Questions on COVID-19

Here are the outstanding questions that I am getting from people Kootenay-Columbia and that I believe must be addressed immediately.

1.) Implementation of Emergency Assistance

We have heard hundreds of complaints that the existing government program channels chosen to deliver aid are overwhelmed. Websites have been crashing and callers trying to reach the government are not able to get through. We don’t have details on how to apply for some of these programs, and are hearing that relief won’t arrive until May. This will be exacerbated as claims continue to increase – recent reports indicate that Canada received over 900,000 EI applications in one week.

Emergency Care Benefit

-The government is proposing that the Emergency Care Benefit will provide up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks. This flat-payment Benefit would provide income support to:

-Workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.

-Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.

-Parents with children who require care or supervision due to school closures, and are unable to earn employment income, irrespective of whether they qualify for EI or not.

-Application for the Benefit will be available in April 2020, and require Canadians to attest that they meet the eligibility requirements. They will need to re-attest every two weeks to reconfirm their eligibility. Canadians will select one of three channels to apply for the Benefit:

1. by accessing it on their CRA My Account secure portal;

2. by accessing it from their secure My Service Canada Account; or

3. by calling a toll-free number equipped with an automated application process.

● People need money now. When an individual applies for the Emergency Care Benefit, when can they expect to see a cheque?

● Is the government setting up service delivery standards for the Emergency Care Benefit? If so, what are they?

● Are there currently enough public servants working to implement these measures, process applications, handle increased call and email volume, and update digital information resources?

● We are hearing that the Emergency Care Benefit program will not send out payments until May. Why does the government think that delaying support until May will help Canadians that have bills to pay now and are losing their jobs now?

● What plans are in place to mitigate work from home necessities for the Public Service as it relates to the implementation of these measures, should that be necessary?

● How will the government maintain service time standards for call centres if employees are required to work from home?

Emergency Support Benefit

-The government claims the Emergency Support Benefit will provide up to $5.0 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.

-Eligibility: Workers not eligible for EI and facing unemployment

-Application Process: Unknown

● People need money now. When an individual applies for the Emergency Support Benefit, when can they expect to see a cheque?

● Is the government setting up service delivery standards for the Emergency Support Benefit? If so, what are they?

● Are there currently enough public servants working to implement these measures, process applications, handle increased call and email volume, and update digital information resources?

● We are hearing that the Emergency Support Benefit program will not send out payments until May. Why does the government think that delaying support until May will help Canadians who have bills to pay now and are losing their jobs now?

● What plans are in place to mitigate work from home necessities for the Public Service as it relates to the implementation of these measures, should that be necessary? How will the government maintain service time standards for call centres if employees are forced to work from home?

Goods and Services Tax Credit

-The Government is proposing to provide a one-time special payment by early May 2020 through the GSTC. The government claims it will double the maximum annual GSTC payment amounts for the 2019-20 benefit year.

-The government claims the average boost to income for those benefiting from this measure will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. The government claims this measure will inject $5.5 billion into the economy.

● People need money now. When an individual applies for the Goods and Services Tax Credit, when can they expect to see a cheque?

● Is the government setting up service delivery standards for the Goods and Services Tax Credit? If so, what are they?

● How many FTEs are needed to implement these measures, process applications, handle increased call and email volume, and update digital information resources, and how many FTEs does the department have?

● What plans are in place to mitigate work from home necessities for the Public Service as it relates to the implementation of these measures, should that be necessary? How will the government maintain service time standards for call centres if employees are forced to work from home?

● We are hearing that the Goods and Services Tax Credit program will not send out payments until May. Why does the government think that delaying support until May will help Canadians that have bills to pay now and are losing their jobs now?

● If Canadians do not file taxes until June 1, will they receive GSTC payments or top ups before they file?

● Do Canadians need to apply for the GSTC top up or is it automatic? If they must apply, how do they do so and by when?

Canada Child Benefit

-The Government is proposing to increase the maximum annual CCB payment amounts, only for the 2019-20 benefit year, by $300 per child.

-The overall increase for families receiving CCB will be approximately $550 on average; these families will receive an extra $300 per child as part of their May payment. In total, this measure will deliver almost $2 billion in extra support.

● People need money now. When an individual applies for the Canada Child Benefit, when can they expect to see a cheque?

● Is the government setting up service delivery standards for the Canada Child Benefit? If so, what are they?

● Are there currently enough public servants working to implement these measures, process applications, handle increased call and email volume, and update digital information resources?

● What plans are in place to mitigate work from home necessities for the Public Service as it relates to the implementation of these measures, should that be necessary? How will the government maintain service time standards for call centres if employees are forced to work from home?

● We are hearing that the Canada Child Benefit program will not send out payments until May. Why does the government think that delaying support until May will help Canadians that have bills to pay now and are losing their jobs now?

● If Canadians do not file taxes until June 1, will they receive CCB payments or top ups before they file?

● Do Canadians need to apply for the increased CCB or is it automatic? If they must apply, how do they do so and by when?

Business Credit Availability Program

-On March 13, 2020, the Government announced the establishment of a Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) to help Canadian businesses obtain financing during the current period of significant uncertainty. The BCAP will support access to financing for Canadian businesses in all sectors and regions.

-Through this program, Export Development Canada (EDC) and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) will provide more than $10 billion in direct lending and other types of financial support at market rates to businesses with viable business models whose access to financing would otherwise be restricted. By working in close cooperation with financial institutions, this program will fill gaps in market access and leverage additional lending by private sector institutions

-Businesses seeking support through BCAP should contact the financial institutions with whom they have a pre-existing relationship, so that the financial institutions may assess the client’s financial request. If the needs of the client exceed the level of support the financial institution is able to provide, the financial institution will work alongside BDC or EDC to access additional resources the Government has made available under BCAP.

-We have heard from stakeholders that there are some concerns regarding businesses and profitability, before they are extended this credit.

-The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has asked the government to[i]:

-Implement a 75 to 90 per cent wage subsidy program

-Allow immediate access to EI with employer top-ups

-Simplify and provide access to EI work-sharing program to all employers

-Fund direct income support for workers and the self-employed.

-Expand tax deferral to sales taxes and source deductions (CPP, EI,etc.)

-Delay planned tax hikes

● People need money now. When an individual applies for the Business Credit Availability Program, when can they expect to see a cheque?

● Is the government setting up service delivery standards for the Business Credit Availability Program? If so, what are they?

● Are there currently enough public servants working to implement these measures, process applications, handle increased call and email volume, and update digital information resources?

● What plans are in place to mitigate work from home necessities for the Public Service as it relates to the implementation of these measures, should that be necessary? How will the government maintain service time standards for call centres if employees are forced to work from home?

● We are hearing that the Business Credit Availability Program will not send out payments until May. Why does the government think that delaying support until May will help Canadians that have bills to pay now and are losing their jobs now?

● According to the BDC’s “Declarations as to eligibility” on their website for Small Business Loans of $100K, “Entities that operate bars, lounges or similar establishments” are ineligible? Why is the government not extending relief to bars? Does this exclusion also apply to vineyards, vintners, breweries and distilleries?

2.) Direct Payments to Canadians vs. use of existing programs to distribute funds

Given the projected time lag to distribute funds via existing channels, and the complexities of having people apply for the same, we have heard from many who are wondering why the government didn’t choose to simply distribute relief funds directly to individuals below a certain income threshold.

● Why did the government choose to implement a series of government programs such as EI, the Emergency Support Benefit and the Emergency Care Benefit, as opposed to direct depositing short term, direct payments to every individual under a certain income threshold?

● I believe it is important to understand why the government did not introduce a broad measure, like some policy experts in Canada and the United States have suggested. Some policy experts are proposing a $1000 (or other fixed amount) monthly payment to all Canadians for a fixed period of time, followed by an income-based tax in 2021 to collect the money back. Analysts have also suggested a broad policy like this would be simpler to implement and communicate and would have a wide-reaching impact on Canadians and the economy. Why did your government opt to utilize existing programs that do not cover all Canadians, some of which will be application based, complicated, and will require a fully functioning, healthy, civil service instead of a broad-based approach?

● With these new economic measures, has the government essentially ruled out implementing something like a $1000 (or other fixed amount) monthly payment, for a fixed period of time, to all Canadians below a certain income threshold, followed by an income-based tax in 2021 to collect the money back?

○ Has the government done any cost-benefit analysis regarding potentially implementing this vs the existing proposal, or any economic impact analysis regarding the same?

3.) Seniors

-The Government of Canada is reducing required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25% for 2020, in recognition of volatile market conditions and their impact on many seniors’ retirement savings. This will provide flexibility to seniors that are concerned that they may be required to liquidate their RRIF assets to meet minimum withdrawal requirements. Similar rules would apply to individuals receiving variable benefit payments under a defined contribution Registered Pension Plan.

-We know that seniors are some of the most vulnerable in this pandemic. Many long-term care homes are no longer allowing visitors into their facilities, and some grocery stores are now allowing for a dedicated hour for seniors to do their shopping.

-Seniors are more likely to be targeted by scammers and more likely to live in rural areas with less access to healthcare.

● Changes to RRIF withdrawal amounts do nothing to help seniors that don’t have those savings. Increased cost for things like delivery of groceries and medication could leave vulnerable seniors on fixed incomes in a more challenging position. Why has the government not announced broader support for seniors?

● Many seniors already face challenges with making ends meet. Furthermore, seniors are part of some of the most vulnerable populations with respect to COVID-19. Are there any other measures the government is considering for financial support for seniors?

○ If so, what options are on the table?

4.) Students

Many students are already in a precarious situation in terms of housing and income as they rely on their institutions to provide both while they complete their studies.

● Is the federal government working with provincial governments to develop and provide support for e-learning capacities for students at all learning levels to ensure that education isn’t disrupted?

● Is the federal government working with provincial governments to help students who may be displaced from residences and dormitories that are closing?

5.) Support for Indigenous Communities

-The government plans to provide $305 million for a new distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities.[ii]

-There are a variety of issues surrounding coronavirus that could be particularly impactful on indigenous communities. The chief public health officer for Nunavut, Dr. Michael Patterson, said “factors like overcrowding increase the risk of viruses and diseases being transferred to others, but he credits isolation as playing a role in decreasing the risk. Smaller communities in the territory are only accessible by air.”[iii]

● There are currently no details on the Indigenous Community Support Fund. When will these details be released? How will this program be implemented? What will the spending be on and over what period of time?

● Has any analysis been done regarding the specific impact of COVID-19 and self-isolation measures on First Nations communities? How is the government going to address these challenges?

6.) Employment Insurance

While hundreds of thousands of Canadians are now applying for EI, it is important that they have clear directions on timelines as well as how this could affect their futures after the pandemic is over.

● When does the 10% temporary wage subsidy start and stop for employers? When will eligibility requirements be available online for the subsidy and how can they apply?

● Will workers who are eligible for EI claims as a result of COVID-19 be eligible for the Emergency Care Benefit or other program streams once their EI runs out?

● For workers that are currently on EI, as they will be unable to search for a job, has their EI been extended?

● Will claiming EI now as a result of COVID-19 affect future EI claims?

● If a business makes the decision to close its business are, they still eligible to qualify for the benefits? If not, what support can businesses receive that were forced to close due to COVID-19?

7.) Support for Business/Issues with BDC

Small businesses across the country are being particularly hard hit by this crisis and need urgent support. Employers are being forced to lay off workers and have no idea how or if they will survive. Unfortunately, the federal government’s response to date has fallen far short of meeting their needs.

● Will the government backstop banks that extend low interest loans to small businesses?

8.) Foreign Affairs

We are dealing with a global pandemic that has touched the whole world. We need to ensure that despite our physical borders being closed we are still managing relationships with our allies properly, spending appropriately, and learning from international best practices.

● With the recent announcement of our border closing with the USA for all non-essential travel, can you outline what measures you are working on with our partners in the USA to ensure that vital trade is not significantly impacted by this, and the COVID-19 pandemic more broadly?

● A recent quote from the Globe and Mail states “The Canadian government will soon roll out millions in foreign aid spending to help combat the spread of COVID-19 abroad, particularly in refugee camps and developing countries, says International Development Minister Karina Gould.” Can the government please immediately update Canadians on how much money they plan to spend on this, on what specific projects and what are the metrics the government is using to assess these projects?[iv]

● Some countries have been noted as being particularly successful with their ability to slow the spread of COVID-19, by using extensive contact tracing and mass testing. Can the government please outline any conversations they have had with other countries that have been noted as successful in doing so and what experiences from other countries, has the government been examining?

9.) Travel/Repatriating Canadians

Many Members of Parliament have heard from Canadians overseas that are stuck abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, and facing a lack of answers from the government as to how and when they will return.

-A recent media report from March 20, 2020 stated that there were about 4,000 Canadians still on-board cruise ships sailing across the world right now.[v]

-The Prime Minister has announced that flights will be going forward to bring Canadians back. However, he has also said that “It is an extremely difficult situation but the lockdowns of various countries, the limits on air travel, the logistical capacities of our airlines means that we are unlikely to bring everyone home,”[vi]

-The government has also offered financial assistance to Canadians abroad. Those abroad who are directly impacted by COVID-19 can apply for an emergency loan of up to $5,000 to help them.[vii]

● What is the government of Canada doing to repatriate Canadians who are in Honduras and Ecuador? What options do they have?

● What is the government doing to repatriate Canadians who are stranded on various cruise ships that aren’t allowed to disembark at any port they land?

● Testing at airports still seems to be inadequate. What is the government doing to fix this?

10.) Legal Immigration

As Canada is home to people from around the world, we need to ensure that we are not penalizing residents if it is not absolutely necessary. The government needs to make sure that people’s immigration status is not threatened by measures to combat COVID-19, through no fault of their own.

● The March 16, 2020 announcement of closing the border to non-residents means only citizens and permanent residents of Canada will be able to enter Canada. As those with COPR status have not completed the landing step, they are not yet considered to be permanent residents of Canada. What is the government of Canada going to do for those with COPR status? COPR status (Confirmation of Permanent Residence) is not a travel document and therefore those with COPR status cannot board aircraft to Canada under those rules.

11.) Connectivity and Internet Access

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing numbers of Canadians will be working from home. There will likely be significantly higher uses of the internet for entertainment purposes as well. Many are also turning to the internet as a method to virtually connect with friends, family and loved ones during this time.

-Big telecoms companies have pledged that overage fees will be waived automatically amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, some of these companies had in the past been criticized “for not providing the same allowances to rural customers.” [viii]

-In response to recent reports that there has been uneven application of the commitment by the major telcos to waive overage charges in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, especially for those in rural and remote communities, MP Rempel Garner issued the following statement:https://mprempel.ca/news/f/mp-rempel-garner-calls-for-action-to-ensure-rural-connectivity

-Conservatives know that access to reliable internet is an essential for Canadians. Inability to have this is an equality issue for many Canadians, particularly those in rural Canada.

● My office has been hearing increasingly about instances of call dropping, wireless calls not going through, and internet slowdowns. I am requesting that you obtain network capacity limits from telecom companies and ensure there is a plan in place so that this can be appropriately managed. Now more than ever, it is becoming apparent that internet and telephone access is essential. We cannot risk creating even greater access disparity due to increased stress on the networks. In the same vein, many doctors are now relying on telehealth. It is imperative that doctors’ ability to connect with their patients is maintained. What is the current capacity limit by region in Canada, and what is the plan to ensure capacity is reserved for essential services?

● Also, what is the plan to provide access to low income Canadians who do not have access given the comparatively high cost of internet access in our country? Will it address the fact that Canada has a structural problem that creates high rates compared to other countries?

● Considering the above, that many students are being asked to continue their education at home as schools and universities close; that many are being asked to work from home; and that everyone now requires an internet connection to continue to carry out daily activities such as banking; internet and telephone access must be treated as an essential service. In the event that the government needs to take more serious measures related to isolation of Canadians, will you consider network technicians within network access providers to be essential service workers?

● Rural broadband access continues to be a challenge for Canadians. This is an issue of equality, as having reliable internet access is a necessity, particularly in times where many are working from home and in need of this essential service. We have heard reports that there has been uneven application of the commitment by the major telcos to waive overage charges in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, especially for those in rural and remote communities. What is the government doing about this?

12.) COVID-19 Mass Testing and the Economy

Some countries across the world have been described as particularly successful with their ability to slow the spread of COVID-19, due to their use of extensive contact tracing and mass testing. However, there have been reports that in Canada, testing and access to a test varies across our country.[ix]Some are also warning of concerns with shortages of supplies related to testing.

● Experts around the world are suggesting the best way to contain COVID-19 is to take the approach South Korean has undertaken, where people are routinely tested, and those who are infected are quarantined, while those who are not are being deployed to continue to work in essential industries. Does the government support this approach? Why or why not? If yes, how is the government going to undertake this effort?

13.) Essential Industries and Retooling vs. “Freezing the Economy”

Politicians are responding to the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 as if it were a regular recession: with a standard stimulus package. But this is not a typical recession. We need to be putting our country on a war-time footing. Current estimates suggest our society will be in and out of severe lockdown for as long as 18 months. For every job rendered impossible to perform by the crisis, there are others that require immediate action to fill. For every factory closed, there is another that is needed to build supplies. Just as in wartime, this reallocation cannot be undertaken in such a short period of time by private markets on their own, even though the help of the private sector is indispensable to the effort.

● Per the announcement to expedite R&D funding and shorten applications for industry partners looking to solve COVID-19 related problems by partnering with ISED, please keep us apprised of the following: spending to date, assessment metrics, and outcomes.

● Will the government create a retraining and licensing plan to redeploy workers towards critical functions?

● Is the government undertaking analysis of how Canadian workers could be redeployed to meet manufacturing, delivery, care, sanitation, and other essential services related to maintaining longer term self-isolation measures, should they be deemed necessary by public health officials? If yes, will the government make this information public, and if not, why?

● In a time of such an unprecedented economic crisis, deploying skilled Canadian talent for technologies of the future is an investment rather than an expenditure. Is there a plan to deploy these people as a better alternative than asking them to stay at home to use up already strained social services?

● What is being done to secure delivery jobs as many will switch to online shopping?

● Resources from the private and public sector must be immediately allocated and fast-tracked to accelerate research and development, test capacity, drugs and vaccines. What is the plan to do so?

● Facilities and factories must be repurposed for medical care, labs and manufacturing. Many layers of non-medical infrastructure will be necessary to maintain society in lockdown such as mass high-speed internet connectivity and devices for everyone. What is the plan to do this?

● Shared infrastructure, such as transportation, travel, entertainment, and arts will quickly become insolvent absent public intervention. What is the plan to maintain dormant infrastructure?

● Technology and biotech companies can provide innovations for this mobilization. Is there any plan to enable remote democratic participation given parliament is suspended?

● Minister Bains said that we are funding clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine by a Montreal company. Given Canada’s record of inventing critical technologies and then losing the IP and the return on that investment in the past (see: Ebola, insulin), what is the government’s plan to ensure the IP generated with these public investments remains in the interest of our economy and our public health needs?

● How is the government tracking efforts to work with organizations on the production of medical supplies such as masks, hand sanitizer, and ventilators? Has the government set targets? If so, how are they being achieved? If not, why?

14.) Supply Chain and Protecting Canadian Consumers

Experts have pointed to the interconnectedness of the world and globalization when discussing potential problems the supply chain could face in the midst of this pandemic. For example, Craig Alexander, chief economist at Deloitte Canada, has said “We tend to think about the economy as countries selling to countries. But the reality of business today is that companies get their parts from other companies, and sell to consumers or again to other companies, through a network of complex, deeply integrated global supply chains.”[x]

-Furthermore, a report from Royal Bank of Canada highlighted that “Canadian supply chains are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 outbreak than they were to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus that spread in 2003.”[xi]

-However, other experts have said that food shortages are unlikely. Diane Brisebois, president and CEO of the Retail Council of Canada, said there was no evidence of shortages.[xii]

-Recent media reports have focused heavily on our country’s supply chain in the midst of this pandemic. This includes the following articles:

How the coronavirus could wreak havoc on the global supply chain

Chance of Canadian supply-chain disruptions from coronavirus high: RBC

Coronavirus: Food shortages unlikely despite Canadians’ grocery panic, experts say

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/coronavirus-supply-chains-1.5488730

● There will be, and already have been, supply chain disruptions due to border closures, lack of labour, and reduction in imports. What is being done to ensure that Canada will have an uninterrupted supply of food and essentials into the near future?

○ What is the plan, when will it be shared with Canadians, and when will it be implemented?

● What is the federal government’s list of “essential services”?

● If supply chains are impacted, certain products may become scarce and/or prices may dramatically increase for consumers. There is a need to ensure that there is a plan in place so that consumers will have continued access to essentials, should supply become seriously disrupted. What is the plan to address this issue?

● What is the plan to help protect workers in grocery stores which are needed to stay open? What is the plan in the case that grocery stores have staffing shortages? Is there any plan to include these persons as essential service providers?

● What happens if there is a shortage of retail workers in grocery stores?

● How is the supply chain being secured to ensure food and essentials are still being stocked?

● How are supply chains going to be protected, as it relates to truck drivers, when restaurants, washroom facilities and other services like fuel and maintenance businesses will be closed?

15.) Hoarding

Hoarding has led to many short-term shortages that are inconveniencing many Canadians as they look for essentials like toilet paper.

● Many local grocers have taken it upon themselves to impose a 2 or 3 item limit per customer for products that we have seen people hoarding, for example toilet paper. Has the government forecasted the availability of certain essentials in every region of the country, including rural and remote communities, and put together a plan to ensure that further hoarding does not take place?

● I have heard from many in my community that they are concerned about hoarding and those who are overbuying and leaving shelves bare at grocery stores. This could be particularly concerning for vulnerable populations who are avoiding leaving their home as much as they can. Additionally, it means that populations who cannot afford to stock up may face food insecurity. Has the government had any conversations with their provincial and territorial counterparts regarding what can be done to dissuade and stop hoarding?

○ If so, what specific measures have been discussed?

16.) Fraud Calls/Scammers

Fraud calls, emails, and text are taking advantage of people’s fears regarding COVID-19.

Elderly populations, already at increased risk in so many other capacities during this crisis, are more vulnerable to these scammers. The public is not fully aware of this problem, and as such are at risk to be taken advantage of. Furthermore, these scammers are not being prosecuted aggressively enough to mitigate the problem.

● We have been hearing disturbing reports of scammers exploiting peoples’ fears regarding COVID-19 and attempting to get money or information from them by email, text, and calls. It is not enough to simply warn the public. I am requesting that enforcement and prosecution be increased on these scammers. Please provide parliamentarians with your plan to do so.

17.) Energy Sector

In recent months, Canada’s oil producers have been struggling through rail blockades, stifling taxes, infrastructure deficits and curtailment to continue to support the Canadian economy. Now, the sector is taking yet another hit—to both the supply and demand for oil on the international market—and Canadian producers are again the victims.
– In 2019, the Alberta Energy Regulator and the Canadian Energy Research Institute determined the price per barrel at which the Albertan oil sands breakeven is USD $52/bbl (WTI).[xiii]Today, WTI fell to under USD $23/bbl. Western Canadian Select, a benchmark for the Canadian oil industry, fell below $8 USD per barrel. This record low is caused by two unforeseen external crises: a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and COVID-19.
-In response to the market fears over decreases in energy demands and to address oversupply in the market, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a cartel of 15 oil-producing countries, recently called for a production cut. Russia, a country that is not a part of OPEC but historically collaborated with the organization, did not agree to the production cut. There is speculation as to why Russia refused to agree, centering on the increased oil production of the United States in recent months and years.
-In response to Russia’s refusal to cooperate, Saudi Arabia cut the export price of their oil, flooding the market and leading to a drop in oil prices that has dramatically impacted Canadian oil producers. Experts believe the price war could last throughout 2020.[xiv]As long as the price war continues, it will continue to disproportionately hurt Canadian oil producers.
-The COVID-19 crisis is drastically reducing global demand for oil. Reductions in the global mobility of passengers and goods, along with the closure of businesses, offices and schools, and the cancellation of public events, have led to a reduction in the demand for oil by 10 million barrels a day (10% of total liquids production).[xv]Reduced demand for transportation fuels, and hence the oil they are refined from, will magnify the oversupply of oil to the global market.[xvi]
-Low oil prices discourage investment in new production, meaning less new oil coming on stream, year on year, to make up for lost existing production. A sustained low oil price through 2020 and beyond, would act as a further brake on investment.[xvii]

-In-situ oil extraction—the most common method of bitumen extraction, which happens entirely underground—requires injecting steam continuously into underground wells to decrease the viscosity of bitumen so it can be extracted. These operations require a constant flow of steam in and bitumen out, because if that flow is slowed too much for too long, the reservoir can lock up, permanently reducing how much oil can be recovered from it over the long term. Because of the current lack of demand, the oil has to be stored after being produced, instead of shipped off to market. Storage space is filling up quickly. The industry is stuck between a rock and a hard place: on the one hand, they can’t stop extracting bitumen without losing out in the long run; on the other hand, they are running out of room to store it.

-The energy industry generates 10% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) and a fifth of its exports. This will affect the bottom-line not just for Albertans, but all of Canada. It means that energy companies will be paying fewer royalties and taxes into federal coffers. In 2018, Canada’s energy sector directly employed more than 269,000 people and indirectly supported over 550,500 jobs. With the economic downturn, the livelihood of half a million Canadians is at risk.

-Canadians need to stay home to protect themselves and their communities, but people cannot afford to do that unless they are receiving economic relief from the government. Unfortunately, when energy companies are paying fewer royalties and taxes, there is less money going into EI and less money going into the pockets of Canadians.

-Last year, the federal budget projected West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the North American benchmark crude price, at $60 (U.S.) per barrel. Today, WTI sits at $22.72.

-The parliamentary budget officer (PBO), Canada’s independent fiscal watchdog, estimated in December 2018 that a $15 drop in the price per barrel of oil would lower Canada’s nominal GDP by an average of $37 billion per year — and add an average of $3.5 billion to the federal government’s deficits between 2019 and 2023. Since the drop in WTI ppb has greatly exceeded $15, we can expect that Canada’s nominal GDP would be lowered by far more than $37 billion per year.

-The Government of Alberta’s February budget was written on the assumption that oil would stand around $58 a barrel this year (based on USD, West Texas Intermediate). For every dollar that the price of oil drops below this, the province estimates that provincial coffers lose $355 million.[xviii]

-Based on this assumption, at today’s price, oil has dropped around $36 a barrel from where Alberta’s 2020 provincial budget said it would be, meaning a $12.5B shortfall in its projected revenue if prices remain at current market rate for an extended period of time.

With oil at $58/barrel, the deficit in Alberta was projected to stand at $6.8 billion. It will obviously be much, much higher now – if current rates continue for an extended period of time, approximately $19B, and this was prior to any COVID related extra spending measures the provincial government has had to approve.

-For the sake of Canada’s economy and public health, the federal government must implement measures to curb the impact the COVID-19 and the Saudi-Russia price war will continue to have on the Canadian oil sector. Half a million jobs depend on the sector directly or indirectly, and federal and provincial governments rely on energy revenue to fund programming.

● Work Camps

○ In Alberta, many energy sector companies are working hard to protect workers who are required to fly in and out of camps for work. These workers are critical to ensuring that these projects can continue forward. With the potential for inter-provincial travel disruptions, what is the plan to ensure the flow of out of province workers, and workers in Alberta, can continue to get to these camps safely?

● Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta was already facing high unemployment and underemployment. What measures are the government going to introduce to help Albertans who are out of work and do not qualify or have exhausted EI and cannot look for work in the midst of this crisis? What measures will the government explore for long term relief for Albertans?

● We have seen incredibly low prices per barrel of oil. For example, Western Canadian Select has dipped below $10USD. This is devastating to my province. Can the government please table a comprehensive plan for dealing with this significant challenge? Will the government be considering taking any action to mediate or mitigate the current oil price war we are seeing play out on the world stage?

● The energy industry generates 10% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) and a fifth of its exports. How are you amending your budget to contend with the sudden drop in oil revenue?

● Will the federal government offer to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Russia for the sake of our industry and the sake of all Canadians?

● Will the government offer further liquidity to oil companies?

● What is the government doing to ensure we have enough storage capacity?

18.) Superintendent of Bankruptcies (OSB)

Sadly, we know that the number of people and businesses filing for bankruptcies are bound to increase over the next few months. However, we are hearing from licensed insolvency trustees that they have received little to no communications from the OSB and they are having difficulty reaching anyone to ask how they should be dealing with insolvencies in light of COVID-19.

● What changes, if any, are being made to the OSB regarding bankruptcies?

● Should accounting firms be treating bankruptcies any differently in this situation?

19.) Banking

As many Canadians are suddenly finding themselves without income or with decreased income, they will turn to credit. While the government has directed the banks to allow for more lending and deferrals, there are reports that this has been applied inconsistently and it is causing confusion.[xix]

● Will the government direct banks to offer deferrals on credit card payments?

● How will deferrals on loans including credit cards and mortgages affect credit scores?

● With lower cost of capital for banks and the special role and funding you have provided to BDC to help finance our SMEs, how will you be ensuring that BDC and the banks are performing their assigned roles?

● Is the government concerned that credit card companies and banks could be profiteering on people in crisis, at a time when taxpayers/the government is spending an unprecedented amount of money to keep the country afloat? If yes, what is the government planning to do about it?

20.) Community/Local Issues

The combination of COVID-19 and the price-wars between Saudi Arabia and Russia have devastated the Albertan economy.

– Calgary, already facing some of the highest unemployment numbers in Canada, is contending with increasing lay-offs

– Additionally, the community is facing many challenges due to self-isolation, including:

– Community associations, a significant source of social capital, laying off workers

– Houses of worship closing their doors, limiting the services available to community

– Calgary Stampede being forced to lay off 900 workers

– Westjet, an airline that is being severely impacted by the crisis, is headquartered in Calgary

– This crisis will have a disproportionate impact on Calgary, and Alberta, and these issues need to be addressed.

● Community associations in my community are being forced to layoff workers as a result of closed facilities. They are very concerned about revenue as some have had to cancel or postpone significant fundraisers that they rely on for their operation. These facilities, when operating during normal times, are hubs for community connection, provide space for community services and are a vital part of our city. What measures will you introduce to protect these facilities and ensure that they can reopen at full strength to once again serve the community?

● Churches and houses of worship, and other nonprofit organizations in my community depend on donations from attendees to meet their operating needs. As a result of social distancing and isolation, many of these organisations proactively shut their doors before the government required them to do so in order to help stop the spread of the virus which has resulted in loss of revenue through donations and has meant layoffs for some staff. Many of these organisations provide important community services throughout the year like English classes, childcare, grief counselling, food and clothing pantries; and programs that care for seniors and new Canadians. What measures will you introduce to protect the staff and programs of these organisations to ensure they can meet the demand that will inevitably arrive on their doorsteps when we return to normal?

● It was recently reported in Calgary that the Calgary Stampede organisation made the difficult decision to lay off nearly 80% of their workforce in response to COVID-19. This represents nearly 900 people. As you know the Calgary Stampede is a world famous gathering that generates millions of dollars in business for our city, employs thousands of individuals, and represents a critical revenue stream for many small businesses. Of course, we will listen to the direction from health officials regarding if, and when, such gatherings can or should take place in the future. But we must act now to ensure that events, like the Calgary Stampede, can proceed without delay when that allowance is granted. How are you protecting vital economic festivals and events like the Calgary Stampede now?

● Calgary already had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. With potential layoffs by Westjet, currently headquartered in Calgary, as well as further oil sands layoffs, this could get much, much worse. How are you working to support Calgarians who are being laid off?

● Moody’s has recently downgraded Alberta’s credit rating due to the falling price of oil, demonstrating the dire nature of the situation. What are you doing to help Alberta gain an important revenue stream, and to protect yourselves from the same fate?

21.) Rural Canada

Rural communities are more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 for several reasons:

– They have fewer healthcare resources, lower rates of broadband access (limiting the availability of information and telehealth resources)

– The population is older than average

– A higher number of rural residents rely on resource-extraction and other blue-collar careers as their livelihood

– People are fleeing to rural areas, taking up already limited resources [xx]

– Therefore, the impact of this crisis will be more profound and devastating in rural areas, and these areas must be addressed specifically.

● This pandemic has the potential to devastate rural communities across Canada because of fewer hospitals, a smaller number of healthcare workers, and spotty broadband access. How are you working to ensure that rural and remote areas have the healthcare capacity to deal with COVID-19?

● How are you working to limit the spread of COVID-19 to rural and remote areas, where resources are scarce? How are you working to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Northern Canada, where healthcare and broadband access are extremely limited and high-risk populations reside?

● How are we working to support rural areas where livelihood is focused on resource extraction?

● How are we supporting people in rural areas who have to travel long distances to access services (such as healthcare, medicine, food), particularly since rural areas have higher populations of seniors?

● We know that rural populations are older, making the risk factors all the greater during the pandemic. How are you working to support aging populations who are at greater risk in rural areas?

● Reports state that people are flocking to some rural areas to wait out the virus, disrupting small communities that do not have the healthcare or infrastructure capacities to deal with the large influx. What are you doing to ensure the safety and sustainability of these communities?

22.) Parliamentary Transparency

Parliamentary transparency is paramount in maintaining a democracy that functions for the people.

– These are extraordinary times, making it all the more necessary to ensure that parliamentarians can do their jobs and the public can continue to hold its government to account.

– While legislatures around the world have stopped sitting, many have developed mechanisms to enable voting and meeting at a distance. The European Parliament has moved, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, to temporary electronic voting measures.

– “Members [of European Parliament] would receive electronically, via email to their official email address, a ballot form, which would be returned, completed, from their email address to the relevant Parliament’s functional mailbox.”[xxi]

– Additionally, in Germany, a system called “Video Ident” is being utilized, wherein the MEP face identify in front of a webcam in a live video stream and then show their voting sheets to the camera.[xxii]

– Normally, Members of Parliament have tools such as OPQs, Ministerial undertakings at committee, compelling documents, or Question Period, to ensure parliamentary transparency. As Parliament is suspended, we have none of these options, but we still need to do our job.

● Why have you not taken steps to ensure that the House is still able to function in the case of emergency?

● What new mechanisms will be established to allow MPs to hold the government to account?

● How can MPs obtain documents and answers to questions that would normally be accessible via committee?

● Will the government direct to BOIE to look at ways to allow for online tools to enable increased tools for the opposition given this unprecedented situation?

● Why did the government violate the trust of the opposition powers and attempt to sneak an unprecedented power grab into an emergency financial assistance bill?

23.) Emergency Powers Act

– The Emergencies Act, a sweeping piece of legislation passed in 1988 as a replacement for the controversial War Measures Act, has never been used before in Canada.

– The act gives powers to the prime minister to respond to four different types of emergency scenarios: public welfare (natural disasters, disease), public order (civil unrest), international emergencies and war emergencies.

– The act grants the cabinet the ability to “take special temporary measures that may not be appropriate in normal times” to cope with an emergency and the resulting fallout during an “urgent and critical situation.”

– It gives the cabinet unprecedented powers to assume jurisdiction from the provinces in areas like health and commerce.

– Invoking the act might help the federal government close some interprovincial borders to stop the spread of COVID-19 — a measure that would have been almost unimaginable only days ago.

– But some provinces, such as Nova Scotia and P.E.I., are already policing land crossings as they order anyone returning from a trip — even a domestic one — to self-isolate for 14 days upon entry.[xxiii]

● Given that the government just tried to sneak an unprecedented power grab in an emergency financial assistance bill without any explanation as to why, in what situation would the government consider using the Emergency Powers Act and for what reason?

● Is there any data that shows that current provincial measures to sustain the virus are not sufficient? If so, what is that data and will the government commit to disclosing it?

● Will the government commit to working with the provinces if issues arise to attempt to solve problems within existing jurisdictional powers, as opposed to just implementing the Emergency Powers Act?

● Will the government respect provincial leaders who have recently expressed deep reticence at the federal government enacting the Emergency Powers Act?

24.) Illegal Border Crossing Enforcement

Over the last few years, tens of thousands of people have illegally entered Canada from the US. Many of these crossings have happened at Roxham Road in Quebec. The Parliamentary Budget Officer in 2018 found that the border crossing crisis would cost the government over $1 billion.

-Conservatives have proposed solutions to fix this problem, including closing the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement.

-However, the Liberal government has repeatedly refused to close the loophole in the agreement between Canada and the US.

-As the former Shadow Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees, MP Rempel Garner has been fighting the government on this for years.

-Previously during the pandemic, Trudeau’s government had said it would not apply the closing of the border to those crossing illegally from the US. Instead, they had plans to quarantine and house the border crossers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

-After much pressure from the Opposition, the government finally decided to take action and has said that Canada and the US will have a reciprocal agreement on returning those who attempt to illegally cross the border.

● For years this government has resisted any calls for them to finally take action on the illegal border crossings from the US. Can the government please table a comprehensive plan of how they plan to implement this new reciprocal agreement, as in the past they have said they could not close the loophole?

● The government has not said that this measure would apply after the pandemic is over. Why? Will the government be taking any measures to permanently close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement?