Building Pipelines: Advancing Keystone XL and Canadian Industrial Capacity

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced an investment to accelerate the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The province’s investment includes $1.5 billion in equity in 2020 and a $6 billion loan guarantee in 2021, enabling immediate construction on the Alberta portion of the pipeline. The project is expected to be completed and in service by 2023, while creating 1,400 direct and 5,400 indirect construction jobs while generating $30 billion in tax and royalty revenues.

The move comes as the oil and gas sector is awaiting promised federal action to address the unique challenges of the sector as part of the federal Economic Response Plan. Today’s announcement precludes any additional federal action to support the sector.

The COVID-19 crisis, coupled with record low oil prices (Western Canadian Select has been trading between $3.50 and $6 a barrel in recent days) and the need to spur some sort of recovery in Alberta’s economy, which has been hammered over the last six years with low energy prices and high unemployment, has forced the Kenney government’s hand to try to create thousands of construction jobs in the short term.

Federal Updates: A focus on building manufacturing capacity

Businesses, non-profits and charities across Canada will be waiting one more day for further details on the 75% wage subsidy program, including its application process. Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Small Business Minister Mary Ng will present the details on Wednesday.

Today’s federal announcement focused on efforts to enhance supply and added domestic capacity for production of personal protective equipment (PPE) for Canada’s health care sector.

$2 billion is being invested to support diagnostic testing and to purchase ventilators and PPE, including bulk purchases with the provinces and territories. Since launching Canada’s Plan to Mobilize Industry to fight COVID-19, over 3,200 companies have reached out to support the government’s efforts. Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand highlighted her department’s progress in securing PPE, which it is bulk purchasing in coordination with the provinces and territories, including:

  • Securing more than 157 million surgical masks and a signed contract with Medicom to produce masks in Canada, ordering more than 60 million N95 masks, with deliveries beginning this week
  • A signed contract with Spartan Bioscience to produce COVID-19 test kits;
  • 1,570 ventilators have been ordered, including 500 from Thornhill Medical, and work is ongoing to secure an additional 4,000 ventilators;
  • Letters of intent have been signed with another five companies – Precision Biomonitoring, Fluid Energy Group Ltd., Irving Oil, Calko Group, and Stanfield’s – to produce additional test kits, hand sanitizer, and protective apparel including masks and gowns; and
  • $50 million made available through the Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster to develop and scale new technologies, equipment and medical products.

A number of Canadian companies were recognized for their work in donating medical supplies and PPE, as well as efforts to retool to produce necessary supplies.

However, concerns continue at provincial levels on the supply and quantities of PPE available. The speed with which supplies can be distributed, along with measures to ensure that supplies remain available throughout the pandemic response will impact front-line supply levels, and discussions are ongoing between federal and provincial governments on supplies.

Ontario Update: Extending school closures

Schools remain closed until May 4

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce confirmed that public schools and childcare centres will remain closed to students until May 4, 2020 at the earliest. The decision will be re-evaluated based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer closer to the date.

Private schools, licensed childcare centres, and EarlyON programs will remain closed until April 13 in line with the extended emergency declaration, which only allows closures to be extended for a 14-day period. Select childcare centres will remain open to support frontline staff responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. The legislature will return April 14th at 1:00pm, and the government will have to pass legislation for further extension of the state of emergency.

To support students learning from home, the government announced Phase 2 of their Learn at Home plan, which includes developing a program of training for educators to support virtual learning delivery and grade-by-grade guidelines for students and parents. Final report cards will be required for all students. Minister Lecce also acknowledge the toll COVID-19 has had on the mental health and well-being of students, with more details expected to be announced in the coming days.

Additional post-secondary supports announced 

At the post-secondary level, Colleges and Universities Minister Ross Romano announced $25 million in one-time funding to public colleges, universities and Indigenous institutes to support their response to COVID-19, such as deep cleaning of facilities, the purchase of medical supplies, and mental health supports.

Minister Romano also announced an agreement with eCampusOntario to support the provision and maintain the integrity of year-end assessments.

Closure of all outdoor recreational amenities 

In addition to the extension of the declaration of emergency, the province has issued a new emergency order, effective immediately, to close all outdoor recreational amenities, such as sports fields and playgrounds. Subsequently, the City of Toronto cancelled all city-led public events through June 30, including the Pride Parade.