April 24, 2020 – Updates by the federal and provincial governments and the Agglomeration of Montréal on the COVID-19 pandemic
In the exceptional circumstances of the current health state of emergency, here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the federal and provincial governments as well as the Agglomeration of Montréal in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, announced an aid package for small- and medium-sized businesses as well as community organizations to help them pay their rents for the months of April, May and June.
The premier of Québec, François Legault, stated that isolation measures will be eased gradually over “several weeks” and that the use of masks or face coverings will be strongly recommended. He also made an appeal to all, with or without health qualifications, to lend a helping hand right away in residential and long-term care facilities (CHSLDs).
The mayor of the City of Montréal and president of the Agglomeration of Montréal, Valérie Plante, advocated the reopening of the economy and schools at the same time across Québec, including in the city, while respecting Public Health directives.
Financial assistance for commercial rents
The new Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program reduces by 75% commercial rents paid by businesses with rents below $50,000 a month.
Mr. Trudeau explained that the crisis is “extremely difficult” for small businesses, particularly restaurants. He added that assistance measures will be announced shortly for big businesses.
The federal and provincial governments will assume 50% of the cost of rents for April, May and June, while commercial tenants will have to assume 25%, and building owners the remaining 25%. Charitable and non-profit organizations are also eligible for this program.
Jobs for everyone in CHSLDs
Premier Legault launched an appeal to everyone, with or without health qualifications, to come work in CHSLDs as quickly as possible. “We need you,” he said.
Wages for this work will be $21.28 an hour, that is, $777 a week or $3,368 a month. Those interested can apply on the government website by clicking here.
Quebecers will need to “reprogram” themselves
Mr. Legault is proud of Quebecers’ exemplary participation in isolation measures over the last six weeks and acknowledges that it will be a major challenge for everyone to “reprogram” themselves to go out and gradually resume activities, while respecting new regulations governing social interactions.
The gradual easing of isolation measures over several weeks is necessary. If isolation were to continue for one or two years, the time it will take to find a vaccine, it would lead to mental health problems.
Even though Premier Legault is hoping for a gradual resumption of activities as soon as possible, while following Public Health’s isolation directives, Prime Minister Trudeau warned that these measures must be coordinated and implemented very gradually.
“We are far from out of the woods,” he said, pointing to the complexity of the task and the gravity of the coronavirus.
The mayor of Montréal stated that Québec should gradually reopen everywhere and that Montréal, the province’s metropolis and economic centre, must be able to ease isolation measures at the same time as elsewhere.
Use of masks strongly recommended
The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, confirmed that the use of masks will be strongly recommended where social distancing of two metres is impossible, particularly in public transit.
The use of homemade face coverings does not replace social distancing rules or hand washing, but helps to limit the risk of contagion. The government will issue guidelines as well as a video on how to safely wear and remove a mask.
A better future
Prime Minister Trudeau stated that the situation in seniors’ residences across the country is unacceptable and that, together, we will have to be take a close look at this. Premier Legault has already asked the Treasury Board to accelerate the program to create new seniors’ homes.
These homes will have fewer residents and provide each resident with more space. They will have more caregivers and employees. Homecare services will also be improved.
The Québec government is exploring the possibility of nationalizing all seniors’ residences. “Health services are public in Québec,” the premier said.
Mr. Legault does not think CHSLDs should fall under the Canada Health Act. Instead, he would like the federal government to increase its healthcare contribution to 50% of the budget, as it was originally. “Right now, it’s at 23%.”
Abuse by placement agencies
The minister of Health and Social Services, Danielle McCann, plans to act swiftly, through regulation or through the courts, to stop abuses by healthcare placement agencies that have outrageously hiked their fees to profit from the current personnel shortage during this crisis.