June 1st Update from the Federal and Provincial Governments

June 1, 2020

Originally posted via ibewcco.org.

Message from Executive Secretary Treasurer, James Barry:

Below is the most recent updates on the federal and provincial governments’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal:    

  • The Federal Government will accelerate Gas Tax payments to Canada’s Cities and Municipalities and deliver all $2.2 Billion of the money right away, instead of providing half of it now and the rest in a second payment later this fall. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement today at his daily briefing on the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The payments were started in 2004 by the Paul Martin Liberal government and made permanent by the Stephen Harper Conservative government in 2011. Because cities and municipalities are actually creatures of the provinces, the Federal money is distributed on a per capital basis to the Provinces and then passed through to the municipalities and cities. This money can only be used for infrastructure projects, not for municipal operating costs.
  • However, cities say they are desperately facing a cash crunch to meet their operating costs, and when asked about this, Trudeau said Ottawa plans further infusions of cash to cities and municipalities once negations with the provinces are complete.

“We will have strong support for cities. … We keep working on this, there is more to come.”

  • The Federal Government is working with the Provinces to standardize data collection on the impact and lasting effects of COVID-19. He said the curve of cases is flattening but common data is necessary to keep track of what is happening.
  • Trudeau was also asked if he agreed with U.S. President Donald Trump that when the delayed G-7 conference is finally held additional countries including Russia should be included. Russia joined the group to make it the G-8 in Halifax in 1995, and was kicked out of in 2014 after occupying Crimea in the Ukraine, returning the organization to just seven members. Trudeau said it should stay that way:

“Russia has flaunted international standards and norms and that is not acceptable.”

  • Other topics covered in the briefing:   Trudeau said the violent events in the United States in reaction to the most recent killing of a black man by white  police officers should make Canadians realize that racism is also prevalent in our country. He said we “must work together to take meaningful action to fight racism.”

Provincial:

  • Today, the Ontario government announced that it will continue to support provincial electricity consumers by providing stability and greater customer choice, while helping those struggling to pay their energy bills as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Initiatives include:
    • $9 million for the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) to support consumers struggling to pay their energy bills during the pandemic. CEAP will provide one-time payments to consumers to help pay down any electricity bill debt incurred over the COVID‑19 period. Applications will be available through local utilities in the upcoming months;
    • $8 million for the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program for Small Business (CEAP-SB) to provide support to businesses struggling with bill payments as a result of the outbreak; and
    • An extension of the Ontario Energy Board’s winter disconnection ban until July 31, 2020 to ensure no one is disconnected from their natural gas or electricity service during these uncertain times
  • In addition, the government recently announced that it will continue the suspension of time-of-use (TOU) electricity rates and, starting on June 1, 2020, customers will be billed based on a new fixed COVID-19 Recovery Rate of 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour.
  • The COVID-19 Recovery Rate will be in place until October 31, 2020, followed by a new customer choice initiative. Starting November 1, 2020, customers will be able to choose a plan that best suits their household and lifestyle with the option of either TOU electricity rates or tiered pricing, which will provide a set rate for electricity up to a certain level of consumption
  • When the Premier was questioned about the issues continually surrounding Long Term Care, he said he welcomes the Auditor General, Ombudsman and Police to work together to investigate and find solutions.
  • In respect to the Pandemic Pay being issued to front line workers, the government was asked why not all persons working on front line are receiving the pay.  Minister Elliott confirmed that the government worked to ensure that all front line workers would be receiving the pay and that the government would look further into sectors on the front line and how pandemic pay may be applicable.
  • Today, the government further announced that it has enacted a new regulatory amendment that will put non-unionized employees on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave during the COVID-19 outbreak any time their hours of work are temporarily reduced by their employer due to COVID-19. This will ensure businesses aren’t forced to terminate employees after their ESA temporary layoff periods have expired.
  • When asked why the Premier is seeking to extend the Emergency Order to June 30, 2020, he said that it relates to the situation that the Province is facing.  He is hopeful that the numbers will move in the right direction and reiterated again that protecting the people of the province is of utmost importance.

James Barry
Executive Secretary Treasurer
IBEW Construction Council of Ontario