The federal, provincial and territorial governments have reached a deal on billions of dollars in transfers to continue reopening economies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.
He said the federal government will contribute $19 billion under the “Safe Restart Agreement” to help provinces fund things like child care, contact tracing and personal protective equipment. There is also money to bail out municipal governments that saw soaring expenses and plunging revenues during the pandemic.
Trudeau had promised $14 billion in early June, but several premiers said they needed more money and also resisted some of the conditions the federal Liberals wanted to put on the deal.
Trudeau said the agreement outlines seven priority areas, with some flexibility for the provinces to apply the money to their particular needs over the next six to eight months.
“The provinces agreed to invest in the targeted sectors,” Trudeau said. “There are areas like support for vulnerable people where we will expect the provinces to declare publicly what they will do.”
At his side, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland added the agreement includes standards in certain areas, such as COVID-19 testing, in exchange for the federal money.
Trudeau said workers can’t work if their children don’t have safe care, and many can’t get to their jobs if they don’t have access to safe transit systems.
“Until we find a vaccine, the daily threat of COVID-19 will not disappear,” he said.
Municipal governments, which deliver many of those services, have been begging for aid for months, warning their finances are careening toward brick walls. Many city revenue streams dried up during the pandemic, as recreational centres and programs closed, and transit riders stopped using buses and trains.
Toronto has reported that it’s facing a $1.35-billion deficit this year. Montreal says it has a $500-million shortfall. Halifax expects to be short $85.4 million.
“If cities aren’t equipped for a safe restart, people will not be safe,” Trudeau said.
Mayor of Toronto thanks Prime Minister
Today, we heard very good news from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Government of Canada, joined in partnership with the provinces, including our own Province of Ontario.
We have been clear that Toronto alone is facing a $1.3 billion net shortfall even after we have found more than $500 million in savings and efficiencies, knowing we had a responsibility to address a significant portion of our own problem.
The Safe Restart Agreement announced today provides much needed federal and provincial emergency financial support to cities and, specifically, transit systems like the TTC. We have worked hard to secure this commitment working with both the federal and provincial governments.
I want to thank Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, Premier Doug Ford and Finance Minister Rod Phillips for the unflagging efforts they all made to get a deal done.
While we will await further details as well as the allocation of these funds, I know Premier Ford is mindful of the size and scale of the transit systems in Toronto and in the GTA and the tremendous damage that has been inflicted upon those transit systems by the pandemic.
I am confident those realities will cause the Premier and his government to ensure that Toronto’s challenges are fairly addressed when this allocation is done.