May 29, 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.
Ten days of paid sick leave
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reasserted his government’s position to the provinces stating that workers must have access to 10 days of paid sick leave this fall.
Mr. Trudeau explained that this is an important measure in the context of the pandemic in order to prevent vulnerable people from choosing to work rather than stay home so that they do not lose pay and are able to cover their rent or buy groceries, even if they present symptoms related to COVID-19.
With the reopening of the economy and the easing of isolation measures this perspective makes sense in terms of preventing a second wave of contagion.
Mr. Trudeau said that during discussions, the provincial premiers were hesitant to impose this measure on businesses that are already grappling with financial challenges due to the pandemic.
The prime minster suggested that the federal government could absorb most of the cost of this paid leave.
International cruises banned
Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the ban on cruise ships in Canadian waters will be extended until October 31.
The ban had been decreed from March 13 to July 1. Last year, more than 140 cruise ships, originating from overseas, transported some two million tourists to Canada. In Québec, the cruise ship industry generates about 5,000 jobs.
Short-term military intervention
Prime Minister Trudeau stated that the deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) is “a temporary and short-term solution.”
Premier François Legault insisted that the 1,000 soldiers deployed in 20 of Québec’s CHSLDs must be maintained until September 15. To lighten their load, he feels that soldiers should serve eight hours a day, five days a week, instead of 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
He also asked that the military’s intervention be devoted more to direct assistance and less to the writing of reports.
Hairdressers to reopen
The minister of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity, Jean Boulet, confirmed that businesses that provide personal care and beauty salons will reopen starting June 15 in the Montréal and Joliette regions.
The gradual reopening of hairdressers and barbers, beauty, manicure, pedicure and hair removal salons, as well as tattoo and piercing parlours must be done according to the directives of the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST).
Federal assistance assured
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stressed that the government plans to financially intervene to support the provinces so that the elderly are better cared for and treated in the future, once the pandemic is over.
“Canadians want better support for the elderly. […] We will be there to support the provinces in meeting their needs,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Two weeks’ vacation
Québec Premier François Legault is very pleased that agreements have been reached with certain employee groups to grant healthcare workers two consecutive weeks of vacation this summer.
Mr. Legault said that no agreement on this has been reached with the Fédération des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec (FIIQ). He stated that the dispute regards the addition of one week of vacation. The premier added that he is comfortable with this if the three consecutive weeks can be spread out until October 13 rather than until September, which the FIIQ has refused.
Community transmission is down
The premier of Québec is very pleased that “there was less community transmission of COVID-19, including in Greater Montréal and Joliette” over the last few days, in keeping with Public Health’s statistical scenarios.
“This is cause for optimism around the decision to reopen stores and resume social gatherings,” he said.
Canada-U.S. border closed
Mr. Legault noted that Western Canadian provinces, less affected by the pandemic, are more favourable to reopening the Canada-U.S. border, while Eastern Canadian provinces, particularly Ontario and Québec, hit hard by the spread of COVID-19, would prefer that non-essential travel remain banned for the time being.
Assistance for Indigenous communities
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government is injecting $650 M to help Indigenous communities get through the COVID-19 crisis, including $285 M for healthcare. New shelters for Indigenous women will also be built.