While the government’s communications strategy of dispensing heaps of information every day (along with heaps of money, of course) has earned passing marks from observers, we can be forgiven for having the same feeling about our days at home. It’s getting to be a bit of a blur, isn’t it? Not even seven days ago, Parliament sat on an Easter-weekend Saturday to pass a $73 billion wage subsidy in one afternoon that had only been finalized by Good Friday.
With the big economic piece out of the way, the government seemingly reacted daily to respond with fix-its and expansions for people and businesses missed in the wage and personal subsidy programs. While it helps to have the monetary sluice gates fully open, the government has been remarkably nimble in responding to the frictions and gaps raising hackles. This has the result of almost daily additions or changes to the ever-expanding suite of new programs and cash-injections to key funding agencies to pick up the slack by sector.
Bluesky intelligence from the government this week confirms that core political and departmental teams are very much still in “response” mode, putting out fires and dealing with rapid-fire developments. With “recovery” mode not yet in all departments’ policy crosshairs, there is much more to come, probably around 11:15 am from Rideau Cottage.
Here is a summary of key government employment-related announcements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
·$1.7 billion to clean up orphan and inactive wells in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia.
·$750 million for the Emission Reduction Fund, which seeks to "create and maintain jobs through pollution reduction efforts." In that money, there is $75 million to help the offshore industry cut emissions in Newfoundland and Labrador.
·$962 million will be provided to "regional development agencies and the Community Futures Network." Funding will help businesses, especially smaller ones in rural areas, get the support they need.
·$270 million to Futurpreneur and Industrial Research Assistance Program to support innovators and "early-stage development firms that don't qualify for a wage subsidy."
·$500 million to Heritage Canada for workers in the arts, culture, and sports sectors.
UPDATE - Expanded the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) to businesses that paid between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019.
Set to introduce the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses. The program will seek to provide loans, including forgivable loans, to commercial property owners who in turn will lower or forgo the rent of small businesses for April (retroactive), May, and June. Implementation of the program will require a partnership between the federal government and provincial and territorial governments, which are responsible for property owner-tenant relationships. More details on this measure are expected soon.
CHANGES to the CERB eligibility rules to:
Allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB.
Extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their usual seasonal work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Extend the CERB to workers who recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.
$72.6 million transfer to the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut to support their COVID-19 health and social services preparations and response.
$17.3 million to the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut to support northern air carriers to ensure the continued supply of food, medical supplies, and other essential goods and services to remote and fly-in communities.
$15 million in non-repayable support for businesses in the territories to help address the impacts of COVID-19. This support will assist businesses with operating costs not already covered by other Government of Canada measures.
$25 million in additional funds to Nutrition North Canada
From the desk of Geoff Turner, Senior Consultant
Watch the Trudeau government start to bend all this activity, and this political and civic moment, towards actions and investments that are more explicitly linked to their political philosophy as attention shifts to “recovery”. We’re living in an interesting time, and big changes – good and bad – are more likely than ever before. The public and opinion leaders are certainly wondering what should and could be done, even beyond COVID-19, to address big social challenges that we’ve seen laid so bare this last month.
We shouldn’t forget that this Liberal government has some ambitious commitments and ideas about climate change and social equity. Today’s example is how an almost $2.5 billion injection into the oil and gas sector is exclusively aimed at the added effect of improving environmental outcomes. The minority Trudeau government appears less at-risk than ever. With the good graces of public support (so far), they may be willing to cut a harder line on how they will support certain things, as they cut big cheques.
Another big question gaining traction among observers and opinion leaders is reviving a perennial Canadian interest: Would a universal basic income (UBI) be a better way? Should the government, seeing the mounting costs, complexity and overlaps of social and economic support programs grow near-daily, make a very big pivot to a universal benefit?
If this trend of daily multipliers to the policy and money mix continues, UBI may be the big thing that cuts all the BS for people and government now, with enough die-hard supporters pushing long-term social improvement to get it over the top. The government proved they can change courses as problems escalate, and if progressive policy mixed with simplified administration starts to seem viable – this is one big idea that could catch on while governments and the public are getting used to tens of billions of dollars going every which way these days.
This week, the Bluesky team graced the pages of The Hill Times. VP Neil Brodie gives his insight into partisan politics post-pandemic & Senior Associate, the Hon. Joe Jordan penned an opinion piece on taking Parliament online. bit.ly/2yZN34F
Principal Susan Smith is quoted in The Lobby Monitor this week. Consultant’s keep busy with webinars and digital advocacy amid the COVID-19 pandemic https://bit.ly/2ym950X