COVID relief funding announced

Natali Trivuncic
Staff Writer

The government of Canada has released its Supporting Canadians and Fighting COVID-19: Fall Economic Statement 2020.

The plan lists provisions laid out by the federal government to help Canada restart its economy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan is said to continue ‘protecting Canadians’ health, jobs and the economy’.

Released on Nov. 30, the statement lists initiatives for COVID-19 relief, such as Indigenous community support fund which would allocate 685 million in 2020-2021, including 304 million announced in August, to address immediate needs related to COVID-19 in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.

As well, the federal government is seeking to establish a new 1-billion-dollar Safe Long-Term Care Fund that will help provinces and territories protect seniors and the most vulnerable that are at risk of COVID-19.

The federal government is also doling out $2 billion under the Safe Return to Class Fund for provinces and territories to support a safe return to class and to protect students and staff.

Marcus Powlowski, Liberal MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River said the emphasis is getting as many people across the finish line as possible, adding that the finish line is the end of the pandemic.

“I think it’s in our economic long-term interests to not be cheap now because in the long run that will save us money,” Powlowski said.

Powlowski said many of the provisions in the statement are things that previously existed but are now being reinforced.

Although the statement from the Liberal government lists strides to aid Canadians during and after the pandemic is over, Conservative Kenora riding MP Eric Melillo, said his initial thought on the economic statement are that of disappointment.

“What we were looking for was a plan in this economic statement that would show how we can get our economy going and get people safely back to work,” Melillo said.

“Of course we know that has to include rapid testing, it has to include a plan to procure and distribute vaccines and we have yet to see that. But we’re going to keep pushing the government to see that because we know that’s the only way we’re going to be able to effectively manage the virus and hopefully move on and get our economy going again.”

Despite his disappointment, Melillo said he was happy to see that funding was still allocated to FedNor through the Regional Relief and Recovery Funding which was announced in back in April.

The funding is to help support businesses unable to access other federal pandemic support programs. The government increased funding on October 2.

“I think it’s really important that this government obviously priorities COVID response, gets our economy going and doesn’t continue to spend frivolously on other aspects of the budget so I think that’s incredibly important because we need stimulus spending, we need programs,” Melillo said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that up to 249,000 doses of the two-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be available in Canada this month.

Trudeau said the first shots should arrive next week if Health Canada gives the go ahead.

However, the economic statement did not identify a release date for rapid testing or a timeline of when the vaccine is expected but it did state that Canada is in agreements for up to 429 million doses from the seven leading vaccine candidates and when a ‘safe and effective vaccine is available; the federal government will make it available for free.’

In order to jump start Canada’s economy once the virus is under control, the federal government will invest in a growth plan of three to four per cent of GDP, between up to 70 and 100 billion, over three years.