Feds to deliver more than $19B to provinces and territories in COVID-19 support
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Thursday that a $19 billion deal has been reached between the federal government and the provinces and territories to help local economies rebound from the pandemic.
Trudeau said the funds will help communities prepare for a potential second wave and will go towards boosting testing capabilities, stockpiling personal protective equipment, and advancing municipal transportation.
The funds are a revisal to a pre-announced "safe-restart agreement" that had an initial price tag of $14 billion. Talks have been ongoing over the last several weeks between the federal government and the provinces and territories over the scale of support needed.
"We’ve been working with our provincial and territorial partners to outline what needs to be done over the next six to eight months to safely restart our economy," said the prime minister during a press briefing in Ottawa.
"As part of this agreement we’ve outlined seven priority areas on which to focus our efforts."
He said this includes more testing and contact tracing, enhanced support for vulnerable communities – including seniors in long-term care facilities – and ensuring adequate childcare capacity.
"Our towns and cities have been at the forefront of responding to COVID-19. Cities must remain up and running if our economy is to eventually get back up and running. If cities aren’t equipped for a safe restart, people will not be safe."
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland joined the prime minister on Thursday as she has during the 15 first ministers’ calls throughout the pandemic.
She touted the federal and provincial governments’ "team Canada" approach to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our shared public health goal has been to save the lives of Canadians, to protect the health of Canadians, and to prevent our health-care system from being overwhelmed. Our shared economic goal has been to ensure that no Canadian goes hungry or is made homeless because of the economic shutdown," she said.
She too underscored the need to support cities in their pandemic fight.
"We know that if our cities are not equipped for a safe restart, including when it comes to transit, Canada won’t be either."
Freeland also reflected on COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on women and families. She said beyond mandating mandatory 10-day paid sick leave, the agreement will address mechanisms to support women returning to work.
As detailed in last week’s fiscal snapshot, women have faced a much steeper decline in job loss since the pandemic took hold across the country and recent statistics show men are rebounding at a rate twice as fast as women as economies reopen.
There’s been a mounting call by activists for governments to address childcare needs across the country given the uncertainty around sending kids back to school in the fall. Many have criticized reopening plans that have prioritized the reopening of bars and malls instead of these facilities.
Asked whether the deal could be extended beyond six to eight months, Trudeau said the government would remain committed to supporting his provincial counterparts.
PROVINCES & CITIES RESPOND
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has since weighed in on the $19-billion agreement, of which Ontario will collect $7 billion, saying he applauds the federal government’s efforts to help rebuild local communities at the front lines of the pandemic.
"This historic agreement proves what we can do as a nation when we stand united," Ford said during a news conference on Thursday.
"My friends, make no mistake, by standing united, by standing together as a province, Ontario was in a strong position to get a deal from the federal government."
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (FCM) President Bill Karsten also issued a statement reflecting on the unexpected hardships cities have faced trying to keep their communities safe, and the need for a "non-traditional" stimulus approach to enable recovery.
"FCM has been clear: there’s no full recovery without strong municipalities, and we are pleased to see the prime minister acknowledge this," said Karsten.
"We thank the federal government for its leadership on this crucial way forward. We are calling on all orders of government — including provincial and territorial — to do their part to ensure municipalities get this financial support efficiently."