Coronavirus Updates Canada: Trudeau Announces Help For Energy Workers, But No Big Bailout for the Industry Yet

Canada is investing $1.7 billion to clean up orphan wells and millions of dollars for emission reduction efforts as COVID-19 continues to batter the country's already struggling energy sector.
April 17, 2020, 1:02pm
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with premiers about topping up salaries from some essential workers. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick (CP)

Updated at 12:30 p.m. (EDT): Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced new measures that he said will support Canada’s struggling energy sector workers who are at risk of losing their jobs.

The measures are also intended to help the environment, Trudeau said.

Canada is investing $1.7 billion to clean up orphan wells and inactive wells in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, Trudeau said on Friday. The prime minister also announced a $750-million emission reduction fund through pollution reduction efforts, with a focus on methane, and $75 million to help cut offshore emissions in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Trudeau said an estimated 10,000 energy sector jobs will be maintained thanks to the investments, 5,200 in Alberta alone.

“This public health crisis must not prevent us from taking action to fight the climate crisis,” he said.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney applauded the orphan well-related investment on Twitter.

“This is critical to getting thousands of people in the energy sector back to work immediately,” Kenney said.

Trudeau also introduced $500 million in support for the arts, culture, and sports sectors.

The money will go to Heritage Canada, so that artists, “rising stars of sporting association,” and related organizations can receive wage support or funding if they’re experiencing liquidity problems.

The government is also providing $962 million to regional development agencies and the Community Futures Network to support small businesses, many of which are based in rural communities. Another $270 million will support early stage developers and innovators who don’t qualify for the wage subsidy, Trudeau said.

According to City News, U.S. and Canada officials also have agreed to extend the border closure for another 30 days.

Parliament could sit Monday

Outgoing Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer wants a small group of MPs to sit in Canada’s Parliament for four days out of the week, despite ongoing government-mandated physical distancing measures geared towards fighting COVID-19.

The government has said previously it’s considering virtual alternatives to house meetings, but Scheer is eager to get back to real-life meetings.

He said MPs need to sit in the House, so they can hold Trudeau’s Liberals to account.

Parliament is set to sit on April 20, unless all four parties agree to continue the current pause.

Canada could be flattening curve

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Canada is starting to decrease from day to day, according to Health Canada, but several outbreaks are still causing concerns.

The total of COVID-19 cases is now doubling every 10 days or so, according to Canada’s top doctor, Dr. Theresa Tam. In March, cases were doubling every three days.

As of Thursday night, there were 30,670 cases of the virus and 1,250 deaths across the country. Outbreaks in long-term care facilities make up nearly half of all deaths.

A personal support worker who worked at a nursing home in Toronto’s east end died of COVID-19 on Thursday.

Altamont Care Community centre has recorded eight COVID-19-related deaths, including the worker, and 42 cases of the virus.

Outbreaks in long-term care facilities have resulted in a higher COVID-19 death rate than Canada had originally projected.

Trudeau told reporters on Friday that 125 members of the Canadian Armed Forces with healthcare training will be providing support for workers in long-term care facilities in Quebec.

Trudeau spoke with provincial and territorial premiers late Thursday to discuss topping up the salaries for support workers who make under $2,500 per month. More details are expected soon.

Outbreaks elsewhere

Three guards who work at a Brampton, Ontario jail have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting Peel Public Health to declare an outbreak.

Health authorities are now rushing to test inmates and, according to the Toronto Star, 12 symptomatic inmates are in quarantine.

In Alberta, there are now at least 12 cases of COVID-19 linked to the Kearl Lake oilsands facility, near Fort McMurray. Two cases are on site and another 10 workers who tested positive are offsite.

Canada and Wuhan to collaborate

Ottawa is funding a project to develop rapid and cheap COVID-19 screening tests that is collaborating with Wuhan Institute of Virology, a high-security, infectious disease facility located in COVID-19’s birthplace, the Globe and Mail reported.

The project, one of at least 100 research projects funded by Ottawa to fight COVID-19, will be spearheaded by a University of Alberta professor, Le Xiaochun, who will receive $828,000 to develop equipment that will allow for the tests.

Breakdown of cases

Tam has said two days in a row that evidence suggests a slow down in new COVID-19 cases in Canada. Even still, new cases—and deaths—are still being reported. As of Thursday night, Canada had 30,670 cases and 1,250 deaths.

Here’s a breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across the country:

British Columbia: 1,575

Alberta: 2,158

Saskatchewan: 305

Manitoba: 250

Ontario: 9,525

Quebec: 15,857

Newfoundland and Labrador: 252

New Brunswick: 117

Nova Scotia: 579

Prince Edward Island: 26

Yukon: 8

Northwest Territories: 5

Nunavut: 0

Late Thursday, the global total of confirmed COVID-19 neared 2 million, with more than 130,000 deaths.

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