Please see below the most recent updates on the federal and provincial governments’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Federal Government will extend its wage subsidy program until December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today at his briefing in Ottawa. The extension of the subsidy was telegraphed last week in the fiscal snapshot presented in the House of Commons by Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
- The wage subsidy pays companies who qualify up to $847 a week per employee, to keep those employees on their payrolls, even if they have little or no work to do. It was designed to be the premier support program of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has been completely overshadowed by the CERB, the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit which pays individuals $2,000 a month if they have lost their employment because of the pandemic. So far applicants for CERB have collected $54Billion. Compared to the $18 Billion that has been paid out through the wage subsidy.
- Trudeau also announced that he had spoken today with U.S. President Donald Trump. He said they discussed the Canada -U.S. border which is now closed to all but essential traffic. The closure agreement is coming up later this month, and with the spike of COVID-19 cases in the United States, there is not a lot of interest in Canada in easing restrictions on border crossings. The Prime Minister also said he spoke again about potential American tariffs on Canadian aluminum exports and on the situation facing two Canadians detained in China and charged with spying in retaliation for Canada acting on an American request to arrest and extradite Meng Wanzhou, a Huawei executive accused of financial dealings contrary to the U.S. sanctions on Iran.
- Most of the briefing was taken up with Trudeau’s apology and statements of contrition over what is known as the WE affair. Last Friday a contract between the WE charity and the Federal Government to run the Canada Student Service Grant program was cancelled after it was revealed that both the Prime Minister’s Mother and his brother had been paid speaking fees to appear at WE events. The Government contract was for $19 Million and was untendered. The grants program is for around $900 Million.
- Trudeau said the Public Service had recommended WE for the contract, but knowing his family connection to the charity he should have recused himself from the discussions around awarding it to WE. He said a new organization will be found to distribute the money, but he said he also regretted that students will have to wait longer for the program to go into effect.
- Today, the Premier announced that nearly all businesses and public spaces will reopen in Stage 3 of the province’s reopening framework with public health and workplace safety measures and restrictions in place.
- As part of the Stage 3 reopening, Ontario will be increasing gathering limits for those regions entering Stage 3. Indoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 50 people and outdoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 100 people;
- Public gathering limits apply to indoor and outdoor events, such as community events or gatherings, concerts, live shows, festivals, conferences, sports and recreational fitness activities, fundraisers, fairs, festivals or open houses. A two-metre distance must still be maintained at such events.
- Toronto, GTA, Niagara, Windsor-Essex and Lambton did not move to stage 3. The following public health unit regions will be allowed to move into Stage 3 first, on Friday, July 17, 2020:
- Algoma Public Health
- Brant County Health Unit
- Chatham-Kent Public Health
- Eastern Ontario Health Unit
- Grey Bruce Health Unit
- Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit
- Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
- Huron Perth Public Health
- Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health
- Leeds Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit
- Middlesex-London Health Unit
- North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit
- Northwestern Health Unit
- Ottawa Public Health
- Peterborough Public Health
- Porcupine Health Unit
- Public Health Sudbury & Districts
- Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services
- Renfrew County and District Health Unit
- Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit
- Southwestern Public Health
- Thunder Bay District Health Unit
- Timiskaming Health Unit
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health
- The Premier confirmed that at the beginning of each week, the province will continue to reassess local trends in public health indicators, including rates of transmission, hospital capacity, progress on testing and contact tracing, to determine if additional public health unit regions can progress to Stage 3.
- In Stage 3, childcare centres and home child care providers across Ontario will be able to continue to operate with strict safety and operational requirements in place. Beginning on July 27, 2020, childcare centres will be permitted to operate with cohorts of 15 children, which is an increase from the current cohort cap of 10.
- During questions from the media, Minister Elliott advised that the restrictions imposed in Stage 3 will be in place for the foreseeable future. She further advised that if Ontario can keep numbers down with no new outbreaks, the province will gradually expand things like gatherings of people. She confirmed that the easing of restrictions will be gradual within stage 3.
- When questioned specifically about how close Niagara, Toronto and the GTA is to entering stage 3 the Minister of Health advised that the government expects the timelines to be similar as they were to moving into stage 2. She further confirmed that the Chief Medical Officer needs a full 4 weeks of data to make sure there are no further public health concerns before moving to the next stage.
Executive Secretary Treasurer
IBEW COnstruction Council of Ontario