May 5, 2020
While the pace of federal government announcements slowed down over the past week, there have been some new developments on the policy front recently. In summary:
- Today the federal government announced $252 million to support food security and the agriculture sector. This includes $77 million to help food processors purchase protective equipment and upgrade facilities to ensure physical distancing. $125 million is being provided to cattle and pork producers to cover the costs of caring for the backlog of animals that cannot be slaughtered in the usual timeframe. The government is committing $50 million to purchase surplus food from farmers, which will be distributed to food banks and similar organizations across Canada. The Prime Minister also hinted at additional investments to support the agricultural sector in the weeks ahead, and said the House of Commons will need to pass legislation on this before the funding can be made available.
- Yesterday, Canada reconfirmed its commitment of $850 million toward a multinational response to COVID-19 totalling $8 billion dollars. This will include funding for accelerated vaccine development, drug trials, genome sequencing, public information campaigns and other coordinated measures intended to stamp out COVID-19 internationally. Details can be found here.
- On Sunday, Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced a new COVID-19 Supply Council which is being tasked with advising the government on supply chain issues for sourcing and stockpiling personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other materials needed to maintain Canada’s capacity to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Reports suggest that initial shortages of PPE have been resolved for now, and Canada is focused on building stable supply chains in order to maintain a stockpile for all sectors of the economy in the medium to long term.
- Also on Sunday, Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains announced a $175.6 million investment in AbCellera Biologics, a BC based company that identifies antibodies in recovered COVID-19 patients that could be used for developing new drugs and diagnostic tests.
In other news, Statistics Canada’s April Labour Force Survey is scheduled to come out this Friday. It is expected to show a sharp rise in unemployment. It has been reported that 7.4 million Canadians have applied for the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB). There is an expectation that many of these people will return to their jobs in the coming weeks as physical distancing measures are relaxed. Emerging data suggests that the initial phase of work reductions and layoffs has disproportionately impacted women
, who bear the brunt of child care responsibilities and are more likely to work in impacted sectors like hotel and food services, retail, education and social services. This data-point may inform the shape of future government stimulus packages.
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