ensure that the physical and social environments in which we live are healthy places. To help support these efforts, the Government of Canada recently announced the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative to help governments and community partners advance the goal of healthier living environments during the COVID-19 pandemic. This initiative will provide funding to small-scale, local projects that help adapt public spaces and places to the healthy living needs of their communities during these unprecedented times.
As noted in Dr. Tam’s first annual report as Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, changes to physical public spaces can help us prevent chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease and also improve our mental wellbeing. Over the last century, improving sanitation, infrastructure planning, and addressing residential overcrowding reduced infectious disease rates in Canada.
Even now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we see examples of municipal leadership adapting city infrastructure in ways that encourage outdoor social and physical activities. Many communities closed selected streets to traffic, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to exercise outdoors safely. Restaurants, bars, and cafes with outdoor seating with permitted patio expansions to ensure patrons were able to safely dine at least two meters apart. These changes to our built environment help us to be socially together and remain physically apart.
Statement of Ontario Premier Doug Ford
In a news release, the Ontario government announced that Premier Doug Ford and Québec Premier François Legault will convene their first-ever Ontario-Québec Summit to advance shared priorities on economic recovery and health preparedness. The summit will take place on September 8 and September 9, 2020 in Mississauga.
Reaffirming the strong partnership between their governments, the summit will provide an opportunity for Ontario and Québec to collaborate further as they seek to rebuild their economies and help get more families and businesses back on their feet.
During the summit, the Premiers and Ministers will participate in a series of meetings where they will discuss key areas of cooperation. The provinces plan to work together to share lessons learned from the pandemic, accelerate economic recovery and growth by reducing barriers to international trade and promoting Ontario-made and Québec-made products, and advocate on behalf of Ontarians and Quebeckers with the federal government to provide fair, flexible and sustainable funding for important priorities, including health care, infrastructure and broadband.
The delegation of Ontario Ministers who will participate in the summit are: Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health; Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance; Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade; Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure; Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation; and Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board.
The delegation of Québec Ministers who will participate are: Éric Girard, Minister of Finance; Christian Dubé, Minister of Health; Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation; Sonia LeBel, Chair of the Conseil du Trésor and Minister Responsible for Infrastructure; and François Bonnardel, Minister of Transport.
Statement of Quebec Premier François Legault
Premier François Legault held a press briefing in Saint-Raymond. He was accompanied by Vincent Caron, Member for Portneuf. An additional 187 cases of COVID-19 were announced today by the Public Health authorities. The government does not want to exceed the threshold of 20 cases per million inhabitants. Although today’s numbers are higher, this set threshold is on a 7-day mobile average.
On this subject, the Premier stated that there is indeed an increase in the number of cases in the Capitale-Nationale region, in the Eastern Townships and in Montreal. For the moment, the government does not plan to impose additional measures in the short term, but might eventually become more severe towards recalcitrant individuals who refuse to isolate themselves, notably through the remittance of fines. The Premier stated that we are however perhaps approaching a critical threshold.
When asked about the measures the government plans to impose in the event of a second wave, the Premier replied that his government is currently preparing a confinement procedure by region and even by sub-region. In fact, the government will soon announce the establishment of a system of alert levels that will classify the regions of Quebec into four color groups: red, green, yellow and blue, with red representing the highest level of risk. More details will be announced shortly.
On the subject of federal government financial assistance, $2 billion dollars were recently announced to the provinces for education, which is equivalent to approximately $430 million for schools in Quebec. Earlier this year, the federal government offered the provinces $13 billion for health and economic stimulus. Quebec and Ontario came together and, following negotiations, this amount was increased to $19 billion with flexibility for the provinces to choose where to invest this money.
Also, with respect to the September 8-9 Ontario-Québec summit, the Premier stated that there would be two priority topics. The first, health transfers. The federal government's financial support for health care is non-recurring. The Quebec government finances 88% of health care spending. These are increasing by 5-6% per year while revenues are increasing by 3%. There is therefore a readjustment to be made and the Premier believes that a common front with the provinces can only be profitable. The second subject concerns economy and infrastructure. The provinces would like to have additional amounts with all the flexibility to help them accelerate certain infrastructure projects in order to stimulate the economy.
Today also revealed that well-known Montreal lawyer, Julius Grey, is currently representing parents who are litigating for online courses for all children. Questioned about this issue, the Premier replied that due to a shortage of teachers in the system, these professionals cannot offer both online and in-person courses.
Elsewhere in Canada
Yesterday, Alberta Health Services announced 114 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced that the province will be distributing $262 million in federal funding to school authorities for COVID-19 related expenses. The majority of the funding will be distributed to school authorities based on a per-student model, and must be used to support COVID-19 related costs.
Yesterday, Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer, announced 104 new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths. There are 1,127 active cases of COVID19 in the province, including 33 individuals in hospital with 14 of those in intensive care. 2,786 people are under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases.
The province is delaying implementation dates to April 2021 for changes to provincial sales tax (PST) and British Columbia’s carbon tax, to help businesses and families through COVID-19 pandemic and recovery. To further support businesses, the employer health tax (EHT) 2020 quarterly installment dates are also being extended.
The province has protected jobs and workers impacted by COVID-19 with an online variance application that simplified the process to extend temporary layoffs, resulting in the approval of more than 500 variances that protect more than 9,100 jobs across a variety of economic sectors. This process will continue to be in place as British Columbia moves forward with pandemic recovery, so employers who need to access it in the future will be able to do so.
Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions announced that the province is boosting funds immediately for school-based wellness programs and supports by $2 million, topping up the $8.8 million investment over three years that was announced last September. This means that for the 2020-21 school year, school districts and independent school authorities will receive a total of $3.75 million to promote mental wellness and provide additional supports for students, families and educators.