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May 21st Update from Federal and Provincial Governments

May 21, 2020

Message from Executive Secretary Treasurer, James Barry:

Below is the most recent updates on the federal and provincial governments’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Federal Government will provide $75 Million to organisations supporting Indigenous Canadians living in urban areas across Canada. There are about one million Indigenous Canadians who live “off reserve” in the country.  Trudeau said the money would be directed to programs that support assistance for youth, women and elders, to aid young people at risk and to prevent family violence.
  • Trudeau was asked if the federal government would support people who bought airline tickets, then had their trips cancelled because of COVID-19, and have been unable to get refunds on their tickets. In most cases they have been offered vouchers for future travel, even if they are unlikely to be able to use them.  Airlines have been hard hit financially because of the pandemic. Air Canada has lost more than $2 Billion.  The Prime Minister said Ottawa is having “very careful discussions” with the airline industry. He said it is important that Canadians be treated fairly, but also important Canada have a viable airline industry when the pandemic passes.
  • Trudeau said he and the Provincial Premiers would discuss again on their weekly COVID-19 call, a big increase in both testing and contact tracing to identify people who have been with people who tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • He said both testing and contract tracing are imperative to combating a second wave of COVID-19 expected this fall and winter. He said Ottawa will back a “massive” program of testing and contract tracing, particularly in Ontario and Quebec , which are lagging other provinces in both.
  • The Prime Minister also urged employers to access the Federal Government’s Emergency Wage Subsidy, the Emergency Business Account loan program and Rent Subsidy Program.  He said the support provided by each now will be essential to restarting the economy.


  • Today, the Premier was joined by the Deputy Premier and Minister of Colleges and Universities, Minister Ross Romano.  The government highlighted the investments that they have made in funding for COVID-19 research. They announced $7.2 million (of the $20 million fund), which constitutes the first phase of projects for the Rapid Research Fund that the province deem as having the best chances for success, and opportunity for commercialization.  Minister Romano noted that the government has been able to streamlining the process from 12 to 18 months down to three weeks.
  • These 15 proposals are the first to receive funding from the Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund, with additional projects expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Projects were evaluated by a peer review committee. Details of the specific projects can be found here.
  • The Premier was asked about the testing numbers, which have fallen far short of the government’s goal this week.  The Premier responded by saying that he remains steadfast in wanting to see people getting tested, and encouraged people to go to assessment centres if they have symptoms.  He also listed a number of sectors that he wants to see get tested.  The Premier reiterated that he has confidence in public health to get there.
  • There were additional questions about the case numbers in Ontario going up, and if that will have an impact on re-opening plans.  The Premier noted that he is concerned with the trends he has seen over the previous 5 days, and that he will be taking his cues from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
  • The Premier was asked about mass testing in day care centres when they re-open. The Premier said that his desire is to make sure that there is testing for caregivers and other employees in child care and other place where children gather, like schools.
  • The Premier was asked about the delays in getting pandemic pay increases to employees.  The Premier agreed that the government needs to figure out the final list of employees that will receive pandemic pay increases.  He did guarantee that the pay will be retroactive to the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

James Barry
Executive Secretary Treasurer
IBEW Construction Council of Ontario

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