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September 18, 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.

Provinces ask for financial assistance from the federal government

Premiers François Legault, Doug Ford of Ontario, Jason Kenney of Alberta and Brian Pallister of Manitoba launched a unanimous message on behalf of the Canadian provinces and territories, asking the federal government to increase its health transfers.

“The Government of Canada’s contribution must go from 22 to 35% of the costs, that is, from $42 billion to $70 billion a year,” said the representatives of the provinces and territories.

The premiers are asking the government to commit to this financing as soon as the 2021-2022 federal budget comes out, on April 1, 2021.

The provincial leaders reiterated that health is a strictly provincial jurisdiction and that financing must be granted without any conditions. From the outset, health has been financed in equal shares by the provinces and the federal government.

Fiscal stabilization and infrastructures

The united front of provinces and territories is also calling on the federal government to loosen the Fiscal Stabilization Program to help provinces that are recording economic downfalls, as is the case of Alberta. In addition, it is asking for an additional contribution of $10 billion a year, over 10 years, for infrastructures, such as public transit, roads or internet networks.

These three demands must be met quickly. Premier Doug Ford said that governments must go at the “speed of COVID-19,” rather than the usual speed, in respecting the standard processes.

Police operation in bars

Québec’s deputy premier and minister of Public Security, Geneviève Guilbault, launched a “sweeping police operation” for this weekend targeting over “1,000 establishments with alcohol permits,” such as bars and restaurants, to ensure that health guidelines are respected to prevent the outbreak of new COVID-19 cases.

All of the province’s police forces will take part in operation “OSCAR” (a systematic operation for at-risk behaviour). Officers will be “very visible and very proactive” and interventions will be more intense in the regions of Québec that have already gone from green to yellow in the government’s alert levels for COVID-19.

Deputy Minister Guilbault stressed that when police intervene, people respect health rules since, most of the time, they forget or become complacent as opposed to intentionally disobeying the rules.

The minister is calling on Quebecers who intentionally defy the rules to comply with them in an effort to protect everyone’s health and safety.

“On-the-spot” fines for private gatherings

The Québec government is examining, in collaboration with the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP), the best means to allow police officers to issue on-the-spot fines, instead of filing police reports, for gatherings of more than 10 people in private locations.

This measure has become necessary because most of the COVID-19 outbreaks are being caused by gatherings among family or friends in private homes.

Border closure extended

Canada’s minister of Public Security, Bill Blair, confirmed that the border between Canada and the United States will be extended until October 21, for non-essential travel.

This closure has been re-assessed every month since the border was first closed on March 21, this year, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.