Backgrounder: Government of Canada investing an additional $150 million in better ventilation for schools, hospitals, and other public buildings


To address the challenges faced by communities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada is investing an additional $150 million to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission by funding projects to assess, monitor, and improve indoor air quality and ventilation, including upgrades or conversions of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, as well as community-based solutions in First Nations.

Of the $150 million, the Government of Canada will add $120 million to the $33.5 billion Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) bilateral agreements to support ventilation improvement projects in public buildings. The new funding supports existing efforts to address the current health crisis and support economic stability and recovery efforts.

This funding will be delivered through a new category of investments under the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. It will allow provincial, territorial, municipal and regional governments and Indigenous communities to fund projects whose primary purpose is to increase outdoor air intake and/or increase air cleaning in order to help reduce the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Through the COVID-19 Resilience stream, over $3 billion is available to provide provinces and territories with added flexibility to fund quick-start, short term projects. Projects could include repair or replacement of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units, increasing maintenance of existing systems to ensure optimized operation, or other interventions that bring in more outdoor air, or result in cleaner air, such as the installation of operable windows, or portable air filtration units. Eligible projects will improve ventilation in public infrastructure assets that:

  • Serve populations with conditions that are at increased risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19 (e.g. long term care homes);
  • With high occupancies (e.g. schools, congregate living housing);
  • Where activities take place that are at higher risk of infectious aerosol particle generation (e.g. recreation or sports centers);
  • Remain open through lockdown, or are the last to close when restrictions are increased, in order to continue to provide services (e.g. Libraries, buildings used as emergency shelters);
  • Have been identified by public health authorities as higher risk for outbreaks based on local conditions.

Projects funded under the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream cannot exceed $10 million in total eligible expenditures. All ventilation projects funded under the new ventilation category must be completed by March 31, 2023.

Additional flexibilities for provinces and territories

Cost sharing for projects in the new ventilation improvement category of funding will mirror other categories of the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream: provinces and municipalities in provinces can receive up to 80% in federal contribution, while territories, municipalities in territories and all Indigenous recipients can receive up to 100% federal contribution.

Given the urgency of the public health crisis, and the critical need for additional protective measures to control the spread of COVID-19, for the first year of the program, costs for approved projects will be retroactively eligible to December 1, 2020, for the $120 million portion of the fund being delivered through the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream, which would help to expand aid offered to recipients in this crisis situation and allow recipients to initiate new projects on a risk-managed basis until funding agreements can be signed.

Ventilation improvement projects will also benefit from the streamlined application and faster approvals under the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream.

To accommodate these changes, the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream will also be extended, so as to allow construction start and end dates to be prolonged for a period of two years. Other time-limited elements in the original ICIP streams have also been extended by two years.

Ventilation Improvements in Indigenous Communities

Another $30 million will be allocated to Indigenous recipients and delivered through a distinctions-based approach that recognizes First Nations, the Métis Nation, and Inuit, as distinct, rights-bearing communities with their own histories.

$22.5 million will be administered by Indigenous Services Canada to deliver funding to First Nations recipients through the Capital Facilities and Maintenance Program, First Nations Infrastructure Fund, and the Health Infrastructure Support Authority. Funding will be distributed throughout the provinces and projects will be selected through a variety of mechanisms depending on the type of infrastructure.

$7.5 million will be administered by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to deliver funding to Inuit and Métis recipients. $3.75 million will be allocated to the Governing Members of the Métis Nation through the Federal Interlocutor’s Contribution Program through an allocation formula. The remaining $3.75 million will be allocated to the Inuit, using an existing funding formula developed by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

This ventilation funding builds on federal government investments in the COVID-19 response for Indigenous communities, including the distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund announced in March 2020 to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.

This funding provides Indigenous leadership with the ability to implement community-based solutions to respond to the spread of COVID-19 within their communities in some public buildings.

This funding will complement funding that Indigenous communities can access through the ICIP portion of the Ventilation Improvement Fund.

For more information

For more information about the role of ventilation improvements in reducing the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19, please consult the Public Health Agency of Canada’s COVID-19: Guidance on indoor ventilation during the pandemic.

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