CPWA Ottawa Report

December 14, 2020

The next edition of the Ottawa Report is scheduled to be sent January 25, 2021.

Latest News


Closure of Canada-U.S. Border Extended
On December 11, Canada and the U.S. agreed to extend the restriction of travel between the two countries for essential purposes only to January 21, 2021.

Deputy Prime Minister Releases Fall Economic Update
On November 30, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland released the Fall Economic Statement in the House of Commons.Supporting Canadians and Fighting COVID-19: Fall Economic Statement 2020 is not a full budget, but it offers glimpses of what will be in Minister Freeland’s first budget, to be delivered sometime in 2021. Highlights and proposed new measures include:
  • Fiscal deficit of $381.6 billion at the end of the current fiscal year, ending March 31, 2021
  • Increase the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to 75% commencing late December
  • Establish a Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program for tourism, hospitality, arts, entertainment, and regional air sectors (100% government-backed loans of up to $1 million)
  • Create a $1 billion Safe Long-Term Care Fund for provinces and territories
  • Fiscal stabilization funding to provinces to be increased from $60 per person to $170 per person
  • Post-pandemic economic stimulus spending of up to $100 billion (3-4% of Canada’s GDP) over 3 years, intended to build a greener, more inclusive, innovative and competitive economy
The Fall Economic Statement also included funding for public building retrofits, noted the government’s initiative to fund the electrification of public transit systems across Canada, announced significant investments in infrastructure in Indigenous communities, and announced the government’s intention to issue the federal government’s first ever green bond in 2021-22.

Legislation


The House of Commons is adjourned until Monday, January 25, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. (EST). The Senate of Canada is sitting through December 18, 2020.

Deputy Prime Minister Introduces Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2020
On December 2, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland introduced Bill C-14, An Act to implement certain provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament on November 30, 2020 and other measures. Bill C-14 includes measures that would:
  • introduce a temporary and immediate support for low- and middle-income families who are entitled to the Canada Child Benefit, totaling up to $1,200 in 2021 for each child under the age of six;
  • ease the financial burden of student debt for up to 1.4 million Canadians by eliminating the interest on repayment of the federal portion of the Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans for one year (2021-22);
  • provide funding of up to $505.7 million as part of the new Safe Long-term Care Fund to support long-term care facilities, including funding to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection, outbreaks and deaths in supportive care facilities;
  • provide additional funding of:
    • up to $133 million to support access to virtual care, mental health tools, and substance use programming and 
    • up to $262.6 million for a suite of COVID-19 initiatives, including  testing, medical research, countermeasures, vaccine funding and developments, border and travel measures and isolation sites;
  • formally provide that an expense, such as rent, can qualify as an eligible expense under the new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy when it becomes due so businesses can access the subsidy before the expense is actually paid; and
  • allow the government to continue making the necessary investments to weather the pandemic and support the recovery.

Committee Activities


House Finance Committee Continues Study of Pre-Budget Consultations
On December 1, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance began meeting to undertake its study of pre-budget consultations, during which it hears from Canadians about their federal budgetary priorities. The Committee received 793 briefs, including from CPWA. The Committee generally presents its pre-budget consultations report, which contains its recommendations for the upcoming federal budget, in December.


Departmental Updates


Health Canada Authorizes First COVID-19 Vaccine
On December 9, Health Canada authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine. Health Canada received Pfizer's submission on October 9, 2020 and after a thorough, independent review of the evidence, Health Canada determined that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meets the Department's stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements for use in Canada.

Public Health Agency of Canada Releases Guidance on Initial COVID-19 Vaccine(s) Doses
On December 4, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released guidance providing further recommendations for the initial sequencing of key populations for early COVID-19 immunization. NACI recommends that initial doses of authorized COVID-19 vaccine(s) should be offered to:
  • Residents and staff of congregate living settings that provide care for seniors
  • Adults 70 years of age and older, beginning with adults 80 years of age and older
  • Health care workers (including all those who work in health care settings and personal support workers whose work involves direct contact with patients)
  • Adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences
On December 10, CPWA submitted a letter to Mr. Iain Stewart, President of the Public Health Agency of Canada, requesting that public works professionals be considered as the Public Health Agency of Canada continues to monitor the evidence related to COVID-19 and as NACI updates its guidance on the prioritization of COVID-19 vaccine(s).

Deputy Prime Minister Announces Canada Emergency Business Account Expansion
December 4, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the expansion of the Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA). Starting on Friday, December 4, 2020, eligible businesses facing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are able to access a second CEBA loan of up to $20,000 – on top of the initial $40,000 that was available to small businesses. Half of this additional financing, up to $10,000, will be forgivable if the loan is repaid by December 31, 2022. As announced in the Fall Economic Statement, the application deadline for CEBA has also been extended to March 31, 2021.

Disability Inclusion and Industry Ministers to Explore Improving Accessibility Requirements for Buildings
On December 3, Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains announced a collaboration on developing improved accessibility requirements for buildings. Accessibility Standards Canada and the National Research Council of Canada are exploring how their organizations can collaborate to support the development of standards and codes, respectively, to increase the accessibility of buildings for Canadians. The standards developed by Accessibility Standards Canada will inform accessibility requirements for buildings in Canada.

Indigenous Services Minister Announces New Investments for Clean Drinking Water in First Nations Communities
On December 2, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller announced more than $1.5 billion in investments to accelerate work to lift all long-term drinking water advisories on reserves, and $114.1 million per year ongoing thereafter to support daily operations and maintenance for water infrastructure on reserves. $616.3 million over six years, and $114.1 million per year ongoing thereafter, will be allocated to First Nations on reserves. $553.4 million will also be included to continue funding water and wastewater infrastructure on reserve to prevent future drinking water advisories from occurring. Additionally, $309.8 million will be allocated to support and accelerate on-going work to lift all long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves by helping to respond to project delays including those due to COVID-19.

CPWA Obtains Additional Details about National Infrastructure Assessment Initiative
Following Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna’s November 17 announcement that the federal government is committed to developing a national infrastructure assessment initiative to identify Canada’s long-term infrastructure needs, CPWA obtained additional details from Infrastructure Canada. Minister McKenna has not yet launched any consultations on this initiative, and it will take some time to do so. The national infrastructure assessment initiative will be a very high-level overview of Canada’s infrastructure needs and gaps, providing different groups and levels of government with the data and evidence to be on the same page when it comes to assessing Canada’s infrastructure needs as a whole. It is intended to be a best-practices approach to closing the infrastructure gap and building a net-zero future. This is a long-term project that will take many years to complete. Minister McKenna drew the idea from the work of the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission, which released its first assessment in 2018. It also released a National Infrastructure Strategy in November 2020. In addition, the UK Commission has been asked to examine infrastructure in a net-zero context, something Minister McKenna also wishes to undertake. This initiative offers an opportunity for the CPWA to draw upon its members’ knowledge and expertise to collaborate with the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.


On the Horizon


Economic Stimulus Plan Anticipated
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s Fall Economic Statement included reference to the government’s plans for post-COVID-19 pandemic economic stimulus spending. This stimulus plan would include expenditures of up to $100 billion, representing 3-4% of Canada’s GDP, over 3 years. It is expected that details will be included in Budget 2021. The heart of this stimulus plan will be smart, time-limited investments that can jumpstart Canada’s economic recovery. The government’s stimulus growth plan will include investments that create jobs and unleash private spending in the short-run, and that also help to strengthen Canada’s competitiveness in the long-run. Initiatives will include growing a green economy; investing in infrastructure that supports Canadian communities, workers and flow of goods; and supporting inclusive participation in the workforce.