By Chad Ingram
The federal and provincial governments arespringing into action to help Canadians and Ontarians navigate their waythrough the COVID-19 crisis.
At the federal level earlier this weekPrime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an aid package for families andbusiness that will be worth up to $82 billion including $27 billion in directfunding.
“The announcement that was made by thePrime Minister will probably be the first in a series of economic announcementsto help individuals and businesses get through this crisis”Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmale told the paper.
Among those measures is an emergencysupport benefit which will support workers including self-employed Canadianswho are not eligible for EI if they are facing unemployment. An emergency carebenefit will provide up to $900 biweekly for workers taking care of a sickfamily member or who have to stay home to look after children. An EI sicknessbenefit waives the one-week waiting period for individuals in quarantine aswell as the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sicknessbenefits. The Canada Child Benefit payments amounts will be increased by $300per child per year beginning in May. The income tax deadline has been extendedto June 1 and the deadline for anyone who owes money to the government hasalso been extended. An additional GST payment and the possibility of mortgagepayment deferrals of up to six months were also part of the announcement.
The House of Commons will convene next weekfor a streamlined sitting with skeleton staff where it's expected the measureswill be passed with unanimous consent.
“You can do anything you want with unanimousconsent” Schmale said explaining it will allow the usual parliamentaryprocedure to be suspended and for the bills to be passed quickly so thegovernment can start getting money to Canadians. “It's a very collegialapproach. Partisanship is out the door right now.”
Schmale said he'd like to see enhancedmeasures other than just loans for businesses that have seen their incomeshrivel up virtually overnight.
“There have been businesses that have seentheir revenues drop to almost zero in a number of days” he said.
He encouraged county residents to check onvulnerable neighbours.
“The county has a great sense of communitySchmale said. “We are seeing neighbours and friends start to check on eachother.”
The MP also urged residents to stay calmstressing Canada's supply chains remain intact and that there will be food onthe shelves.
“There's no need to panic shop there's noneed to hoard” Schmale said also encouraging residents to undertake practicesof self-isolation avoiding non-essential travel and social distancing.
“If we all keep calm and do our responsibleactions we will get through this.”
At the provincial level on March 19 MPPssat for an emergency session in Queen's Park passing two pieces of legislation– The Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies) andThe Municipal Emergency Act 2020. The former provides job-protected leave forany Ontarians in self-isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19 as well as thosewho need to be away from work to care for children who are out of daycare orcare for relatives who are sick. “These measures are retroactive to Jan. 252020 the date the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ontario”reads a press release from the province. “The legislation will also make itclear employees cannot be required to show sick notes.”
The Municipal Emergency Act 2020 ensuresthe delivery of goods can happen at any time of day irrespective of municipalnoise bylaws. It also allows municipal councils to hold virtual meetings inemergency circumstances.
“The legislation also gives municipalitiesthe ability to fully conduct council local board and committee meetingselectronically when faced with local and province-wide emergencies empoweringthe government's municipal partners to respond quickly when in-person meetingscannot be held” the release reads.
The two pieces of legislation were passedwith unanimous consent by just 26 MPPs with the number of MPPs keptintentionally small in order to practise social distancing.
“Like you I believe that mothers fathersdaughters and sons should be able to care for their loved ones with confidencetheir job is secure during the COVID-19 outbreak” Haliburton-KawarthaLakes-Brock MPP and Ontario Infrastructure Minister Laurie Scott wrote in ablog post. “We should also have faith that our grocery stores will be fullystocked eliminating the panic buying and hoarding of goods in our community.”
“It is important that we continue to lookafter one another in this time of emergency” Scott wrote. “No one should losetheir job while putting their health and well-being first and no one should gohungry or without resources during this unprecedented outbreak.”