Canada’s best economic policy continues to be finishing the fight against COVID-19. Millions of Canadians have been doing their part by getting vaccinated, following public health guidelines, and delivering essential services. This has helped prevent further lockdowns. Since the beginning of the pandemic, keeping Canadians safe and healthy has been the government’s top priority. But work remains to end the pandemic.
The government continues to carefully monitor variants of concern, including the Omicron variant, and continues to make investments in vaccines, booster shots, therapeutics, and rapid tests. The health and safety of Canadians is essential for a strong economic recovery and underpins the government’s plan to create jobs and growth and support those still affected by the pandemic.
Free Booster Shots
On December 3, 2021, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) officially recommended that all adults in Canada receive a booster dose of an authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccine six months or more after their first two doses.
The government is ensuring that third doses and booster shots are free for all Canadians, as was the case with first and second doses. Canada’s existing agreements with Pfizer and Moderna are such that there are enough vaccine doses for all eligible Canadians to receive first, second, and third doses.
Canada’s agreements with Pfizer and Moderna also include options to procure vaccine adaptations, such as those to protect against mutations or variants of concern. As part of its successful vaccine procurement strategy, the federal government has made investments to secure millions of booster doses for the years to come.
Vaccines for Children
COVID-19 is a risk at any age. By early November 2021, 20 per cent of daily COVID-19 cases detected in Canada were in those under 12, even though this age group accounts for only 12 per cent of the Canadian population. Although, to date, most children have experienced milder cases, children remain at risk of serious infection.
On November 19, 2021, Health Canada approved the first pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11, developed and manufactured by Pfizer. Nearly 3 million Pfizer pediatric doses have been delivered to all provinces and territories, which is enough for all eligible children to receive their first dose. Pediatric vaccine campaigns are rolling out across the country. By mid-December, all Canadians over five will be able to register to receive their first dose. On November 16, 2021, Moderna also sought Health Canada approval of its COVID-19 vaccine for children six to 11 years of age. Manufacturers also have vaccines in clinical trials for children of various age ranges, including less than five years of age, and are expected to seek regulatory approval in the coming months.
Ensuring children can get vaccinated will help prevent outbreaks in schools, protecting children, teachers, school staff, and parents.
Access to rapid tests is an important tool for breaking chains of transmission — including against emerging variants of concern — and protecting those around us. New screening programs in schools and workplaces are being implemented across the country as Canadians work hard to keep each other safe.
The government proposes to provide $1.7 billion to Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada to continue supporting provinces and territories in securing the rapid testing supplies they need to keep Canadians safe and healthy, including through expanded school and workplace testing programs. This funding would also support the procurement of additional rapid test kits for distribution to Canadians.
Although vaccination remains the most effective defence against COVID-19, new treatments, including antiviral drugs, can protect COVID-19 patients from being hospitalized, and can save lives. Recently, Merck and Pfizer submitted results from their clinical trials to Health Canada, seeking approval for use. The Public Health Agency of Canada is also monitoring several other promising therapeutics that could contribute to finishing the fight against COVID-19.
To support the procurement of COVID-19 therapeutics, and associated logistics and operational costs, the government proposes to provide up to $2 billion over two years, starting in 2021-22, to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Support for Proof of Vaccination
Vaccine mandates and proof of vaccination credentials protect our families, our workplaces, and our communities. They give us the confidence to have a meal at a restaurant, attend community events, and even begin to safely travel in accordance with public health guidelines. Vaccine requirements have helped increase vaccination rates across Canada, which is keeping more people safe. Vaccine mandates are helping businesses safely reopen and recover, which helps create jobs and increase workers’ hours and wages.
The federal government is committed to a national proof of vaccination standard and is working with every province and territory to develop a standard proof of vaccination. This will help fully vaccinated Canadians to travel within the country and internationally.
The government is putting aside the necessary funds for provinces’ and territories’ expenditures related to the implementation of their proof of vaccination programs.
Making Travel Safer
To protect the safety of travellers and workers, the government took action to put in place a requirement that:
- All travellers now departing from Canadian airports, on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains, or on cruise ships (or non-essential passenger vessels on voyages of 24 hours or more) must be fully vaccinated, with very limited exceptions.
- All employers in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors must establish vaccination policies that ensure employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The government is proposing to provide $37.4 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to Transport Canada to support the implementation and oversight of this vaccine mandate for federally regulated air, rail, and marine employees and passengers.
Paid Sick Leave for Workers
The pandemic has exposed how many Canadians do not have access to paid sick leave. Without paid leave, workers are forced to choose between going into work sick and putting others at potential risk, or not being able to pay their bills. By helping workers stay home when sick or contagious, paid sick leave prevents outbreaks, which, in turn, prevents shutdowns, protecting jobs and operations at workplaces.
On November 26, 2021, the government introduced Bill C-3 to amend the Canada Labour Code to provide 10 days of paid sick leave per year to workers in the federally regulated private sector, covering almost one million workers. The government will consult with federally regulated employers and workers on implementation of this legislation.
The government will also convene provinces, territories, and other interested stakeholders to develop a national action plan to legislate paid sick leave across the country, while respecting provincial-territorial jurisdiction and clearly recognizing the unique needs of small business owners.
Clean and Healthy Indoor Air
Whether in a classroom, shopping mall, or a meeting room, the government is committed to helping businesses and organizations improve their ventilation and air quality and keeping Canadians safe. Proper ventilation makes indoor air healthier and safer, helping reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Small Businesses Air Quality Improvement Tax Credit
Many small businesses are on the front lines of the pandemic — enforcing vaccine mandates, installing protective barriers, and making sure workers and visitors are safe. Many want to make further improvements to their indoor air quality, but investing in equipment to improve ventilation can be costly.
The government proposes a refundable Small Businesses Air Quality Improvement Tax Credit of 25 per cent on eligible air quality improvement expenses incurred by small businesses to make it more affordable for them to invest in safer and healthier ventilation and air filtration. Businesses would receive the credit on eligible expenses incurred between September 1, 2021, and December 31, 2022, related to the purchase or upgrade of mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and the purchase of standalone devices designed to filter air using high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, up to a maximum of $10,000 per location and $50,000 in total.
Improving Ventilation in Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for families and educators, with school closures followed by varying degrees of reopening. To make sure the air in our schools is as clean as possible and that classrooms are as safe as possible for students, teachers, and staff, improvements to ventilation are warranted.
The government proposes to provide up to an additional $100 million to provinces and territories through the existing Safe Return to Class Fund, as well as $10 million to First Nations for on-reserve schools. This funding continues the support provided through the original $2-billion Safe Return to Class Fund by specifically targeting ventilation-related improvement projects.
Improving Ventilation in Community Buildings
Canadians of all ages — children, seniors, young parents, amateur athletes, and more — are gradually returning to community spaces such as arenas, swimming pools, libraries, and community centres but these buildings also require ventilation improvements.
Building on the $150 million to improve ventilation in public and community buildings announced in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, the government is providing an additional $70 million over three years, starting in 2022-23, to Infrastructure Canada to support ventilation projects in public and community buildings like hospitals, libraries, and community centres.
Healthy and Accessible Communities
Throughout the pandemic, Canadians have found new ways to be social and connect to the outdoor spaces in their communities. Canadians should be able to access well-managed public spaces and services.
To support communities in adapting public spaces to allow for social distancing and outdoor gathering as appropriate, the government is providing an additional $30 million over three years, starting in 2022-23, to Infrastructure Canada for the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative.
International COVID-19 Response
The spread of variants of concern is yet further evidence that the pandemic will not be over until every corner of the globe is safe from COVID-19. Canada recognizes that it must play a leading role in international initiatives to distribute vaccines and therapeutics. The government recognizes that ending the pandemic is the best economic policy.
Canada has mobilized over $2.5 billion in international assistance in response to COVID-19, including over $1.3 billion for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to provide global access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments. Canada is one of only six countries to have met or exceeded the independently-determined contribution requested by the ACT-Accelerator for 2021. The government continues to support the work of the ACT-Accelerator and its vaccine pillar, the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility.
On October 30, 2021, Canada announced it will donate, via procurement or financial support, the equivalent of at least 200 million doses to the COVAX Facility by the end of 2022, which means that more than five doses per Canadian will be donated to the world. COVAX determines which countries receive allocations, using a transparent and equitable allocation framework, and Canada is a responsible international partner. So far, the majority of doses donated by Canada through COVAX have been delivered to countries in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Canada’s international vaccine donations can be tracked online: Canada.ca/international-vaccine-donations.