Safe Restart Agreement Response Letter: Premier of British Columbia
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Dear Prime Minister:
To protect the health of Canadians, all governments continue to work together effectively to manage the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of these ongoing collaborative efforts, I am pleased to accept additional federal resources to support critical needs over the next six to eight months through the Safe Restart Agreement. These investments will help to protect public health and safety, prepare for potential future waves of the virus, and further support the safe reopening of economies across Canada.
First Ministers recognize that the territories face distinct challenges and circumstances, which will need to be addressed separately. First Ministers also recognize that smaller jurisdictions may require funding adjustments beyond per capita allocations.
This letter outlines British Columbia's funding priorities under the Safe Restart Agreement reached between the Government of Canada (Canada) and the Province of British Columbia (B.C.), and reflects our understandings on shared objectives and the funding commitments made in the seven priority areas. This letter, and its APPEndix, represents the entire Safe Restart Agreement and terms reached between our two governments.
B.C.'s specific allocation and other distribution details for each priority area are set out and confirmed in the APPEndix forming part of this correspondence.
B.C.'s overall approach to using federal funding
In March 2020, B.C. announced a $5 billion COVID-19 Action Plan. As part of the Plan, B.C. has already made investments in services that are critical to safely restart the economy. Federal funding under the Safe Restart Agreement will help offset some of those costs and allow for them to be further enhanced. In early fall, B.C. will announce additional measures to support restarting the economy and promote economic recovery. Remaining federal funding under the Safe Restart Agreement will support some of those measures.
Testing, contact tracing, and data management
The goal of this investment is to help provinces and territories reach a collective capacity to test up to 200,000 people per day across Canada, and to improve their contact tracing capacities.
Canada will provide $4.28 billion to support provinces and territories with the costs of increasing their capacity to conduct testing, perform contact tracing, and share appropriate public health data that will help fight the pandemic. Funding and support will also be provided to improve and modernize data management across Canada, to help all orders of government coordinate their efforts to contain the virus. Provinces and territories will also share relevant information and data.
Of the $3.0 billion that is being distributed to provinces and territories, B.C.'s per capita share will be about $404.5 million. The funding will be used to offset costs related to:
- Increasing testing capacity- B.C. currently has testing capacity of 8,005 tests per day. B.C.'s target is 10,000 tests by September and 20,000 by year-end.
- Increasing contact tracing capacity - B.C. will increase staff support for contact tracing, with a goal of hiring approximately 500 FTEs on short-term contracts.
- Investing in data management capacities - B.C. will invest in software development and enhanced analytics capabilities at B.C.'s Ministry of Health as well as enhanced data management and analytics capacity at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. These investments will support modeling of potential COVID-19 spread and help build dynamic capacity planning and management within the B.C. health system.
B.C.'s Ministry of Health will continue sharing relevant information and data, at a suitable level of aggregation or disaggregation, with Health Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information in a timely manner.
Health care system capacity
COVID-19 has increased the demands on health care systems across Canada and placed additional strain on mental health. This investment is intended to support the health care services and mental health supports that Canadians rely on, as each jurisdiction addresses the impacts of COVID-19.
Canada will provide $700 million to support health care system capacity to respond to a potential future wave of COVID-19. A further $500 million will address immediate needs and gaps in the support and protection of people experiencing challenges related to mental health and substance use. This investment will help to keep Canadians safe and healthy with the health care supports they need.
Of the $700 million that is being distributed to provinces and territories for health care capacity, B.C.'s per capita share will be about $94.4 million. The federal funding will be used to offset a portion of the pressures facing B.C.'s health care system, which include:
- Hospital capacity and services - such as Infection Prevention and Control capacity, hiring screeners for major sites; and increased temporary staffing to offset COVID-19 related sick leave;
- Health human resources - such as enhancing health authority COVID-19 management capacity, training, recruitment; and
- Supply/logistics management and capacity - such as adding capacity to more efficiently manage the supply and distribution chain, including warehouse storage.
Of the $500 million that is being distributed to provinces and territories for mental health and substance use, B.C.'s per capita share will be about $67.4 million. This funding will be used to offset some of the investments B.C. has already made during the COVID-19 pandemic to increase access to mental health and addictions supports, such as:
- Enhanced mental health and addictions services (including virtual services), with a focus on adults, youth and front-line health care workers and delivered by health authorities and community non-profit agencies ;
- Introducing the Lifeguard application, which provides individuals with a means to call emergency services if they become unresponsive while using drugs alone; and
- Increasing funding to community non-profit agencies and other service providers developing and delivering evidence-based substance use treatment and recovery services for people with addictions to ensure they can maintain services while addressing additional COVID-19-related costs.
B.C. is currently developing further mental health and addictions proposals, in particular to address the ongoing overdose crisis in B.C.
Canadians receiving long-term care, home care, and palliative care are at an increased risk of more severe cases of COVID-19. As the economy restarts, it is important to have continued protections and supports in place for seniors and provide health and social supports to other vulnerable populations, including those experiencing homelessness.
Canada will provide $740 million to support costs over the next six to eight months for measures aimed at controlling and preventing infections. This could include addressing staffing and other issues in facilities and for services in long-term care, home care, and palliative care. Funding can also be used to support other vulnerable populations, such as those experiencing homelessness.
Of the $740 million that is being distributed to provinces and territories, B.C.'s per capita share will be about $99.8 million. The federal funding will fund measures that support vulnerable populations in B.C.
Some of the measures to protect long-term care and seniors' assisted-living residents from COVID-19 include:
- Launching EquipCare B.C., providing funding to enhance infection prevention and control and improve quality and safety in facilities; and
- Funding for over 2,000 additional staff to ensure infection prevention and control measures for COVID-19 are followed and to support safe visitation.
Some examples of the measures B.C. has introduced to support other vulnerable populations include:
- Funding to protect those who are homeless, including reducing shelter occupancies and relocating homeless populations from camps to hotels or other temporary accommodations.
- Funding to BC Housing service providers to ensure they can pay their staff and fund operating costs and providing centralized procurement for critical supplies needed by frontline service providers, including gloves and cleaning products.
- Emergency financial supports for people on income or disability assistance and low income seniors.
- Investments to ensure critical services are available for adults with developmental disabilities and emergency funding for children and youth with special needs and to support extended care and supports for young adults who would have otherwise aged out of existing care placements or agreements.
- Introducing the B.C. Temporary Rental Supplement Program, which provides up to $500 per month to landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic, for renters with low and moderate-incomes to cover part of their rent.
- Additional supports for victim services and family justice services.
In addition to these measures, B.C. has also banned landlord evictions for non-payment of rent in BC Housing-funded buildings.
Looking forward, B.C. is currently reviewing further proposals to address vulnerable populations as part of B.C.'s own Safe Restart process.
Municipalities and transit
Municipalities are on the front lines of a safe restart of the economy and need to continue to put in place appropriate precautions to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and manage public spaces and critical services, like public transit.
Canada will contribute up to $2 billion to support municipalities with COVID-19 operating costs for the next six to eight months. Provincial and territorial governments will continue to support municipalities and will cost-match federal supports with investments flowed this fiscal year for operating costs.
In addition, Canada will also contribute more than $2.3 billion to support any additional contributions by participating provinces or territories for public transit operating costs.
My government will provide a direct and verifiable transfer to municipalities for the appropriate amounts and I commit that no clawbacks in other forms will occur.
Funds for municipal and transit investments will be cost-shared on a 50:50 basis. Contributions for municipal supports will recognize provincial and territorial operational investments flowed from April 1, 2020.
Of the $2 billion that is being distributed to provinces and territories for municipalities (including transit), B.C.'s per capita share will be $269.7 million. Of the $2.3 billion that is being distributed to provinces exclusively for transit services, B.C.'s share will be $540 million. B.C.'s funding share-totaling approximately $809.7 million for municipal and transit services - will offset measures implemented or currently being developed to support B.C.'s local governments and public transportation service providers.
- B.C. has already implemented some short-term measures to help address the cashflow needs of local governments resulting from COVID - 19. These include: authorizing local governments to borrow, interest-free, from their existing capital reserves to help pay for their operating expenses; delaying provincial school tax remittances from municipalities until January 2021; cutting provincial school property taxes for commercial properties by 50%, to help businesses pay their municipal property taxes and other fees, and providing local governments with greater flexibility to carry debt financed deficits for an additional year.
- B.C.'s contributions will be made to municipalities and related local/regional authorities, public transit and other public transportation systems, and will include direct transfers to TransLink, British Columbia Transit (including the Victoria Regional Transit Commission), and British Columbia Ferries Services Inc., as these organizations provide essential transportation services and are critical to restarting B.C.'s economy. Eligible costs will include all incremental COVID-19 related operational impacts including, but not limited to, PPE, staffing and other operational costs and lost revenue needed to continue essential services. B.C. is consulting with local governments and transit entities, including BC Ferries, to assess the financial impacts of COVID-19, as well as restart and recovery plans. Provincial investments will encompass both direct transfers and other provincial fiscal policy measures. While the federal proposal is currently focused on 2020/21, the fiscal impacts of COVID-19, as well as B.C.'s restart plans, will likely carry into fiscal 2021/22.
B.C. presented to its Legislative Assembly a Supplementary Estimate of up to $1 billion on July 22, 2020, to address the Province's potential financial requirements for municipal and transit service cost-sharing under the Federal/Provincial Safe Restart Agreement.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and non-health workers
COVID-19 has added significant pressure to the procurement and supply of PPE for essential health workers and others. Both orders of government have made significant investments in this area and worked collaboratively to ensure availability of the required equipment at all stages of the pandemic.
To support the restart of the economy, the Government of Canada will commit $4.05 billion to purchase PPE for national distribution to provinces and territories, $500 million to support the purchase of PPE for the non-health sector and commit $3 billion directly to provinces and territories for previous and planned PPE investments. To facilitate future procurement, provinces and territories will regularly share relevant PPE-related data with the Government of Canada.
Of the $3 billion that is being distributed to provinces and territories, B.C.'s per capita share will be about $405 million.
Child care for returning workers
Canada is working with provinces and territories to ensure sufficient child care is available so parents can gradually return to the workplace.
Canada will provide $625 million to help the sector adapt to the COVID-19 environment and address the reduced availability of child care spaces and the unique needs stemming from the pandemic.
Of the $625 million that is being distributed to provinces and territories, B.C. will receive $2 million in base funding and a per capita share of the remaining funding, for a total of about $82.8 million. The federal funding will offset some of the costs B.C. will incur as a result of measures, including:
- Offering compensation to child care centres and smaller home-based child care providers who operate during the COVID-19 pandemic with reduced numbers (i.e., the compensation is equivalent to seven times their average monthly funding from government, which is expected to cover approximately 75%t of a group facility's average monthly operating expenses).
- Supporting centres and providers who closed due to COVID-19 with funding to cover fixed operating costs, like rent or lease payments (i.e., the support is equivalent to two times their average monthly funding from government, which is expected to cover approximately 20% of an average group facility's monthly operating expenses).
These measures have ensured child care spaces remain available for essential workers and provide financial relief to centres and providers. Because B.C. requires that centres and providers who receive this extraordinary funding do not charge parents for any periods of closure or voluntary withdrawal and that they reserve these spaces, they have also preserved spaces for parents.
Pan-Canadian sick leave
To safely restart the economy, Canada must ensure that workers do not return to work if they have COVID-19 or are showing symptoms.
To encourage workers to remain at home and seek public health advice if they are showing symptoms, the Government of Canada will fund and deliver a new temporary income support program. The estimated $1.1 billion program will support workers who do not already have access to other paid sick leave. The federal government is responsible for all current and future costs of this program.
Where not already available, provinces and territories will establish job protected sick leave so that workers can take advantage of the temporary new federal program.
In March 2020, B.C. changed the Employment Standards Act to allow workers to take unpaid, job-protected leave if they are unable to work for reasons relating to COVID-19. The leave was retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in B.C. This protection will apply throughout the COVID pandemic, and people will be able to take this job-protected leave for as long as the circumstance that requires them to be away from work applies.
First Ministers believe this funding must quickly be put to use to protect the health and safety of our citizens and to truly help restart the economy. In order to do so, the funding for all priorities will be transferred to British Columbia through a direct single transfer. This single transfer is in addition to a September federal transfer for the second tranche of testing funding and is apart from the federal Pan-Canadian Sick Leave program and federal in-kind spending for testing, contact tracing, and data management and PPE.
Each government will continue to publicly report on its actions, to maintain transparency and accountability to the citizens it serves.
Canadians have been well served by the strong, collaborative efforts demonstrated by First Ministers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. All First Ministers reaffirm their commitment to this approach, while they continue to address their top shared priority, the well-being and safety of all Canadians.
I look forward to the implementation of the Safe Restart Agreement and our continued collaboration.
Appendix - Canada-British Columbia Safe Restart Agreement Investment Details
- Testing, Contact Tracing, and Data Management
- Federal Investment ($M) - $4,282
- Allocation Details
- Per capita allocation;
- $3,000 cash transfer in two installments;
- $1,282 in transfers and federal support
- British Columbia Allocation ($M) - $404.534, including $310.142 as an immediate payment and $94.391 as a payment in September
- Health Care System Capacity
- Federal Investment ($M) - $1,200
- Allocation Details - Per capita cash transfer
- British Columbia Allocation ($M) - $161.813, including $94.391 for health system capacity and $67.422 for mental health and problematic substance use
- Vulnerable Populations
- Federal Investment ($M) - $740
- Allocation Details - Per capita cash transfer
- British Columbia Allocation ($M) - $99.785
- Municipalities and Transit
- Federal Investment ($M) - $2,000 (municipalities) + $2,300 (transit)
- Allocation Details
- Municipalities - per capita cash transfer, cost shared at 50/50;
- Transit - cash transfer as applicable, cost shared at 50/50;
- Provincial and territorial operational investments flowed from April 1, 2020 are recognized
- British Columbia Allocation ($M) - $809.689, including: $269.689 for municipalities and $540.000 for public transit
- Federal Investment ($M) - $7,500
- Allocation Details
- $3,000 per capita cash transfer;
- $4,550 in federally-delivered support
- British Columbia Allocation ($M) - $404.534
- Child Care for Returning Workers
- Federal Investment ($M) - $625
- Allocation Details - Base ($2M/jurisdiction) plus per capita cash transfer
- British Columbia Allocation ($M) - $82.772
- Pan-Canadian Sick Leave
- Federal Investment ($M) - $1,100
- Allocation Details - Federal Delivery
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