The federal government will provide $19 billion to the provinces and territories to help fund a “safe restart” of the Canadian economy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today. Its expected most of the money will go to municipalities who are facing large COVID-related deficits. Hamilton is facing a $60 Million deficit and Toronto’s shortfall will reach $1.2 Billion.
“COVID-19 isn’t just a health crisis. It’s an economic crisis, too,” Trudeau said at a press conference on Parliament Hill. “When we talk about the recovery phase, it’s not just about making sure we can detect, control and prevent future outbreaks. It’s also about helping people, businesses and entire communities adjust to our new normal.”
In addition to funding for municipalities, Trudeau said the money will focus on seven priority areas, including enhanced COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line workers and businesses, , a national sick leave plan and child care so that parents can get back to work.
Some of the money will go toward improving the state of long-term care, and to fund mental health services and tackle homelessness.
The deal comes after weeks of at-times testy negotiations between the Liberal government and the provinces and territories. In those negotiations, which were led by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, the federal government wanted specific amounts earmarked for certain priorities, while the provinces wanted fewer strings attached to the funding.
Trudeau said the provinces agreed to conditions that will prevent them from taking money designated for one priority area and spending it on another.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said today that his province will get around $7 billion of the total, while Premier John Horgan said that British Columbia will get nearly $2 billion. What is not clear is how much of Ontario’s share will go to cover municipal deficits after the priority needs set out by Ottawa are met.