Federal government to announce supports for people, businesses hit by COVID-19

PM says Ottawa expecting ‘significant economic impacts’ from COVID-19

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce on Wednesday supports for people and businesses affected by COVID-19 — the first part of a federal package designed to help workers who are forced to stay home from their jobs as the virus spreads and disrupts the economy.

Trudeau will announce supports for those facing “immediate pressures,” with more aid for other sectors to be announced in the coming days.

Sources have told CBC News that the measures Trudeau will announce include waiving the one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance benefits for people who have to self-isolate because of the outbreak.

The package also will include a boost to research funding to combat the virus, over and above the $27 million announced in Montreal last week.

Ottawa is also leading a pan-Canadian effort to bulk-buy certain medical devices, and the federal government says it will be ready to support provinces needing further assistance to shore up their health care systems as the number of confirmed cases rises.

Trudeau met with top ministers this afternoon, including Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Health Minister Patty Hajdu, as part of the government’s response to a virus that has sickened dozens across Canada and killed one person in B.C.

“We recognize that there are going to be significant economic impacts for Canadians, for workers, for businesses, and that’s why we’re going to be talking very soon about measures that Canada is going to put forward to support people on the economic side,” Trudeau told reporters on his way into question period.

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said Ottawa is considering stimulus spending in the upcoming federal budget.

Beyond Wednesday’s planned announcement, Duclos said the federal government will spend more to help people “go through the crisis” and help “workers, families and businesses thrive and sustain themselves.”

“We have the fiscal room and the fiscal power to intervene and provide the stimulus that the economy will demand,” Duclos said in an interview with CBC’s Power & Politics. “We have the will and the ability to make a difference. We will use our considerable fiscal room and power to invest.”

While the debt-to-GDP ratio has been falling in recent years, Ottawa is running a federal budget deficit of $26.6 billion for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

READ MORE HERE AT CBC NEWS

City may want a slice of home insurance fire coverage

The excerpted article was written by NORMAN DE BONO | The London Free Press

Home insurance rates may spike in London if the city goes after insurers when firefighters respond to a home blaze, an Insurance Bureau of Canada official says.

But a business that helps communities get money from insurers called the threat a lobby group “scare tactic.” Ken (Ted) Woods, a partner with Fire Marque Inc., said the hundreds of communities it works with, including St. Thomas, Sarnia and Middlesex Centre, have not seen rates rise.

At a recent council committee meeting, Ward 12 Coun. Elizabeth Peloza suggested city staff look into contracting Fire Marque, which files insurance claims on behalf of communities to recover some of the costs of responding to home fires.

If there is home blaze, firefighters respond to and if the home is insured, Fire Marque files a claim on behalf of the municipality, as the homeowner policy covers the service. That claim seeks partial reimbursement of the cost of firefighters’ response.

“If the individual has an insurance claim, charges added to the claim will see an increase in claims paid,” said Peter Karageorgos, the insurance bureau’s consumer and industry relations director. “Premiums for policies are driven by costs, if this increases total costs, it will have an impact on premiums.”

Not so fast, said Woods: Premiums won’t increase because most homeowner insurance policies include coverage of firefighters attending a home blaze, meaning that money is sitting there and available and most homeowners are unaware of it. If the money is not claimed, it simply boosts the insurer’s bottom line, he added.

“We act on behalf of the municipality. Our job is to make sure the insurance company honours the coverage in the policy,” said Woods.

Studies by some communities have concluded the claims don’t affect premiums, he added. Home insurance policies have a clause titled “fire department charges” that usually offers as much as $1,000 in coverage.

Fire Marque offers its services to more than two million people in “hundreds” of communities, Woods said.

In her pitch to community and protective services committee colleagues, Peloza said she met Fire Marque officials at a Federation of Canadian Municipalities  conference. The committee voted to refer the matter to staff for more study.

When the city looked into the issue in 2016, it found Fire Marque claimed 30 per cent of the money recovered. A staff report said the city would have recovered anywhere from $43,000 to $142,000 a year at that time. The money must go toward fire services, either education or capital costs.

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“We will lay out the information for council, we will investigate this and report back,” said Cheryl Smith, the city’s director of neighbourhood, children and fire services.

The staff report in 2016 recommended the city not contract Fire Marque, citing “legal risk and financial concerns . . .  related to recovery of costs through property insurance policies.”

Karageorgos said homeowners already pay for fire department services through property taxes and home insurance policies, and an additional claim should not be necessary.

“Don’t property taxes already pay for fire service? I would be asking then why am I paying taxes? Is this creating a two-tier system?”

Municipalities have turned to Fire Marque as budget pressures prompt them to seek new ways to generate revenue, he added.

“What’s next? Will firefighters insist on a credit card payment before they put out your fire?”

Source: London Free Press

Canada preparing plane to fly Canadians from Wuhan, once China gives OK

By Mike Blanchfield and Hina Alam

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canada has a plane being prepared to fly Canadians out of the province in China at the centre of an outbreak of a new coronavirus, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Wednesday.

The government is also advising all Canadians to avoid  “non-essential” travel to China and has also scaled back its diplomatic presence in the country because of the outbreak.

The next step in the evacuation process is to secure co-operation from China to assist the 160 Canadians who have requested some form of help, Champagne said. Not all of them want to leave, he emphasized in an appearance on Parliament Hill.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, later warned that not everyone who wants to come back to Canada may be able to leave.

“The Chinese authority will not let anyone who might be infected on the plane,” she told the House of Commons health committee.

China has all but sealed off one of its central provinces where the novel coronavirus was first detected. The virus causes respiratory symptoms similar to the common cold, but it can be deadly in very severe cases.

At Champagne’s side, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the government still has to decide what will happen with the Canadians who leave China, so as to prevent any spread of the illness.

Asked whether returning travellers would be held in quarantine, Hajdu replied:  “We will always work to ensure the health of Canadians, whether they’re abroad or whether they’re here. So, yes what we’re looking at is a scenario where we have all the measures in place to protect Canadians from exposure to the virus. Having said that, that’s about as far as I can go.”

Officials say the 201 Americans taken to the United States from the Chinese city at the centre of the virus outbreak are undergoing three days of monitoring at a southern California military base to make sure they do not show signs of the virus.

Hajdu said the U.S. has a process that is working  “efficiently.”

Champagne said Canada is working with allies to co-ordinate plans and make the logistics work, and that could take more time.

Some other countries have promised similar help for their citizens stuck in the province of Hubei particularly those that have diplomatic offices there, which Canada does not and Champagne said Canada isn’t far behind them.

“The only plane which has landed is a U.S. plane that was scheduled to be there,” Champagne said, which was then followed by a plane sent by Japan earlier Wednesday.

He said Canada was at the  “forefront” of the international response.

The virus has killed 170 people and infected more than 7,700 on the Chinese mainland and abroad.

A Twitter message by the Canadian Embassy in China said that as of Wednesday its diplomatic missions are working with reduced staff due to the coronavirus. It urged Canadians in need of emergency consular assistance to call or email the emergency response centre of Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa.

It also posted the contact phone number of 1-613-996-8885 and the email address of sos?international.gc.ca.

A teacher who is living with his pregnant Canadian wife and child in a city that is the epicentre of China‘s coronavirus outbreak had been hoping to leave the country on a British flight.

Tom Williams is hoping to get his wife, Lauren, who is about 35 weeks pregnant, out of Wuhan, the Hubei city that has been essentially locked down with the emergence of the disease. The couple also has a two-and-a-half-year-old son, James, who is Canadian.

Williams is a British expat and his wife and son are from British Columbia.

“We’re just currently waiting to hear confirmation whether we’ve got space on the British flight,” Williams told The Canadian Press in a FaceTime interview from China on Wednesday, before Champagne’s announcement.

The family received a call from officials in Ottawa earlier this week, who asked permission to share his wife’s file with the British Embassy, he said.

“We have some stuff laid out in case it’s a last-minute departure.”

At least 250 Canadians have registered with Global Affairs Canada to say they are in Wuhan, said Champagne, who added that officials are trying to contact everyone to assess their needs.

Williams said looking at options isn’t really helping people on the ground, although he understands that Canada doesn’t have a diplomatic presence in Wuhan, a city of 11 million. Canadian offices in Beijing and Shanghai are closed until Sunday for the Lunar New Year holiday.

“We’re just a little anxious and hoping for some answers pretty soon,” said Williams, who added that he and his family are  “still healthy and still OK.”

The family went out during the day Wednesday and the streets were “very quiet,” he said. They take their temperatures whenever they enter and leave their apartment complex.

James was watching “Toy Story” Wednesday afternoon.

“He’s a little bit clingy, but we’re doing our best with train sets and different things. Trying to keep him entertained.”

Canadian Wayne Duplessis, who teaches in China, said he and his family registered with the emergency response centre in Ottawa to know what help may be available in Wuhan.

But Duplessis, who is originally from Espanola, Ont., said he is not looking to leave.

Most people he knows are taking the situation in stride, although he said there is  “a certain resignation” and  “despair.” Duplessis and his family members take their temperatures every morning at breakfast.

More restrictions have been placed on cars and some people are worried those might affect day-to-day activities such as getting groceries, he said.

From his 28th-floor balcony, Duplessis said he could see the highway, usually buzzing with activity, was empty.

“The IKEA mall across the street is empty, which is too bad. There’s great lunches there,” he said.

“An IKEA meatball lunch would be nice right now.”

The reality is “insurers are not going to write business that is unprofitable. It’s not their function,” Muir-Wood said.

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State of emergency in St. John’s, N.L., reaches Day 5 after massive blizzard

ST. JOHN’S, N.L.—It’s now Day 5 of the state of emergency in St. John’s, N.L., as cleanup continues from Friday’s massive blizzard that dumped 76 centimetres of snow in the area.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says 450 troops — including about 175 reservists — will be in Newfoundland on Tuesday to help the province dig out from the storm.

Travel remains difficult across eastern Newfoundland, and some residents are relying on each other for food.

The City of St. John’s says some stores will be allowed to reopen today to sell “basic foods.”

Most other businesses have to remain closed, with exceptions for gas stations and some pharmacies.

Stay Tuned.

 

 

IBC Applauds Manitoba Government Investment in Emergency Response Efforts

EDMONTON, Nov. 26, 2019 /CNW/ – Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) commends the Manitoba government for providing new funding to help protect communities in emergency situations. The announcement included funding for a new communications system, damage prevention, climate resilience measures and spring flood preparedness.

“As the frequency and intensity of severe weather events, such as floods, are escalating, we want to work with the government on adaptation measures, like the ones recently announced, to better protect Manitobans. IBC and its members applaud the Manitoba government’s investment,” said Celyeste Power, Vice-President, Western, IBC.

The announcement includes a one-time capital investment of up to $45 million for damage prevention and climate resilience measures, and $3 million for spring flood preparedness, to be spent according to the priorities to be established by a panel of representatives from the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, the Winnipeg Metro Region and the province, including the Climate and Green Plan Implementation Office.

IBC reminds Canadians that it is not only insurers that foot the bill for severe weather damage, but also taxpayers. That’s why all stakeholders should come together to reduce the financial strain caused by flood events. For every dollar paid out in insurance claims for damaged homes and businesses, Canadian governments and their taxpayers pay out much more to repair public infrastructure damaged by severe weather.

About Insurance Bureau of Canada

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 128,000 Canadians, pays $9.4 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $59.6 billion.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. Follow IBC on Twitter @InsuranceBureau and @IBC_West or like us on Facebook. If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1‑844‑2ask-IBC.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

Related Links

www.ibc.ca

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