CPWA Ottawa Report
June 22, 2020
Parliamentary Budget Officer Issues Report on Federal Infrastructure Investments
On June 17, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) updated its monitoring of the Investing in Canada Plan (IICP), under which the Government has committed to spend $187.8 billion over 2016-17 to 2027-28. The PBO solicited data from all 20 departments and agencies responsible for delivering IICP programming. Working with Infrastructure Canada, the PBO compiled a data set of 33,112 entries for projects with $34.9 billion in spending since 2016-17.
The PBO found that federal spending on infrastructure continues to be delayed, by an estimated $2 billion from fiscal 2016-2019-20, but that the delay in spending has decreased. This report goes on to discuss the leveraging of federal spending by provinces, impact on GDP, and impact of the IICP on employment.
Conservative Leadership Candidates Debate
On June 17, the first of two Conservative leadership debates was held in Toronto. The debate among the four candidates was held in French. On June 18, the second debate was held in Toronto in English. The party had hoped to have a leader named this month but had to extend its timeline due to the coronavirus pandemic. Votes for the race must be cast through mail-in ballots by August 21.
Border closure to non-essential travel with the United States extended to July 21
On June 16, Prime Minister Trudeau announced in his daily press conference that Canada and the U.S. have agreed to extend the limit on non-essential travel between the two countries to July 21.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) extended to 24 weeks
On June 16, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the government is extending the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) by eight weeks. This extension will make the benefit available to eligible workers for up to a total of 24 weeks.
Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) applications open under expanded eligibility criteria
On June 15, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that as of Friday, June 19, 2020, applications will be accepted so that more small businesses can access the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA). This means that owner-operated small businesses that had been ineligible for the program due to their lack of payroll, sole proprietors receiving business income directly, as well as family-owned corporations remunerating in the form of dividends rather than payroll became eligible.
Prime Minister announces launch of mobile app to help notify Canadians of COVID-19 exposure
On June 18, Prime Minister Trudeau announced the upcoming launch of a new nation-wide mobile app to provide notifications of exposure to COVID-19 across Canada, with beta testing to begin in Ontario. The app will be available to Canadians for free download in the coming weeks and use will be voluntary.
Karen Hogan appointed new Auditor General
On June 3, the Prime Minister welcomed the appointment of Karen Hogan as Canada’s new Auditor General, effective June 8, 2020. The Auditor General’s responsibilities include auditing operations of the federal and territorial governments and providing Parliament and the legislative assemblies of the territories with independent information, assurance, and advice regarding the stewardship of public funds.
The House of Commons is adjourned until Wednesday, July 8, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. (EDT). The Senate is sitting this week.
Supplementary Estimates – A Vote of Confidence in the Government
On June 17, the Government faced a confidence vote in the House of Commons on the latest supplementary estimates*, which call for $87 billion in new spending, much of which was authorized by emergency bills passed since March in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The government required the support of at least one of the major opposition parties to secure the confidence of the House. Failure to do so could have led to a general election. The government’s announcement on June 16 to extend the CERB for an additional 8 weeks was done, at least in part, to help secure the support of the NDP in the June 17 vote.
With support from the NDP, the House passed, without amendments, Bill C-18, Appropriation Act No. 2, 2020-21, and Bill C-19, Appropriation Act No. 3, 2020-21. Both bills had their First Reading in the Senate on June 18 and were referred to a Committee of the Whole to be considered on June 22.
[*Supplementary Estimates are an important part of the government’s authority to meet it spending requirements. Managed by the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Main Estimates are always tabled before the end of the government’s fiscal year to provide an overview of the spending requirements for the upcoming fiscal year. Supplementary Estimates (and there are often at least two, and sometimes three, Supplementary Estimates tabled in the House over the course of a fiscal year) provide information on additional spending requirements which were not included in the Main Estimates.]
Bill C-17: In Limbo
On June 10, the Government introduced Bill C-17, An Act respecting additional COVID-19 measures, which aimed to implement a range of measures, including broadening the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), implementing supports for Canadians with disabilities and implementing penalties for those who fraudulently collect the CERB. The Government was unable to reach an agreement with Opposition parties, despite last minute negotiations. Although Bill C-17 remained on the Order Paper, it was not brought forward by the government House Leader on June 17 and remains in Parliamentary limbo.
Procedure and House Affairs Committee recommends extension until July to report on potential rules for a hybrid House of Commons
On June 18, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
requested an extension until July 21, 2020
, to present a report in relation to its current study of how Members of Parliament can fulfill their responsibilities while maintaining appropriate physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. The Committee has been examining the prospect of hybrid sittings of the House, whereby some Members could participate in the chamber and others could participate, and vote, virtually.
The Committee has been given the authority to table its report electronically to the Clerk of the House, which would be deemed to have been duly presented to the House. Thereafter, the House Leaders of the four major parties would discuss the Committee’s recommendations and attempt to arrive at an agreement to implement some, or all, of those recommendations.
Infrastructure and Transport Ministers Provide Testimony about Spending Priorities
On June 16, Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna and Transport Minister Marc Garneau appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
to provide testimony about their spending priorities. A study of ministers’ spending priorities was requested by four members of the Committee.
Finance Committee launches Pre-Budget Consultations
On June 12, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance
launched its pre-budget consultations process. The deadline for written submissions on measures the federal government could take to restart the Canadian economy is Friday, 7 August 2020.
These consultations will result in a report to be tabled in the House of Commons in December 2020, which will be considered by the Minister of Finance in preparation of the 2021 federal budget.
Industry Minister announces Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI)
On June 15, Industry Minister Navdeep Bains, along with representatives of the 14 other founding members of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), announced the official launch of this initiative.
GPAI will facilitate international and multistakeholder collaboration to conduct activities across four themes, including two supported by the newly announced International Centre of Expertise in Montréal for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (ICEMAI): Responsible AI and Data Governance. A corresponding Centre of Excellence in Paris will support the other two themes: Future of Work and Innovation & Commercialization.
Transport Minister announces temperature screening requirement at airports
On June 12, Transport Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced that the Government of Canada will now require temperature screenings for all passengers travelling to Canada or travellers departing Canadian airports for either international or domestic destinations.
Infrastructure Canada highlights funds delivered through the federal Gas Tax Fund
On June 11, Infrastructure Canada issued a series of press releases highlighting funds delivered through the federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) to each province and territory for the 2020–21 fiscal year to fund its most pressing infrastructure needs:
Agriculture Minister announces second call for proposals under Local Food Infrastructure Fund
On June 9, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced the launch of the second call for proposals under the Local Food Infrastructure Fund.
This second call for proposals, valued at $43.4 million, will support small and large community-led projects at facilities such as urban gardens, community kitchens, food banks, and greenhouses. Applications will be accepted on a continuous basis until funding has been allocated. Projects valued at up to $250,000 will be accepted.
Government launches PPE web hub
On June 9, the Government of Canada launched a new web hub to bring together available resources for organizations buying and selling personal protective equipment (PPE).
Transport Minister announces expanded face covering requirements for transportation system
On June 3, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced an expansion of the requirements for the use of face coverings by workers and others involved in the transportation system to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
Employment Minister announces call for proposals under Enabling Accessibility Fund
On June 2, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough announced the launch of a call for proposals under the newly modernized Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) – small projects component.
Projects approved for funding will now be 100% funded to a maximum of $100,000 and organizations will now have up to 24 months to complete their projects. Flat-rate costing will replace the need for applicants to provide construction quotes and detailed budget information for three of the most commonly requested projects: ramps, accessible doors and accessible washrooms.
Fiscal Snapshot – July 8
On June 17, it was announced that Finance Minister Bill Morneau will present an Economic and Fiscal Snapshot on Wednesday, July 8, 2020.
On the Horizon
The snapshot will provide information on the current state of the economy and the Government of Canada’s response to support Canadians during the coronavirus pandemic. It appears this report will fall short of a full fiscal and economic update, for which many critics have been calling. The government postponed its annual budget process this spring due to the pandemic; no date has been fixed for delivering its 2020-21 budget.