June 1, 2020 – Federal and provincial government update 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 Canadian and Québec governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
$2.2 billion for municipalities
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is fast-tracking the federal transfer of $2.2 billion to Canadian municipalities from the federal Gas Tax Fund as an emergency support measure in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Trudeau believes that the advance transfer will help municipalities complete projects “that will improve quality of life and help restart local economies.” These sums are earmarked for infrastructure projects and cannot be transferred to a municipality’s general budget.
The federal government is fast-tracking the 2020 and 2021 transfers to cities in response to the additional costs and economic losses they are having to assume for security, community services and economic support. The challenges around public transit are two-fold, said Mr. Trudeau, because municipalities must increase their services to enable physical distancing while simultaneously experiencing a significant loss of revenue due to the dramatic drop in the number of users.
Summer camps this year
Premier François Legault stated that the minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Andrée Laforest, is working to develop emergency funding to enable day camps to open in municipalities this summer.
The premier stated that he would like to see Québec municipalities open as many day camps as possible this summer. “This is a priority for me,” he said.
Minister Laforest is currently talking with representatives of the Québec union of municipalities and the Québec federation of municipalities to find solutions to support the opening of these camps. Because of the pandemic, municipalities must, in keeping with physical distancing rules, reduce the number of children per camp and hire more monitors, resulting in an increase in staffing and rental costs.
People confined for life
Premier Legault addressed the issue of people with disabilities in the context of the pandemic, for whom the crisis is “more difficult” than for others.
“While we’re talking about easing isolation measures, we need to remember that there are disabled people who are confined for life. This is the sad reality.”
Day camps for people with disabilities must be held this summer, just as their classroom courses must resume.
Mr. Legault pointed out that 10% of people living in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) are disabled, and many of them are young and need to be with people their age.
“This is also why, in the plan to create seniors’ homes, we must create alternative homes for people with disabilities.”
Venues to reopen soon
The minister of Culture and Communications, Nathalie Roy, stated that venues for live music, theatre and movies could reopen before June 24, and announced $250 M in additional assistance for the artistic community, for a total of $400 M for culture.
The plan provides financial support for artistic creation, the production of Québec cultural content and the adaptation of productions due to pandemic-related restrictions.
Reopening of elementary schools
Premier Legault and Dr. Arruda are pleased with the results of the reopening of elementary schools in Québec, outside Greater Montréal and the Joliette region. Only some 40 cases of COVID-19 infection have been reported.
“Teachers, parents and children alike consider this a success,” stated Dr. Arruda.
The premier said that in May he did not have the consent of Public Health to reopen schools in the Montréal region due to the situation in the metropolis. Now, he feels that even though the situation is improving in Montréal, it is not a good idea to reopen the schools in June, since the school year is almost over.
Justin Trudeau wants the data collected to generate statistics on people who have COVID-19 to be improved across the country in order to develop a better profile of who is sick and to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Disaggregated data collected by Statistics Canada will make it possible for the federal and provincial governments to cooperate better in determining who is the most affected, by establishing their personal profile (age, gender, health) and socioeconomic profile.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, public health agencies worked very hard to respond to this crisis. It’s very difficult to have comprehensive data right now. […] We must coordinate between governments so that we can better compare our data and better understand who is affected,” said the prime minister.