Safe Restart Agreement Response Letter: Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador

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 Newfoundland and Labrador's funding priorities under the Safe Restart Agreement reached between Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador; to reflect 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.

Newfoundland and Labrador's specific allocation and other distribution details for each priority area are also set out and confirmed in the Appendix forming part of this correspondence.

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, as well as to improve their contact tracing capacities.

The Government of 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 provinces and territories 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 share relevant information and data, including disaggregated data (e.g. race-based and other demographic data), whenever available.

Newfoundland and Labrador Context

Funding provided under the Safe Restart Agreement will support our Government's increase in testing capacity from a baseline maximum capacity of approximately 400 tests per day at the start of the pandemic, towards a new maximum capacity of approximately 1,500 tests per day.

Our Government has invested, and continues to invest, significantly to increase its maximum testing capacity to ensure all symptomatic and, as required, asymptomatic individuals are able to access testing in a timely fashion. The Province is using a broad range of COVID-19 testing with symptomatic people as the priority. Testing of symptomatic individuals is being undertaken in the community, in hospitals and in any congregate settings such as in Long-Term Care (LTC) facilities, correctional facilities or community testing sites for shelters. Asymptomatic people are being tested as contacts of any COVID-19 case or in an outbreak situation. Also testing of asymptomatic people is being completed prior to admissions to LTC and more recently upon admission to hospital and prior to any aerosol generating medical procedure (AGMP). The testing of asymptomatic people upon admissions to hospitals and pre-AGMPs is being undertaken as a pilot. A testing strategy is in development and resources will continue to focus on ensuring continued access to testing as Newfoundland and Labrador prepares for a potential surge in cases.

These investments under the Safe Restart Agreement will include additional human resources and infrastructure requirements related to contact tracing, with costs primarily associated with salaries, overtime costs, training, technology, travel, Personal Protective Equipment, and so on. Newfoundland and Labrador's Public Health Laboratory has also availed itself of federal support for the purchase of swabs and reagents to support provincial testing, and it will continue to seek federal assistance to obtain additional swabs, reagents, and other supplies. If required to test at maximum capacity, Newfoundland and Labrador will require supplies to support up to 250,000 tests over the next six months.

As part of this agreement, our Government will regularly share testing supply and procurement data with the Government of Canada to ensure all levels of Government coordinate their efforts to contain the virus. To contribute to the pan-Canadian data management framework, further emphasis and support to develop and/or modernize provincial public health data management systems will be considered. These supports may include investment relating to: integrated data management software for outbreak management; integrated immunization software; modernized vaccine and critical equipment inventory software; support for implementation and change management; and human resource capacity to coordinate and execute all aspects of the public health data management requirements.

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.

The Government of Canada will provide $700 million to support health care systems 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, substance use, or homelessness. This investment will help to keep Canadians safe and healthy with the health care supports they need.

Newfoundland and Labrador Context

Newfoundland and Labrador will make incremental investments for additional infection prevention and control measures, reducing the backlog of non-COVID related procedures, and preparing surge capacity, including: new investment in Infection Control Practitioners (ICPs) to provide additional support for long term care homes, shelters for homeless individuals and transition houses and dedicated support for personal care homes and community care home, as well as train existing staff as ICPs. Support for staffing requirements to improve environmental services in residential homes; support for home care providers through infection prevention and control policy development and staff education; and financial support to staff negatively impacted by public health orders will continue.

The response to COVID-19 has also exacerbated mental health challenges, and in many regions of the country, the pandemic is compounding ongoing public health crises related to high rates of opioid overdose and deaths, as well as acute substance use harms. The funding provided under the Safe Restart Agreement will support activities to protect people who use substances, as well as those experiencing mental health challenges and people experiencing homelessness. In response, the Province will broaden the reach of Opioid Dependency Treatment (ODT) services, increase resources to meet demand for peer support, and further support Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) for people accessing substance abuse programs and other actions as appropriate.

Vulnerable populations

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.

The Government of 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 issues, in long-term care, home care, and palliative care facilities and services; funding can also be used to support other vulnerable populations.

Some of these measures could help inform future discussions of health ministers on matters related to supportive care, including long-term care and home care, building on work from the Common Statement of Principles on Shared Health Priorities and recent studies and reports.

Newfoundland and Labrador Context

Newfoundland and Labrador continues to take measures to protect seniors in supportive care, as well as other vulnerable populations. Opportunities to invest Safe Restart funding will be considered in a number of areas, including support for infrastructure upgrades to address infection prevention and control in residential care facilities. Enhanced pneumococcal and influenza vaccination for vulnerable populations will also be considered. Measures to help persons with disabilities, individuals experiencing homelessness, mental health and problematic substance use challenges, or those who are displaced and require the need to isolate due to the pandemic will also be taken. These measures include actions such as the recently announced establishment of a low barrier shelter in St. John's through a local non-profit community service centre (The Gathering Place) and a Pandemic Relief Grant for households in isolated Labrador communities.

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.

The Government of 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, the Government of Canada will also contribute more than $2.3 billion to support any additional contributions by participating provinces or territories for public transit operating costs.

Funds for municipal and transit investments will be cost-shared 50/50. Contributions for municipal supports will recognize provincial and territorial operational investments flowed from April 1, 2020.

Newfoundland and Labrador Context

Newfoundland and Labrador recognizes that municipalities require additional operating funding to help communities address these unprecedented circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The vital role that municipal governments play in our province cannot be overstated and both the federal and provincial governments want them to remain strong and operational during these difficult times.

While the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is operating under financial constraints limiting its ability to provide new investments, the Province already has a number of provincial programs, which will continue to support municipalities directly throughout 2020-21. These provincial investments include $22 million for separately-administered Municipal Operating Grants which supports 268 municipalities with populations under 11,000; $7.1 million in Provincial Gas Tax Revenue sharing payments; and $2 million in Special Assistance grants to assist communities with unexpected expenses as they arise.

Under the Safe Restart Agreement, new investments for municipalities will contribute $27.4 million in additional operating grants, which will be guided by a per capita basis allocation to all Newfoundland and Labrador municipalities, including those with populations above 11,000.

With respect to public transit, the Province will collaborate on a 50/50 basis with the federal government to invest funding totaling not more than $2 million to support operational transit and transportation requirements to support Newfoundlanders and Labradorians during the current health pandemic. Investments could be applied to offset operational and passenger volume challenges in order to maintain various transportation services, including ferries, for rural and isolated communities across the province and to ensure availability of access to important public services, such as health care. In response to challenges flowing from the pandemic, the Province will also implement additional COVID-19 related cleaning and sanitization protocols, and address staffing costs for ferries.

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.

Newfoundland and Labrador Context

Funding under the Safe Restart Agreement will help our Government recover some of the significant PPE costs incurred to date, and fund further investment in direct PPE purchases. Additionally, funding will be used to support transportation costs related to the procurement of PPE, investment in advisory services to support supply chain management, investment in local manufacturers to transition to PPE supply, investment in a reliable PPE visual analysis platform, and other elements as appropriate.

Child care for returning workers

The Government of Canada is working with provinces and territories to ensure sufficient child care is available so parents can gradually return to the workplace.

The Government of 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.

Newfoundland and Labrador Context

Like many other jurisdictions, Newfoundland and Labrador's child care sector has faced significant challenges as a result of the pandemic. Maintaining regulated child care services supports economic stability on a community, provincial, and national level, while also assisting with gender equality, poverty reduction, and enabling parents of young children to participate in the labour market. This will be essential to restarting Newfoundland and Labrador's economy. Further to this agreement, the Province will undertake a variety of measures to support this critical sector.

While child care centres are now able to operate at 100 per cent capacity, many are finding it difficult to fill spaces due to the environment. Under the Safe Restart Agreement, Newfoundland and Labrador will allocate funding to support continued operating capacity for regulated child care services. One­time grants will also be implemented to support initiatives to address ongoing public health requirements, which may include COVID-19 specific renovations and equipment, staffing capacity needs, as well as enhanced cleaning and PPE.

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 seek to establish job protected sick leave so that workers can take advantage of the temporary new federal program.

Newfoundland and Labrador Context

In March 2020, Communicable Disease Emergency Leave provisions were added to the Labour Standards Act to provide job-protected sick leave, which enables workers to take up to 10 days leave from work for causes related to COVID-19. Additional regulation making authority is in place should further clarification of this protection be required once parameters of the federal sick leave program are finalized.

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 Newfoundland and Labrador through a direct single transfer. This single transfer is in addition to a September 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 publically 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.

Sincerely,

Dwight Ball
Premier

Appendix - Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Safe Restart Agreement Investment Details

  1. Testing, Contact Tracing, and Data Management
    1. Federal Investment ($M) - $4,282
    2. Allocation Details
      • Per capita allocation;
      • $3,000 cash transfer in two installments;
      • $1,282 in transfers and federal support
    3. Newfoundland and Labrador Allocation ($M) - $41.118
      • $31.524 - Payment 1;
      • $9.594 - Payment 2 (Fall 2020)
  2. Health Care System Capacity
    1. Federal Investment ($M) - $1,200
    2. Allocation Details - Per capita cash transfer
    3. Newfoundland and Labrador Allocation ($M) - $16.447
      • $9.594 - Health Care Capacity;
      • $6.853 - Mental Health and Problematic Substance Use
  3. Vulnerable Populations
    1. Federal Investment ($M) - $740
    2. Allocation Details - Per capita cash transfer
    3. Newfoundland and Labrador Allocation ($M) - $10.143
  4. Municipalities and Transit
    1. Federal Investment ($M) - $2,000 (municipalities) + $2,300 (transit)
    2. Allocation Details
      • Municipalities - per capita cash transfer, cost shared at 50/50;
      • Transit - cash transfer as applicable, cost shared at 50/50;
      • Provincial and territorial operational investments flowed from April 1, 2020 are recognized
    3. Newfoundland and Labrador Allocation ($M)
      • $27.412 (cost-shared at 50/50)
      • $1 (federal 50% transit portion)
  5. PPE
    1. Federal Investment ($M) - $7,550
    2. Allocation Details
      • $3,000 per capita cash transfer;
      • $4,550 in federally-delivered support
    3. Newfoundland and Labrador Allocation ($M) - $41.118
  6. Child Care for Returning Workers
    1. Federal Investment ($M) - $625
    2. Allocation Details - Base ($2M/jurisdiction) plus per capita cash transfer
    3. Newfoundland and Labrador Allocation ($M) - $10.210
  7. Pan-Canadian Sick Leave
    1. Federal Investment ($M) - $1,100
    2. Allocation Details - Federal Delivery
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