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June 19, 2020 – Federal and provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Canadian and Québec governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Update on Québec economy

The Québec minister of Finance, Éric Girard, presented an economic update, including a $14.9 billion deficit this year rather than a surplus. The deficit includes a $4 billion provision in the event of a second wave of the coronavirus or for economic development measures.

Personal protective equipment for hospitals cost close to $2.4 billion, while it is estimated that the cost of COVID-19 screening tests will hit $200 million by the end of the year.

While the Québec debt should be about 45% of GDP, it will reach 50.4% by the end of the year. Including planned investments in infrastructure, the debt is expected to increase by $22.9 billion for a total of $222 billion.

“It will take five years to get back to a balanced budget,” said Mr. Girard.

Québec Premier François Legault reassured that “there is no question of reducing (government) spending or increasing taxes (on businesses and individuals).”

Visits and outings authorized for seniors in residences

Public Health authorized the resumption of outings and visits for seniors in residences, whether they are in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs), seniors’ homes or intermediate resources where no one is infected with COVID-19.

Outings without supervision and stays elsewhere for more than 24 hours are permitted. Visits are also authorized in rental units, except in common areas.

Outdoor gatherings (maximum of 10 people) in accordance with physical distancing guidelines are permitted in all seniors’ residences.

Permission to receive supplementary caregivers and volunteers will start on June 26.

Professional hockey gets the green light

The deputy prime minister of Canada, Chrystia Freeland, announced that the protocol for the resumption of National Hockey League activities has been approved for July 10.

Three Canadian cities are in the running to host the matches, namely, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.

The health guidelines in effect will have to be followed in the Canadian city chosen to host the matches.

Full-time patient attendants in CHSLDs

Québec premier François Legault stated that all patient attendants in CHSLDs will earn $49,000 per year for a full-time position.

He guaranteed that there will be work for everyone, even if current personnel, half of whom work part time, agree to work full time. Mr. Legault hopes that ultimately all personnel will be full-time and employees will only work in one centre.

“If there’s one lesson we’ve learned, it’s that we need full-time people,” he said.

Direct federal assistance to municipalities

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted that the federal government should be able to provide direct assistance to cities from the $14 billion earmarked for the provinces to help them deal with the additional expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We understand that cities fall under provincial jurisdiction,” said Mr. Trudeau. But even then, we would like to help them. […] It’s not unreasonable, even if they’re not directly under our control.”

The sums allocated to cities must be used to help them cover expenses related to purchasing masks and protective equipment for their workers, citizens and public transit users. This also applies to additional expenses related to running day camps, daycares, etc.

Fewer isolation measures in the event of a second wave

Premier Legault reiterated that in the event of a second wave of COVID-19 contagion, the director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, recently said that he did not think it will be necessary to “close the economy as much as the last time.”

Mr. Legault said that the expertise acquired this winter and spring has led to a better understanding of the risks and impact of the spread of COVID-19.

In particular, there will be fewer impacts on the economy, he said, “because of physical distancing, masks, the knowledge we have acquired and the habits we have developed.”