Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland were at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa this morning to make a series of significant announcements ahead of the unveiling of the new Cabinet on October 26th.
The announcements centered on updates on the status of a Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, the roll-out of a federal COVID-19 vaccine passport and the expiry and replacement of pandemic subsidy programs (their extension or expiry has been a matter of rampant speculation among the business community for weeks).
The announcement marked Trudeau’s second public media appearance with reporters this week. The first followed a visit to the Tk'emlúps te Secwe̓pemc Nation in Kamloops on Monday to apologize for being absent on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th and dialogue with the community. Trudeau also spent Thursday speaking with leaders of all opposition parties on shared or contested priorities ahead of the November 22nd reconvening of the House of Commons.
Pfizer Vaccine Availability for 5 to 11 year olds
Trudeau led with an update that Pfizer and the Government of Canada have signed a new supply and delivery contract that will allow for the provision of 2.9 million doses of the company’s pediatric COVID vaccine for all children 5 to 11 shortly following formal approval by Health Canada. The Prime Minister offered no timeline for Health Canada approval, only that it will be fairly imminent. Pfizer’s will be the first COVID-19 vaccine in Canada available for those aged 5 to 11.
Pfizer submitted clinical trial data for its child-sized dose to Health Canada at the beginning of October and asked the organization for approval last week. Health Canada, in a written statement on the same day, said it would prioritize the review process but would only approve should all aspects of the submission and clinical trial date show that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the potential risks in this age group. Pfizer submitted the same vaccine information to the United States at the end of September and the White House announced its approval yesterday.
International Vaccine Passport Announced
In follow up to the October 6th announcement of mandatory vaccinations for domestic air and train travel and the promise of a follow-up, Trudeau announced that a National Standard for proof of vaccine certificates for use in International Travel has been agreed to by all provinces and territories. While stating that a few jurisdictions require slightly more time to adapt, the Governments of Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and all three Territories have adopted the national proof of vaccination as of today. Similar to the provinces, Canada is using the SMART Card verification system citing its widespread use in the United States and other jurisdictions.
The vaccine passport will show your name, date of birth, and COVID-19 vaccine history — including which doses you got, and when you got them as well as a QR code, but no additional information will be required.
Trudeau said the federal government is promising to promote this system internationally, so that border agencies, organizations, and businesses across the globe will be able to recognize and rely on these passports as Canadian documents because of the placement of a “Canada” wordmark in the upper-right-hand corner in addition to the “issuing authority” province in the left-hand corner. Measures are being taken to ensure the documents are tamper-proof.
The Government issued the following example to show the layout of what it would look like going forward.
The news of the national vaccine standard comes as the new requirements on air and train travel come into effect at the end of October. The Federal Government, as it announced during the election campaign, is providing $1.3 billion dollars in order to assist the provinces with the transition. According to federal officials who briefed reporters prior to the press conference, the government explored different models, including one federally issued document, but ultimately concluded that the “best way” and the way to “make it as easy as possible” was to use the existing provincial proof of vaccination systems. This is a pivot no doubt made necessary due to the delays caused by the September 20th Federal Election.
CEWS and Rent Subsidy Programs Ending
Deputy Prime Minister Freeland then unveiled that Canada has recovered 100% of the jobs lost since the beginning of the pandemic in comparison with the UnitedStates at 78% and is behind only Japan in the G7 on that measure.
In lieu of that news, existing business and income support programs are ending as of October 23rd. Sectoral specific programs will be maintained as necessary. For example, the Canada Recovery Hiring Program will continue for all employers until May 7th at a reduced rate of 50%.
The two new programs that will be taking over as of October 24th are as follows:
Tourism and Hospitality Program – Support will come through the wage subsidy and rent subsidy programs for hotels, restaurants and travel agencies still hard hit. The subsidy rate will be at 40% for those who have suffered a loss of revenue of 40% and will increase according to the function of loss of revenue up to 75%.
Hardest Hit Business Recovery Program – Available to employers who can show they have faced “deep and enduring losses” and will provide support through wage and rent programs. The program will start at 10% for those who have suffered a 50% revenue loss and going up to 50% for those who can demonstrate a 75% loss. The program will be in place from October 24th to May 7th. From March 13th to May 7th the support will decrease by half. Eligibility will be a 2-key system: the first will be significant revenue loss over 12 months of the pandemic and the other being significant revenue loss in the current month.
Freeland also noted that a specific set of protections for artists and musicians if forthcoming, although details were not released today.
The estimated total cost of these measures from October 24th to May 7th this $7.4 billion dollars in addition to the $289 Billion spent on supports to date since the beginning of the pandemic.
CRB Also Ending, to be Replaced by the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit
As of October 23rd, the Canada Response Benefit will also be phased-out and be replaced by a more targeted Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit which will go live on October 24th and will provide $300 a week to workers who are subject to a local jurisdictional lockdown.
“Temporary lockdowns are still a possibility in the months to come. We want Canadians to know that we intend now to put in place measures that would snap into action immediately,” Freeland said as part of the announcement.
The CRB, which replaced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, provided income support to individuals who were unemployed or self-employed for reasons related to COVID-19 or faced a 50 per reduction in their average weekly income compared to the previous year.
The new benefit, like the CRB, will apply to those who do not qualify for employment insurance benefits and will be administered by the Canada Revenue Agency.
The winding down of a number of the broad-based support programs signals the Liberals are feeling pressure from the business community and their opposition to the scale of these programs and that the current state of the pandemic does not require such broad-based, expensive programs. A further shift in policy may be telegraphed in the forthcoming Fall Economic Statement.
Here to help
The Sussex Federal Government Relations Team will be analyzing and monitoring the rollout of all newly announced programs stemming from today’s announcement as well as the synchronization of the outstanding provinces to the federal vaccine certificate standard. If you have any questions on the new programs, federal vaccine standard or Pfizer supply contract please reach out to your Sussex point of contact.
Chris Benedetti, Managing Partner
Devin McCarthy, Senior Vice President & Federal Practice Lead
Liam Daly, Senior Associate
Roberto Chavez, Associate
Brett James, Senior Counsel
Paul Pellegrini, Executive Chairman