A summary of the day’s activities of Thursday, September 10, follows.

Federal Government Relief Measures

Minister of Health Patty Hajdu announced $11.5 million in health funding by the Government of Canada to support 32 community-based projects aimed at improving mental health.

Statement of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not hold a news conference on COVID-19 today.

Federal Government Briefing

In Scarborough, Ontario, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu marked World Suicide Prevention Day with an announcement on funding of $11.5 million in mental health funding for organizations across the country to promote mental health and well-being in our communities, and to tackle systemic challenges and barriers, including those faced by Black Canadians.

In her preliminary comments, Minister Hajdu noted that the Government of Canada remains committed to promoting positive mental health for everyone, particularly during these challenging times because of COVID-19. She highlighted that COVID-19 is exposing cracks and inequities in Canada and around the world, namely systemic racism, as well as exacerbating mental health challenges. She noted that rates of suicide have increased since the outbreak of the pandemic. She also said, “Systemic barriers to care kill people every day.”

While her news conference was short, Minister Hajdu did have the opportunity to promote again the federal government’s Wellness Together Canada Portal. She encouraged anyone experiencing social, mental or emotional challenges to access the portal for mental health and substance use support, resources and counselling with a mental health professional.

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 134,294 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,155 deaths. Eighty-eight per cent of people have now recovered. Labs across Canada tested 47,806 people daily over the past week with 1.1 per cent testing positive. An average of 618 new cases have been reported daily during the most recent seven days.”

On this World Suicide Prevention Day, Dr. Tam underlined the need to work together to prevent suicide. She noted that the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) also has resources that can help individuals who are concerned about themselves or someone they know.

Statement of Ontario Premier Doug Ford

In Sudbury, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the government was providing an additional $14.75 million to increase access to mental health and addictions services across the province. Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, Greg Rickford and Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo, joined the Premier.

"We know mental health is just as important physical health," said Premier Ford. "Everyone, including our heroic frontline workers, can sometimes experience burnout, depression or anxiety. Even though you may feel alone or helpless, we want you to know that we have your back. If you need someone to talk to, please reach out to some of the amazing mental health and addictions agencies in your local community. They are caring, compassionate and knowledgeable people who can help."

The investment is provided through the Support for People and Jobs Fund and will help community-based mental health and addictions programs meet increasing service demands. According to the government’s news release, the funding is being distributed as follows:

  • $7 million to safely expand in-person mental health and addictions services to bridge current gaps brought on by COVID-19, including community-based services, congregate living and supportive housing;
  • $4.75 million to support culturally safe services for Indigenous communities, with a focus on children and youth; and
  • $3 million to expand virtual and online services including addictions supports, Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) and an online peer support community for mental health.

Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo also announced the Ontario government is investing an additional $2.9 million in eight research projects that aim to support Ontario's response to COVID-19. These projects will focus on a wide variety of areas such as supporting the mental health and well-being of families and children, assessing the long-term health effects of COVID-19, the development of an app to manage the care of patients, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of wearing masks to block the virus.

The eight research projects were submitted through the Ontario Together portal. This is in addition to the 35 projects selected through the $20 million Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund.

The Legislative Assembly of Ontario resumes its activities on Monday, September 14. Premier Ford is hoping for a productive and collaborative session with members of the opposition parties. He said that the people of Ontario are expecting all political parties to work together in this COVID-19 environment. Premier Ford reiterated that he has no patience for politics.

Premier Ford expressed his frustration with weak enforcement of the federal Quarantine Act. He promised to raise the matter during Prime Minister Trudeau’s next call with provinces and territories, which happens to be this afternoon.

Given the consistent rise of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario, Premier Ford was asked to comment if the pause on reopening announced by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott on Monday would prevent families from getting together on Thanksgiving or children from going door to door on Halloween. Premier Ford admitted that he personally was nervous with children going door to door on Halloween. However, he did recognize that it was premature to make a decision on this matter. He reiterated that he would defer to the advice of his public health officials.

Premier Ford emphasized that only four regions in Ontario were responsible for the increased case count. He underlined the government was working to control the outbreaks in those four regions.

(Note: Of the 170 new cases reported today, the majority were in Toronto, York Region, Peel Region and Durham Region. Ottawa reported 12 new COVID-19 cases and was the only region outside of the GTA to report more than 10 new infections.)

Statement of Quebec Premier François Legault

Early this morning, Quebec Premier François Legault gave a press briefing on COVID-19 in Quebec City. The Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé and National Director of Public Health Horacio Arruda joined the Premier.

Premier Legault announced the government will issue fines to citizens who do not comply with the requirement to wear masks in indoor public places and on public transit, beginning Saturday, September 12. He stated that enforcement measures were required for the minority of people who are not following public health guidelines and are putting the health of vulnerable people and the health care system at risk. Premier Legault said, “we cannot accept that a few individuals are putting our society at risk.”

Premier Legault said that Deputy Premier and Minister of Public Safety Geneviève Guilbault is working with the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP) to determine the legal framework under which fines can be issued. Premier Legault admitted that he has no intention of adding law enforcement personnel to monitor compliance with public health measures. He wants to make it difficult for people to fight the fines.

Fines will be issued throughout Quebec, but the police force will mostly focus its efforts on regions of Quebec that are in the yellow zone where COVID-19 transmission starts to increase and strengthened public health measures are required. Premier Legault said that Deputy Premier Guilbault would soon provide details on the fines and how they will be applied.

Premier Legault said the government is not contemplating a provincial-wide lockdown similar to the one it imposed in the spring. He also said that there are no plans to close bars and nightclubs in the short term as owners and patrons are complying with the public health guidelines. Karaoke bars are another matter. Premier Legault indicated that a decision regarding karaoke bars will be made shortly.

An announcement regarding the potential application of enforcement measures for private gatherings is expected shortly as the Council of Ministers will make a final decision on this matter sometime today or tomorrow.

Minister Dubé said the government will increase the number of COVID-19 screening centers and make it easier to book appointments. While screening by appointment is recommended to avoid wait times, Minister Dubé noted that some centers are experiencing unexpected crowds, which is causing longer wait times. Minister Dubé promised the government will publish the number of tests performed by region within a few days and will adjust screening according to cases and demand.

Elsewhere in Canada

Alberta

Yesterday, Alberta Health Services announced 98 new cases of COVID-19 and one death.

A new online map will list every school where there are two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19. To date, Alberta Health Services has confirmed 16 individuals with COVID-19 were present at 16 schools while infectious.

According to a CBC online news article, Alberta has reported its first COVID-19 outbreaks at schools, occurring at two public high schools in Calgary and Lethbridge.

Alberta’s government is inviting industry to submit qualifications to deliver five new high schools through a publicprivate partnership. The schools will be part of the more than $10 billion infrastructure spending announced as part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan. The schools are anticipated to open in September 2024 with a total student capacity of 6,938 students.

British Columbia

Today, British Columbia Finance Minister and Deputy Premier Carole James has delivered the province’s First Quarterly Report for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Today’s forecast comes after the province provided a financial snapshot in July. Although today’s numbers present a large projected deficit forecast of $12.8 billion for the 2020- 21 fiscal year, the government remains optimistic that the province is well positioned to move into economic recovery while continuing to provide support for individuals, businesses and communities.

Yesterday, Minister of Health Adrian Dix and British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 100 new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths. There are 1,378 active cases of COVID-19 in the province and 3,101 people under active public health monitoring because of identified exposures.

Premier John Horgan announced that the province is investing $1.6 billion in a fall and winter preparedness plan that will significantly build upon and strengthen measures that respond to the healthcare requirements of COVID19. The province is dedicating $44.1 million to launch the Health Career Access Program and recruit an estimated 7,000 health care workers in long-term care homes and assisted-living facilities throughout the province. The program will provide a path for approximately 3,000 applicants without health care experience to receive on the job training. The province is also providing $374 million to bolster public health measures, including the fall flu immunization campaign. Finally, the province is dedicating $42.3 million to reduce the chance of COVID-19 transmission in hospitals.

The Ministry of Children and Family development announced that new licensed child care spaces will soon be available in Bella Coola, Prince George, Valemount and Kitimat as part of the province’s ongoing commitment to increasing child care through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

To ensure the safety of both customers and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC Liquor Distribution Branch announced that BC Liquor Stores has moved a portion of its annual Bordeaux release to an online preorder system. Customers have the opportunity to pre-order products online on a first-come, first-served basis in advance of the September 26, 2020 release date. BC Liquor Stores are operated by the Liquor Distribution Branch, which contributes over $1 billion annually to the province as support for public services including health care and education.