CPWA Ottawa Report

March 15, 2021

 


The next edition of the Ottawa Report is scheduled to be sent March 29, 2021.


Latest News


Health Canada Approves Additional Vaccine
On March 5, Health Canada authorized Johnson & Johnson’s (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine. The Government has faced severe criticism in the media and from Opposition Party leaders and some provincial Premiers for the relatively slow roll-out of vaccines procured by the government. This was exacerbated by the recalibration of Pfizer and Moderna production facilities in Europe earlier this year, which slowed down the expected vaccine deliveries to Canada. In recent weeks, deliveries have increased considerably and are expected to continue in large numbers in the coming months. While the Government procures vaccines and delivers them to the provinces on a per capital basis, the planning and execution of vaccinations are the responsibility of each provincial government.

CPWA Provides Input on Canada Water Agency Discussion Paper
On March 1, CPWA submitted comments about the objectives and discussion questions outlined in Environment and Climate Change Canada’s public and stakeholder consultation on its Canada Water Agency Discussion Paper, “Toward the Creation of a Canada Water Agency.” CPWA recommended establishing a formal federal governance structure mandated to provide a whole-of-federal government perspective on freshwater priorities; federal regulatory policies/guidelines that take into account a changing climate and the unique challenges of small, rural and Indigenous communities; and that are accompanied by the necessary funding to implement them.

Canada-U.S. Border Remains Closed
Since March 18, 2020, the Canada-U.S. border has been closed to non-essential travel to limit the spread of COVID-19. Restrictions have been extended a month at a time, with the current extension set to expire March 21, 2021, and are expected to be extended again. On March 12, Prime Minister Trudeau told CTVNews that Canada will not reopen the U.S. border with the United States until experts advise easing restrictions based on vaccination rates and case counts. Requirements in place at the border can be found at https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid.

Legislation


The House of Commons is adjourned until Monday, March 22, 2021, at 11:00 a.m. ET. The Senate of Canada is sitting through Thursday, March 18, 2021.

Bill C-14 Referred to House Finance Committee
On March 8, Bill C-14, Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2020 passed second reading and was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, which held its first meeting to study the bill on March 11. The bill, introduced by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on December 2, would implement COVID-19 support measures included in Finance Minister Freeland’s Fall Economic Statement.


Committee Activities


House Transport Committee Continues Study on Canada Infrastructure Bank
The transcript of Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna’s February 25 testimony before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities related to the Committee’s study of the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) is now available.


Departmental Updates


Infrastructure Minister Announces Federal Fund for Cycling Paths and Trails
On March 12, Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna and Parliamentary Secretary Andy Fillmore announced $400 million over five years to help build new and expanded networks of pathways, bike lanes, trails and pedestrian bridges. This is the first federal fund dedicated to building active transportation through Canada and part of the Government of Canada’s plan to create one million jobs, fight climate change, and build a more sustainable and resilient economy. The new $400-million fund is part of an eight-year, $14.9-billion public transit investment outlined by Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister McKenna on February 10, 2021. In addition to this new fund, Minister McKenna and Parliamentary Secretary Fillmore also launched stakeholder engagement for Canada’s first Active Transportation Strategy. The strategy will be informed by input from the public and key stakeholders including provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous communities and not-for-profit organizations and businesses and will help the federal government make smarter investment decisions to:
  1. Support the active transportation networks of the future;
  2. Promote healthier, walkable communities that are environmentally sustainable and affordable; and
  3. Support better data collection to ensure measurable outcomes.
Indigenous Services Launches Website to Report Progress on Drinking Water Advisories
On March 10, Indigenous Services Canada provided a progress update on its commitment to lifting all long-term drinking water advisories on First Nations reserves. As of March 10, 2021, 101 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted. 58 long-term advisories remain in 38 communities and information on each community's progress can be found on new and updated web pages at https://www.canada.ca/water-on-reserve. Since November 2015, 175 short-term drinking water advisories (advisories lasting between two and 12 months) have been lifted before becoming long-term.

Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence Launches Open Dialogue on AI
On March 9, the Government of Canada’s Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence Public Awareness Working Group launched Open Dialogue: Artificial Intelligence in Canada, a series of virtual workshops to better understand the public’s perception of AI. The workshops will take place from March 30 to April 30, 2021, in regions across the country and all members of the Canadian public are invited to register and share their experiences with, understanding of, hopes for and concerns about AI technologies. Data gathered from these workshops will be included in a final report by the Public Awareness Working Group that will be submitted to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. The report will be made public on the Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence website in summer 2021.

Public Safety Minister Launches Emergency Preparedness Public Awareness Campaign
On March 8, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced the launch of an Emergency Preparedness Public Awareness Campaign. The campaign aims to protect Canadians, their homes, and their communities by focusing on concrete actions that they can take to better prepare against the risk of natural disasters and emergencies. Building awareness and understanding of disaster risks is an important priority under the Emergency Management Strategy for Canada: Toward a Resilient 2030 and aligns with the Government’s recent commitment to develop a national climate change adaptation strategy, in which Public Safety Canada and other federal departments like Natural Resources Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada will play a key role.

Environment Minister Announces Draft Regulations for Federal Greenhouse Gas Offset System
On March 5, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced draft regulations to establish the Federal Greenhouse Gas Offset System to reduce carbon emissions and create jobs. The system will support a domestic carbon trading market under Canada’s carbon price for industry – the Output-Based Pricing System (OBPS) – under which regulated facilities who exceed their emission limits can provide compensation by purchasing federal offset credits – an additional lower-cost option – generated from activities not already incentivized by carbon pollution pricing. The ability to generate and sell federal offset credits creates opportunities for farmers, foresters, Indigenous communities, municipalities, and other project developers to earn revenues from greenhouse-gas reductions and removals. Protocols for high priority project types are currently under development in parallel to the regulation to give industries additional lower-cost compliance options. For example, under the Landfill Methane Management Protocol, which is currently under development, a municipality could install technology to collect methane that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere. The municipality could earn federal offset credits, which it could sell to industrial facilities regulated under the Output-Based Pricing System. While the Federal Greenhouse Gas Offset System will be enabled through regulation, participation in the program is fully voluntary.

Infrastructure and Innovation Ministers Announce Investment to Electrify Transit Systems
On March 4, Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna and Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced $2.75 billion in funding over five years, starting in 2021, to enhance public transit systems and switch them to cleaner electrical power, including supporting the purchase of zero-emission public transit and school buses. This funding is part of an eight year, $14.9 billion public transit investment recently outlined by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and will also support municipalities, transit authorities and school boards with transition planning, increase ambition on the electrification of transit systems, and deliver on the government’s commitment to help purchase 5,000 zero-emission buses over the next five years. Infrastructure Canada will ensure coordination between this investment and the Canada Infrastructure Bank commitment to invest $1.5 billion in zero-emission buses and associated infrastructure as part of its three year Growth Plan.

Natural Resources Minister Announces Initiative to Promote Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles
On March 3, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan announced funding to promote the benefits of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV), such as short refuelling times that make them a great option for industries like busing and trucking. This initiative will increase knowledge on hydrogen fuel cell technology across the municipal sector, equipping Canadian jurisdictions with the know-how to lower emissions across the transportation sector. The goal is to accelerate adoption of FCEVs by government and private sector fleets by raising awareness of the benefits of getting more of them on Canadian roads.


On the Horizon


2021 Party Conventions to Be Held Virtually
The Liberal, Conservative and New Democratic Parties will all hold their 2021 conventions virtually in the next month. The Conservative Party will gather virtually for the first time for a Party Policy ConventionMarch 18-20, 2021; the Liberal Party’s first ever virtual National Convention will be held April 9-10, 2021; and the New Democratic Party’s Convention 2021 will be held virtually April 9-11, 2021.

Mid-April the Earliest Budget 2021 to Be Tabled
Finance Canada recently let it be known that the 2021 federal budget will not be tabled in the House of Commons in March (historically, about 1/3 of budgets have been tabled in the month of March). With the House in recess the first week of April, the earliest the budget could be tabled is the week of April 12. There are two things to note about the 2021 budget:
  • it will be the first federal budget in over 2 years, the longest time between budgets in Canadian history, due entirely to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • the vote in the House of Commons on the budget will be a confidence vote, giving the opportunity for opposition parties to collectively decide the government no longer has the confidence of the House, thereby triggering an election.
Election Speculation Continues
Minority Parliaments are always fragile and, historically, tend to last 18-24 months rather than the full four years of majority Parliaments. As this Parliament approaches the 18-month mark, election speculation has heated up. An election could be triggered either by a vote of non-confidence in the House of Commons or by the Prime Minister deciding the time is right to seek a new mandate from Canadians. The timing of the next election is tied in large measure to the success or failure of the vaccination of Canadians in the coming months.