Premier Kenney announced a massive $53 million mental health package to support Albertans during COVID-19. The $53 million mental health and addictions boost is in addition to the $140 million announced in the UCP government’s first budget last year.
The new $53 million includes:
- $2.6 million to expand treatment addressing family violence and addictions.
- $4.2 million to expand support for mental health and addictions through Primary Care Networks.
- $21.4 million to improve access to phone and online supports.
- $25 million for a new community grant program focused on mental health and addiction recovery.
The $53 million announcement is more than mental health supports announced so far by all other provinces during COVID-19 combined. Mental health and addiction supports have long been a priority for Premier Kenney and the UCP, whose 2019 campaign platform detailed major investments in mental health.
Boosting Charitable Donations During COVID-19
The province is launching a charitable giving matching donation program to increase support to charities responding to COVID-19.
Starting April 15, the Alberta government will match, dollar-for dollar, donations up to $2 million to Alberta-based charities and non-profit organizations with COVID-19 fundraising campaigns. Organizations will be waiving any administration fees associated with campaign donations.
“Alberta’s charities and non-profits and the gift of those who donate is an integral part of what makes us Albertan. These incredible organizations are struggling to fill gaps created by the increased and changing demand for services created by the COVID-19 pandemic. By matching donations, we will amplify the generosity of Albertans and boost the capacity of community organizations working tirelessly to make sure vulnerable Albertans are cared for during the pandemic.” Leela Sharon Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
New Schools under Construction this Summer
The government is moving forward with tender packages for the design and construction of four K-9 and one K-4 school projects that will be located throughout the province.
Construction on the projects is expected to get underway in September 2020, with occupancy set for September 2022.
The five schools that will be built are:
- K-4 Public school in Calgary, Auburn Bay
- K-9 Catholic school in Cochrane
- K-9 Francophone school in Legal
- K-9 Catholic school in Edmonton, Windermere-Keswick
- K-9 public school in Edmonton, Windermere-Keswick
The province is investing $100 million in this project that will create approximately 560 well-paying construction jobs for Albertans.
Increased firefighting resources
Alberta Wildfire is hiring 200 additional firefighters, invoking a fire ban, implementing off-highway vehicle (OHV) restrictions, increasing fine violations and funding $20 million more in community FireSmart initiatives, all to prepare for the upcoming wildfire season during COVID-19. Alberta Parks is also instituting a fire ban in all provincial parks and protected areas.
An additional $5 million investment is being made to hire and train 200 high-quality firefighters to assist with the provincial wildfire suppression this season. More than 800 seasonal firefighters will join 370 year-round staff at Alberta Wildfire. These resources are hired at one of the 10 Forest Areas, and are moved throughout the Forest Protection Area as required.
Investment in the Environment
The Prime Minister acknowledged that the environment is still a very important priority for his government, saying, “Just because we are in a health crisis doesn’t mean we can neglect the environmental crisis.” He announced that the federal government will invest $1.7 billion to clean up orphan and abandoned wells in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. In addition, an Emission Reduction Fund of $750 million has been established to reduce methane-related emissions, with $75 million in repayable contributions being allocated to offshore oil and gas companies in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Between both initiatives, 10,000 jobs will be maintained across Canada, with 5,200 of those in Alberta.
Small Business Help
The Prime Minister announced $962 million will be put towards regional development agencies and Community Futures Network to help smaller businesses in rural parts of the country get the financial support they need. $270 million of this investment will be allocated to Futurprenuer Canada and the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program to support innovators and early-stage development firms that do not qualify for the wage subsidy.
Assistance for Arts, Culture and Sports
The government will be providing $500 million to Heritage Canada to support artists, creators and athletes. This will provide wage support as well as financing to organizations facing cashflow issues. Future details of this investment are expected soon.
The government has proposed to opposition parties that Parliament resume it sitting once a week virtually. All four parties in Parliament must agree to delay the official return of Parliament, otherwise all 338 MPs are technically slated to return on Monday morning.
Trudeau followed up on U.S. President Donald Trump’s remarks earlier this week, saying that Canada has had “extremely aligned and extremely productive” discussions on a number of issues with the US administration. Trudeau reiterated that his government doesn’t feel that the reopening of the border anytime soon is “likely, confirming that both countries have agreed to extend the current closure of the border to all non-essential travel for another 30 days.
On Thursday, President Trump launched the Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a three-phased approach to getting the American economy restarted.
New: Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program to help businesses and commercial property owners who are facing unique challenges, including small businesses who were unable to cover their rents for April, May and June. The assistance is being rolled out in collaboration with the provinces and territories.
Expanding eligibility for the Canada Emergency Business Account
The federal government is also now expanding the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Business Account. To help more Canadians benefit from the CERB, the government will be changing the 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.
Now, companies who paid between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019 will be eligible to receive a loan (before the range was $50,000 – $1 million). To date, the government has approved more than 195,000 loans and almost $7.5 billion in credit to help small- and medium-sized businesses in this difficult time.
Meeting with G7 leaders
The Prime Minister also met with the G7 leaders this morning and said that we all remain committed to do whatever it takes to help people rebound. Trudeau noted that Canada is working together with domestic and international counterparts to develop a vaccine and expand treatment, and will be extending a helping hand to more vulnerable countries hit hard by the crisis. “It’s a global crisis and demands a global response.”
Prime Minister Trudeau will be meeting with the provincial and territorial premiers to discuss salary top-ups for certain essential front-line health workers as well as how to provide better care for our elderly impacted by long-term care outbreaks. He also noted that more “help” — including financial assistance and medical supplies for the targeted groups — is on the way.
Trudeau was also asked if the government would be providing military support to the provinces. He noted that the Public Safety Minister received an official request for support from Quebec in long-term care centres. That support could include the military, volunteers and the Canadian Red Cross. Discussions and planning with Quebec are ongoing.