April 28, 2020
Today is historic, another of many “firsts” in the COVID-19 pandemic crisis: the first Parliamentary Session in which all Members of Parliament will gather and connect digitally to represent their communities. The dry run on Monday promised a steep learning curve for MPs. And hinted at effective digital Parliament – another ‘new normal’ – eventually. MPs from every corner of the country can safely and equally join in, while BC’s MPs will certainly not miss the ‘perpetual jetlag’ of our twice-weekly three hour time change!
Despite numerous support programs created these past weeks, some who need help didn’t qualify. Two new federal announcements unveiled this past week aim to fix that. First was the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) for students affected by the economic impacts of the pandemic who don’t qualify for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit. This alternative benefit will provide from $1,250 to $1,750 per month from May to August. Tens of thousands of UBC students whose jobs and financial plans dissolved in the pandemic can now receive a range of help from student job placements, paid service opportunities, monthly cheques, extra research funding, or increased student loans.
Second, was the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA). I received many calls for help from leaders of small businesses, non-profits and charities who can’t afford their rent once their incomes slumped or dried up altogether. CECRA will lower rent by 75% for qualifying organizations that have suffered a significant drop in pre-COVID-19 revenues.
You may also be aware that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has authorized more Canadian Armed Forces members to provide medical and other types of help at long-term care facilities. Good! This welcome short-term solution serves an urgent and immediate need. However, it also highlights woeful standards and conditions at some of Canada’s long-term care facilities – the homes of well-loved family elders – and the Provinces must pledge to correct that.
Lastly, our Prime Minister has begun discussions with the Premiers on coordinating Canada’s re-opening. Each province will likely chart its own individual course based on collective principles, and on guidelines developed by Chief Medical Officers across the country. To accelerate safe re-opening, significant new funding has just been announced for national medical and research strategies for coronavirus testing, tracking, treatment, vaccine development, and immunity analysis.
Here’s food for thought: how can Canada plan post-crisis economic recovery and re-invention, and address the climate crisis in a post-pandemic world? Read this McKinsey article for some ideas!
I’m signing off now, with a quick note to acknowledge the lengths my MP staff members will go, in finding ways to help someone. A recent instance involved a young staff person who worked the phones and emails with government and international officials for many days, resulting in lifesaving medication and other supplies being Fed-Ex’ed to a constituent trapped in Costa Rica! Thank you to all the many Canadians serving others in their time of need, and especially to those front-line heroes risking their own health and life to serve and save others!
I wish you and your family well, please stay safe, and Ramadan Mubarak! to our Muslim friends.
The Hon. Joyce Murray, P.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra
Minister of Digital Government
P.S. Do you know someone who might like to receive these updates? They can go to www.joycemurray.ca/email-updates to be added to my email list.