Safe Restart Agreement Response Letter: Premier of Québec

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 are working together effectively to mitigate the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of these ongoing collaborative efforts, I am pleased to accept additional federal resources through the Safe Restart Agreement to address critical needs over the next six to eight months. These investments will help protect public health and safety, prepare for any potential new wave of the virus, and support the safe reopening of economies across Canada.

First Ministers recognize that the territories face unique challenges and circumstances, which will need to be addressed separately. First Ministers also recognize that smaller jurisdictions may require funding adjustments beyond the per capita allocations.

This letter sets out Québec's funding priorities under the Safe Restart Agreement reached between Canada and Québec and clarifies our understanding of the shared objectives and funding commitments made in the seven priority areas. This letter and the accompanying appendix represent the entire Safe Restart Agreement and its terms and conditions, as agreed to by our two governments.

Québec’s specific allocation and other distribution details for each priority area are set out and confirmed in the appendix included with this correspondence.

Testing, contact tracing and data management

This investment is intended 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.

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 and help both levels of government better coordinate their efforts to contain the virus. Provinces and territories will share relevant information and data.

Québec will gradually increase its testing capacity from 24,000 to 35,000 tests per day, which will require investments in human resources, equipment and infrastructure dedicated to the process. With respect to contact tracing, resources allocated to telephone surveys will be increased to ensure rapid follow-up and thus limit the spread of COVID-19.

Health care system capacity

COVID-19 has substantially increased pressure on health care systems across Canada and placed additional strain on mental health services. This investment is intended to support the health care services and mental health supports that Canadians rely on as each jurisdiction addresses the impact of COVID-19.

The Government of Canada will provide $700 million to support health care system capacity to respond to a potential future wave of COVID-19. An additional $500 million will address immediate needs and help fill gaps in the support and protection for people experiencing challenges related to mental health, substance abuse and homelessness. This investment will help keep Canadians safe and healthy and provide them with the health care they need.

As in recent months, Québec's health care system has put in place measures to adapt its institutions to the pandemic, which involved purchasing equipment and physically reorganizing certain sectors. This included creating hot and cold zones and installing negative pressure chambers. Given that non-emergency activities slowed down during the confinement period, the health care system must now make every effort to reduce backlogs in elective surgery, cancer screening and patient follow-up.

Québec also intends to bolster its mental health and addiction services to support clients with special needs in the wake of the pandemic. In particular, it plans to set up temporary services such as additional workers, sanitary equipment, indoor reception sites and food distribution. Community organizations working with these populations need support so they can maintain their services, despite the decline in their revenues due to reduced fundraising activities and increased expenses, for example, to adapt their services to meet infection prevention and control requirements.

Vulnerable populations

Canadians receiving long-term care, home care or palliative care are at greater risk of developing a severe form of COVID-19. As the economy restarts, it is important to ensure that safeguards and supports for seniors are maintained and that social and health supports are provided 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. These funds could be used to address staffing challenges in long-term care facilities, for home care services and for palliative care facilities and services, for example. These funds could also be used to assist other vulnerable populations.

These investments will shore up Québec's plan to recruit and train patient attendants in Centres d'hébergement et de soins de longue durée [residential and long-term care centres]. Québec aims to hire 10,000 new patient attendants under this initiative. Québec also plans to expedite the introduction of Maisons des aînés [seniors’ homes], whose design will better contain outbreaks of infection. To keep seniors in their homes as long as their condition allows, there are plans to increase and intensify home support services by, for example, adding funding to social economy enterprises in home support. There are also plans to increase certain services offered by partners, such as community paramedic services.

Municipalities and public transit

Municipalities are on the front lines of a safe restart of the economy. They must continue to adopt appropriate precautions to minimize the spread of COVID‑19 and manage public spaces and critical services, such as public transit.

The Government of Canada will contribute up to $2 billion to support municipalities with COVID-19 operating costs over 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 provide over $2.3 billion to support any additional contributions by participating provinces and territories for public transit operating costs.

Funds for municipal and transit investments will be cost shared on a 50:50 basis. Contributions for municipal supports will recognize operational investments made by provinces and territories since April 1, 2020.

Municipalities are responsible for providing citizens with certain priority services such as public transit and public safety.

However, due to the health crisis, public transit services have seen a drastic drop in ridership and additional spending. In the coming months, transit organizations will need additional financial support to ensure this essential public service is maintained. This additional financial support will complement the assistance already announced in this regard.

To provide financial support to its municipal partners, the Québec government has also allowed the deferral of the amount payable for Sûreté du Québec services, in order to offer municipalities greater flexibility in their financial management, allowing for a significant injection of cash.

The Québec government will continue to work closely with its municipal partners in the coming months.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care and other workers

COVID-19 has added significant pressure to the procurement and supply of PPE for both essential health care and non-health care workers. Both levels of government have made significant investments in this area and have 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, $500 million to support the purchase of PPE for non-health sectors, and $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.

The Government of Québec approved the Safe Restart Agreement after obtaining assurances that it will be able to maintain its supply chains and that the Government of Canada will work with it to ensure that its needs, supply chains and costs are taken into consideration.

To date, the Government of Québec has already committed nearly $2.7 billion for the purchase of PPE in 2020-2021, including more than $2.1 billion for orders to meet future needs through its own supply channels and supply chain. The Québec government cannot cancel these commitments without jeopardizing its supply chain, particularly because of the sources of supply it has already mobilized (reinforcement of the province's industrial production capacity, international purchases, and regular suppliers to the common supply centres for Québec’s health and social services network).

In order to ensure that the Government of Québec's supply chain will be maintained and preserved and that its needs and costs will be taken into account, as agreed, as we move forward, financial compensation reflecting a portion of the particularly significant costs it has already incurred for future PPE needs will be the subject of a specific arrangement to be dealt with separately.

Child care for parents returning to work

The Government of Canada is working with the provinces and territories to ensure there are enough child-care spaces for parents who are gradually returning to work.

The Government of Canada will provide $625 million to help this sector adapt to the COVID-19 environment and to address the reduced availability of child-care spaces and the unique needs stemming from the pandemic.

The Government of Québec has put in place measures to ensure continuity in priority sectors of activity and to promote the retention of low-income workers working in these sectors, in particular to support child-care services to ensure that the supply of child-care spaces is maintained and to provide free child-care for 9,500 children of essential workers. This assistance is aimed at all facilities in Québec, i.e. early childhood centres, subsidized daycare centres, persons responsible for a family daycare service with subsidized spaces, family daycare coordinating offices and non-subsidized daycare centres. This assistance will help to control the occupancy rates of these facilities in order to prevent the spread of the virus while respecting health safety measures, including the redevelopment of the premises concerned and the acquisition of PPE. Assistance for day camps is also being offered.

Pan-Canadian sick leave

To safely restart the economy, Canada must ensure that workers do not return to work if they have contracted COVID-19 or are showing symptoms.

In this regard, Québec has issued instructions requiring people with symptoms of COVID‑19 to stay home. Those who test positive must remain in isolation for a period of 14 days. Québec will put in place the necessary measures to encourage citizens to comply with these directives.

To encourage workers to stay home and seek public health advice if they experience symptoms, the Government of Canada will fund and implement a new temporary income support program. The estimated $1.1 billion program will be available to workers who do not already have access to other paid sick leave. The federal government will be responsible for all current and future costs of this program.

Québec will ensure that the conditions are in place to allow Québec employees to benefit from this sick leave program while safeguarding their employment.

First Ministers believe this funding must be made available quickly in order to protect the health and safety of our citizens and to truly help restart the economy. To this end, the funding for all priorities will be transferred to Québec through a single direct transfer. This single transfer is in addition to a September federal transfer for the second tranche of testing funding, and will be separate from the Pan-Canadian Sick Leave program and the federal in-kind spending for testing, contact tracing, data management and PPE.

Each government will continue to be publicly accountable to the citizens it serves for the measures it has taken, in the spirit of transparency and accountability.

Quebecers and Canadians have been well served by the hard work and considerable collaborative efforts demonstrated by First Ministers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. All First Ministers reaffirm their commitment to this approach as 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,

François Legault
Premier of Québec

Appendix Québec – Canada-Québec Safe Restart Agreement Investment Details

  1. Testing, contact tracing and data management
    1. Federal investment ($M) - $4,282
    2. Allocation details ($M)
      • Per capita allocation;
      • $3,000 cash transfer in two instalments;
      • $1,282 in transfers and federal support
    3. Québec allocation ($M) - $675.702
  2. Health Care System Capacity
    1. Federal investment ($M) - $1,200
    2. Allocation details - Per capita cash transfer
    3. Québec allocation ($M) - $270.281
  3. Vulnerable populations
    1. Federal investment ($M) - $740
    2. Allocation details - Per capita cash transfer
    3. Québec allocation ($M) - $166.673
  4. Municipalities and transit
    1. Federal investment ($M) - $2,000 (municipalities) + $2,300 (transit)
    2. Allocation details ($M)
      • Municipalities - per capita cash transfer, cost shared at 50/50 ($450.468)
      • Transit - cash transfer as applicable, cost shared at 50/50 ($700)
      • Provincial and territorial operational investment flowed from April 1, 2020, are recognized
    3. Québec allocation ($M) - $1,150.468
  5. PPE
    1. Federal investment ($M) - $7,500
    2. Allocation details ($M)
      • $3,000 per capita cash transfer;
      • $4,550 in federally delivered support
    3. Québec allocation ($M) - $675.702
  6. Child Care for Returning Workers
    1. Federal investment ($M) - $625
    2. Allocation details -Base ($2M/jurisdiction), plus per capita cash transfer
    3. Québec allocation ($M) - $136.915
  7. Pan-Canadian Sick Leave
    1. Federal investment ($M) - $1,100
    2. Allocation details - Federal delivery

Total for Québec = $3,075.740M

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