Appearance before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (INDU) by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry – April 30, 2020

30 April 2020

Mobilizing industry for personal protective equipment (PPE) production

Question:

How is the Government of Canada helping mobilize Canadian industry to fight the COVID-19 pandemic?

Key messages:

  • The health and safety of Canadians is the government's top priority.
  • The Government's Plan to Mobilize Industry to Fight COVID-19 will provide critical medical supplies and equipment to healthcare workers.
  • Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Government has been working closely with industry to address those areas that require urgent investment.
  • In collaboration with Canadian industry, the Government is building domestic capacity, finding new innovative solutions and forming new partnerships to respond to Canada's needs.

Background:

From our first call to mobilize Canadian industry on March 20, we have fielded more than 5,400 responses from Canadian businesses and industry, each one ready to step up and help meet the needs of Canada's health care system.

We are engaging with all companies that have submitted the offer of support through our Call to Action to assess how they can support the urgent needs of Canadians and front line health workers.

These companies are from across Canada, such as:

  • Bouctouche Bay Industries in New Brunswick, with the assistance of ACOA, which is producing face shields for health care workers in Nova Scotia;
  • Le Groupe CTT, specializing in textile technologies from Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec, received financial support to acquire the necessary equipment for the certification of protective gowns for health care workers; and
  • VIDO-Intervac, based at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon received $12 million to modernize their process in order to develop and scale up vaccine production for the domestic and commercial markets.

Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) support during COVID-19

Question:

What is the Government of Canada doing to support small and medium-sized businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Key messages:

  • The Government of Canada is focused on helping Canadians and businesses through this tough economic time.
  • We will continue to protect the health and safety of Canadians, while supporting families and businesses and keeping our economy strong in the face of uncertainty.
  • Over the past few weeks, we spoken with thousands of businesses across the country.
  • We are now delivering the largest single support package in our history in response to what we've heard, and to the realities of this crisis.
  • Our emergency support measures help businesses keep their employees, have the cash flow to keep operating, and keep their costs low.
  • We will do whatever it takes to help entrepreneurs and small businesses during this crisis.

Supplementary messages:

On some businesses being ineligible for support:

  • We understand that some businesses are concerned that programs such as the Canada Emergency Business Account don't apply to them, or they are ineligible.
  • We are constantly meeting with businesses and stakeholders and listening to what they tell us, to ensure the programs and services we offer during this difficult time do what they are designed to do: meet the needs of Canadian businesses.
  • Nothing is off the table, and we will continue to refine and make changes to these programs as needed.

Preparation and approvals:
SCMS contact: Riyadh Nazerally, Communications Advisor, SCMS, 343-548-9038
SCMS approval: Vicky Eatrides, ADM, SCMS, 343-291-1652
Sector approval: Frances McRae, ADM, SBMS, 343-291-1800

Reopening the economy

Question:

How will the Government of Canada ensure that the economy returns safely and efficiently?

Key messages:

  • Canadians recognize the seriousness of this pandemic and have demonstrated remarkable resilience during this difficult time.
  • Canadian industries have stepped up to keep essential supplies and services moving, and to help fill gaps in critical supplies of protective equipment and medical supplies.
  • The Government of Canada is also making available supports and investments for Canadians, business, and organizations to ensure that the economy remains resilient.
  • As the Prime Minister has indicated, the Government will work closely with provinces and territories to ensure that a coordinated approach is taken to carefully reopen the economy at the right time. This approach will involve many industrial partners — while also considering public health directives.
  • At this time, Canadians should continue abiding by all public health guidelines.

Background:

As a result of successful mitigation measures, several EU countries including Germany and Denmark are in the midst of relaxing containment measures and opening businesses and schools gradually. Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the COVID-19 virus, are experiencing downward trends in new infections and deaths and are also planning the gradual reopening of their economies. Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland are also relaxing lockdown and economic restrictions.

France is targeting a May 11th date for relaxing requirements, including schools; however, it is still subject to the state of readiness of technology measures.

On April 14th, the U.S. released federal guidelines for states to reopen the economy, following three stages (each lasting 14 days) based on downward trends in key monitoring areas that would allow for scaled and gradual social activities and businesses including services.

Anxiety over the economic impacts of the COVID-19 remains high globally — China's economy shrank 6.8% in the first quarter of this year — the first time in more than three decades for China, prompting calls by the governing party to pursue aggressive economic measures.

In Canada, a cautious approach to reopening is being contemplated, based on the advice of Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, ensuring adequate containment, control, risk mitigation and prevention. The health and safety of Canadians is at the core of the Canadian strategy and the Prime Minister has signalled that it will be done in close collaboration with provinces and territories.

Premiers have signalled to the Prime Minister that they do not feel it necessary for the invocation of federal powers through the Emergency Measures Act as they are confident they have the resources to successfully manage the pandemic.

Preparation and approvals:
SCMS contact: Riyadh Nazerally, Communications Advisor, 343-548-9038
SCMS approval: Vicky Eatrides, ADM, 613-292-4016
Sector approval: Mark Schaan, A/SADM, SIPS, 613-793-6564

Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) support for employees during COVID-19

Question:

How is the Government of Canada helping small and medium-sized businesses support their employees?

Key messages:

  • The Government of Canada understands that many small businesses have seen their sales plummet, and have had to make extremely difficult decisions to cut staff, or even close their doors temporarily.
  • The government has introduced several measures to help companies keep people on the payroll, and to ensure that businesses are able to recover once the crisis is over.
  • The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy covers up to 75% of an employee's wages — up to $847 per employee, per week. This includes new employees.
  • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000 every 4 weeks for up to 16 weeks to eligible workers who have lost their income due to COVID-19.
  • The government has invested $263 million in the Canada Summer Jobs program to help employers hire summer staff — that's up to 70,000 jobs.
  • The government extended the EI Work Sharing Program from 38 to 76 weeks, providing benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours.

Background:

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy:

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) will provide eligible employers a temporary wage subsidy for a 12-week period (from March 15, 2020 to June 6, 2020). The subsidy will be available to businesses of all sizes, as well as non-profit organizations and charities, whose revenues have decreased by at least 30% due to COVID 19 (for the month of March, the government has made the CEWS more accessible by reducing the 30% benchmark to 15%). It will cover up to 75% of wages on the first $58,700 that an employee earns, up to $847 per week.

Extending EI Work Sharing:

The EI Work Sharing program, which provides benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours as a result of developments beyond the control of their employers, will be extended from 38 weeks to 76 weeks.

Temporary Changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program:

The Canada Summer Jobs program provides opportunities for youth to develop and improve their skills within the not-for-profit, small business, and public sectors, and supports the delivery of key community services. Changes will be introduced to the program, including: an increase to the wage subsidy (up to 100% of applicable minimum hourly wage), an extension to the end date for employment to February 28, 2021, and allowing employers to hire staff on a part-time basis.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit:

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will provide financial support to employed and self-employed Canadians who have lost their income as a result of COVID-19. Eligibility periods for the CERB are fixed in 4-week periods ($2,000 per period), with Canadians having the ability to re-apply for the CERB for multiple 4-week periods, to a maximum of 16 weeks.

To help more Canadians benefit from the CERB, the government has changed the eligibility rules (retroactive to March 15, 2020) to:

  • allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB;
  • extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their regular EI benefits and are unable to undertake their usual seasonal work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak; and
  • extend the CERB to workers who recently exhausted their regular EI benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.

Preparation and approvals:
SCMS contact: Riyadh Nazerally, Communications Advisor, 343-548-9038
SCMS approval: Vicky Eatrides, ADM, 613-292-4016
Sector approval: Frances McRae, ADM, SBMS, 343-291-1800

Keeping business costs low during COVID-19

Question:

How is the Government of Canada keeping costs low for small and medium-sized businesses?

Key messages:

  • The Government of Canada has introduced a number of relief measures to help businesses keep operating costs low during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • To help businesses cover expenses, the Canada Emergency Business Account offers businesses access, through their financial institution, to a $40,000 interest-free loan. If that loan is repaid by the end of 2022, up to 25% will be forgiven.
  • Many businesses want to keep their staff on payroll to be ready to bounce back after the pandemic. The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will help support up to 75% of wages for businesses with a payroll between $20,000 and $1.5 million.
  • For smaller businesses, the government's previously announced 10% wage subsidy can help by providing up to $1,375 per employee, and up to $25,000 total per employer.
  • The Government is also deferring GST and HST payments, as well as duty payment for exporting businesses, until June 30, 2020. Income tax payments may be deferred until August 31, 2020.

Background:

Canada Emergency Business Account:

The new Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) will provide interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, to help cover their operating costs during a period where their revenues have been temporarily reduced. To qualify, these organizations will need to demonstrate that they paid between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019. Business owners can apply for support from the CEBA through their banks and credit unions.

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy:

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) will provide eligible employers a temporary wage subsidy for a 12-week period (from March 15, 2020 to June 6, 2020). The subsidy will be available to businesses of all sizes, as well as non-profit organizations and charities, whose revenues have decreased by at least 30% due to COVID 19 (for the month of March, the government has made the CEWS more accessible by reducing the 30% benchmark to 15%). It will cover up to 75% of wages on the first $58,700 that an employee earns, up to $847 per week.

10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers:

Those organizations that do not qualify for the CEWS may continue to qualify for the 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers, a three-month measure that will allow eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deductions required to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The subsidy is equal to 10% of the remuneration paid from March 18, 2020 to June 19, 2020, up to $1,375 for each eligible employee, and up to $25,000 total per employer.

Tax Deferrals:

The CRA will allow all businesses to defer, until August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after March 18 and before September 2020. This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.

The CRA will also allow businesses, including self-employed individuals, to defer until June 30, 2020 payments of the Goods and Services Tax / Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST), as well as customs duties owing on their imports.

Preparation and approvals:
SCMS contact: Riyadh Nazerally, Communications Advisor, 343-548-9038
SCMS approval: Vicky Eatrides, ADM, 613-292-4016
Sector approval: Frances McRae, ADM, SBMS, 343-291-1800

Helping Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) secure funding during COVID-19

Question:

How is the Government of Canada helping small and medium-sized businesses secure funding to continue to operate?

Key messages:

  • The Government of Canada is providing support to small businesses by allowing them to quickly access funds through financial institutions.
  • The government established the Business Credit Availability Program. Through this program, Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada will provide critical support to businesses that have been adversely affected by COVID-19 to help cover costs and prepare for when the pandemic is over.
  • The Canada Emergency Business Account is providing small businesses and non-profits with payrolls between $20,000 and $1.5 million with an interest-free loan of up to $40,000. If the loan is repaid by the end of 2022, up to 25% will be forgiven.
  • The government also announced over $1 billion for additional targeted measures to help small businesses, including innovative businesses and young entrepreneurs. These will be available through the regional development agencies, the National Research Council of Canada and Futurpreneur Canada.
  • The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program is being introduced to ensure that tenants and landlords don't have to worry during this difficult time.
  • These measures will help businesses of all sizes and across all sectors that are struggling with cash flow to bridge to better times.

Background:

Business Credit Availability Program:

The Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) will provide more than $65 billion in additional support for businesses across all sectors and regions. Through this program, Export Development Canada (EDC) and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), alongside a wide range of financial institutions, will provide lending and other types of financing to support businesses facing challenges due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The program includes:

  • Canada Emergency Business Account
    • The new Canada Emergency Business Account will provide interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, to help cover their operating costs during a period where their revenues have been temporarily reduced.
    • To qualify, these organizations need to demonstrate that they paid between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019.
  • Loan Guarantee for SMEs
    • EDC is working with financial institutions to issue new operating credit and cash flow term loans of up to $6.25 million (80% guaranteed by EDC) to SMEs.
    • These loans have a 1-year term with automatic renewal.
  • Co-Lending Program for SMEs
    • BDC is working with financial institutions to co-lend term loans to SMEs for their operational cash flow requirements.
    • Eligible businesses may obtain incremental credit amounts of up to $6.25 million (80% guaranteed by BDC) through the program.

    The EDC New Loan Guarantee and BDC co-lending program for SMEs are additive, meaning a firm could access up to $12.5 million in credit between the two.

  • Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance
    • The government also intends to introduce the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program to provide loans and/or forgivable loans to commercial property owners who in turn will lower or forgo the rent of small businesses for the months of April (retroactive), May and June.
    • Implementation of the program will require a partnership with provincial and territorial governments who are responsible for property owner-tenant relationships.

Other targeted measures:

  • Additional support for businesses was announced on April 17
    • $675 million to provide financing support to small and medium-sized businesses that are unable to access the government's existing COVID-19 support measures, through the regional development agencies.
    • $287 million to support rural businesses and communities, including by providing them with access to capital through the Community Futures Network.
    • $250 million to assist innovative, early-stage companies that are unable to access existing COVID-19 business support, through the National Research Council of Canada's Industrial Research Assistance Program.
    • $20.1 million in support for Futurpreneur Canada to continue to support young entrepreneurs across Canada who are facing challenges due to COVID-19. The funding will allow Futurpreneur Canada to provide payment relief for its clients for up to 12 months.

Preparation and approvals:
SCMS contact: Riyadh Nazerally, Communications Advisor, 343-548-9038
SCMS approval: Vicky Eatrides, ADM, 613-292-4016
Sector approval: Frances McRae, ADM, SBMS, 343-291-1800

COVID-19 research investments

Question:

How will investments in science and research help in the fight against COVID-19?

Key messages:

  • The health and safety of Canadians is the Government's top priority.
  • That's why we are mobilizing our world-class researchers to deliver rapid responses to fight COVID-19.
  • We are making significant investments in the development of vaccines and treatments against COVID-19 and in the diagnosis of the disease.
  • We are also investing in important research to understand the social dynamics of transmission and how individuals and communities understand and react to the pandemic.
  • These investments in research, combined with investments in innovation and manufacturing capacity, will help stop the spread of COVID-19, and facilitate our return to work and economic recovery.

Supplementary messages:

  • The Government of Canada has mobilized Canada's research and scientific communities in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Background:

On March 23, 2020, the Prime Minister launched Canada's Plan to Mobilize Science to Fight COVID-19, part of the more than $1 billion COVID-19 Response Fund.

The core of this initial announcement was Phase 1 of funding for Medical Countermeasures (MCM), including funding for:

  • AbCellera (antibody-based drugs to treat and prevent COVID-19);
  • Medicago (work on plant-based vaccines);
  • VIDO-InterVac (completion of a manufacturing facility to reach the standard required for human vaccine production);
  • The National Research Council's Human Health Therapeutics facility (developing and scaling-up promising vaccines for industrial production); and
  • Bluedot (digital health firm with early-warning technology for infectious diseases).

On April 22, 2020, the Prime Minister announced nearly $9 billion in financial support for post-secondary students and recent graduates, including extending expiring federal research scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships, supplementing existing federal research grants and enhancing work opportunities through the National Research Council.

On April 23, 2020, the Prime Minister announced Phase 2 of funding for Medical Countermeasures (MCM), including $1.3-billion in funding for medical countermeasures and vaccine research. Project highlights include:

  • Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Consortium (genetic sequencing of virus samples and human host genomes);
  • VIDO-InterVac (pre-clinical testing and clinical trials to accelerate development of a vaccine);
  • The National Research Council's Human Health Therapeutics facility (phase 2 of critical upgrades);
  • Strategic Innovation Fund (support for industrial-scale clinical trials);
  • The Canadian Data Monitoring Initiative (coordinate and share pandemic-related data);
  • Canadian COVID-19 Siro-surveillance Consortium (national survey to inform national immunization strategies);
  • Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN) (vaccine related research and clinical trials);
  • The National Microbiology Lab (NML) (Pre-clinical and Medical Countermeasures Facility); and
  • The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (research projects to accelerate the development, testing, and implementation of medical and social countermeasures).

Preparation and approvals:
SCMS contact: Pamela O'Leary, Manager, 343-548-8991
SCMS approval: Vicky Eatrides, ADM, 343-291-1652
Sector approval: Nipun Vats, ADM, SRS, 343-291-2366

Foreign interference in research

Question:

Do you have concerns about potential foreign collaborations or interference with federally funded research at Canada's universities?

Key messages:

  • To build a strong economy and improve the lives of all Canadians, we need a research environment that is open and collaborative.
  • Exchange of faculty, students and knowledge help build the linkages and skills that support scientific excellence and innovation.
  • At the same time, we need to collaborate with our eyes wide open.
  • We need to make sure that Canadians continue to benefit from our significant investments in science.
  • This is why universities, national security agencies and other government departments are in regular contact, as part of ongoing engagement activities.

Supplementary messages:

  • In Canada, we have a well-developed national security framework to protect Canadians.
  • Universities have strong protocols in place to assess and address issues that affect research, students and faculty.

Supplemental question:

Are you aware of a working group involving universities?

Key messages:

  • I understand that universities, national security agencies and other departments are working together to develop guidance and tools to help increase researchers' risk awareness.
  • The group is working to identify and share best practices to minimize cybersecurity risks, protect intellectual property and make sure that Canadians benefit from our significant investments in science and research.
  • I look forward to seeing the results of their work.

Supplemental question:

Is this work focused on China and/or Huawei?

Key messages:

  • No. Potential threats to research and science can come from many actors, domestically and internationally, and it is important to identify and mitigate risks to science and research integrity, regardless of their source.

Supplemental question:

Why does the Federal Government fund projects involving partners, such as Huawei, who may be subject to foreign government influence?

Key messages:

  • Granting council funding is awarded through a competitive and impartial process of independent merit review — managed at arm's length from the Government — which is intentionally designed to ensure the highest standards of excellence.
  • The Government in no way influences the selection of individual grants.
  • All granting council funded projects must demonstrate benefits to Canada and to Canadians, by supporting knowledge discovery and the application of knowledge in Canada.

Supplemental question:

Is the Government concerned that researchers with ties to China are involved in intellectual property theft or technology leakage to China, in light of the removal from the National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg of Dr. Xiangguo Qiu?

Key messages:

  • I am aware there is a matter under review at the National Microbiology Laboratory.
  • I can assure Canadians that there is absolutely no risk to the Canadian public and that the work of the National Microbiology Laboratory continues in support of the health and safety of all Canadians.
  • Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory is known around the world for its scientific excellence and contributions to global health.
  • Further questions should be directed to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Background:

On December 6, 2019 Mr. Erin O'Toole put forward an opposition motion that — in light of the prolonged diplomatic crisis with China — the House appoint a special committee with the mandate to conduct hearings to examine and review all aspects of the Canada-China relationship including, but not limited to consular, economic, legal, security and diplomatic relations; and that a meeting of the committee is convened by January 20, 2020.

In July 2019 CBC News reported Dr. Xiangguo Qiu, a researcher working at the National Microbiology Lab, her husband, and her students from China were evicted from the laboratory and their security access revoked. The article reported the RCMP is currently investigating the situation, and that the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) described the matter as a policy breach. The article also quoted Eric Morrisette, PHAC's Chief of Media in Ottawa. He characterized the situation as an "administrative matter" that PHAC was taking steps to resolve expeditiously.

In a December 2018 speech, CSIS Director David Vigneault warned of increasing state-sponsored espionage through technology, including 5G mobile networks, and noted academics "are often less aware" or protected against potential threats. "Hostile states typically target companies or universities that are active in emerging technology — the kind of potentially revolutionary discoveries that can bring massive profits," he said, without singling out any specific country or institution. A series of articles throughout 2018 and 2019 have questioned various collaborative research projects with international partners, including those with military researchers and/or foreign industry partners, raising concerns that Canada is inadvertently helping foreign countries, such as China, modernize its armed forces or advance economically, at the expense of Canada's national interest.

Preparation and approvals:
Sector contact: Sinead Tuite — Senior Director DRI / SRS
SCMS contact: Samantha Lacaille, Communications Advisor, 343-291-4067
Sector approval: Nipun Vats, Science and Research Sector, 343-291-2366
SCMS approval: Vicky Eatrides, Strategic Communications and Marketing Services, 343-291-1652

Wireless data and privacy

Question:

Is the federal government using Canadians' wireless data to understand COVID-19 measures?

Key messages:

  • The Communications Research Centre is analyzing de-identified wireless data to help fight the spread of COVID-19, and is sharing its analysis with the Public Health Agency of Canada.
  • The anonymized data will help identify mobility patterns to provide insights into self-distancing and emergency measures.
  • This work respects all applicable privacy laws, and the data is publically available. It has been anonymized and aggregated — it does not contain any personal information.
  • Canadians can be assured that their privacy is being protected.

Supplementary messages:

  • The health and safety of Canadians is the government's top priority.
  • The government will continue to ensure that its public health interventions are evidence-based, informed by science and based on the most robust data available.
  • This includes work on applications to fight COVID, where any application would conform to the principles we set out in the Digital Charter, and have the privacy of Canadians as a fundamental element. While the Government is looking seriously at how to bring these digital resources to bear in this exceptional pandemic, that will never come at the cost of the privacy of Canadians, nor ever draw on cellphone data without consent.

Background:

ISED's Communications Research Centre (CRC) conducts advanced wireless technologies research related to spectrum management. It uses commercial, de-identified wireless-related big data, AI and data science to see how spectrum is used, and to predict where it might be used next. Some of CRC's research has been redirected to assist with the government's COVID-19 efforts by providing data, analytics and artificial intelligence expertise to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

Currently, the CRC shares daily analyses with PHAC that describe mobility patterns across the country, providing insights on the impacts of self-distancing and emergency measures to further complement PHAC's analysis to understand how the outbreak may spread.

Preparation and approvals:
SCMS contact: Kathleen Guillot, Manager, 613-402-9025
SCMS approval: Vicky Eatrides, ADM, 613-292-4016
Sector approval: Patricia Brady, Director General, SIPS, 613-790-7126

Connectivity pricing during COVID-19

Question:

What is the Government doing to support smaller internet service providers (ISPs) during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Key messages:

  • The current crisis has reinforced the importance of access to high-speed Internet as Canadians are working, learning, and communicating from home.
  • We know this is a very difficult time for all Canadians. Canada's networks have been delivering well to keep us connected, but we recognize that there continue to be challenges.
  • We are engaged with Canada's telecommunications service providers to ensure that they can continue to provide the services upon which we all rely to stay connected and informed.

Background:

ISED and the CRTC have been engaging with ISPs since the beginning of the pandemic on network resiliency and availability issues. Overall, Canadian networks are holding up well. With respect to costs of home internet access, most service providers have proactively waived data overage fees and have taken other actions to accommodate the current situation.

The Government of Canada is continuing to work with industry, and has been adjusting regulatory requirements and timing so that industry can focus on near-term needs. Broad-based economic support for small businesses is available to, and assists, smaller ISPs. Direct financial support to Canadians is also helping them continue to pay their internet bills.

A number of smaller ISPs are concerned about the rates and terms for access to wholesale capacity on the networks of the larger providers. They are engaged with the CRTC, in its role as the independent regulatory tribunal, on these issues. Certain rates in question are also subject to appeal, including to the Federal Court of Appeal.

Additionally, ISED has extended the payment date for annual licence renewal fees to September 1, 2020 to provide immediate cash flow relief. Further, ISED has allowed unused spectrum to be shared between telecommunications service providers to increase coverage and capacity. ISED has also accelerated the process to get licences.

Preparation and approvals:
SCMS contact: Kathleen Guillot, Manager, 343-548-8571
SCMS approval: Vicky Eatrides, ADM, 613-292-4016
Sector approval: Patricia Brady, Director General, SIPS, 613-790-7126

Rural and remote broadband

Question:

What is the Government of Canada doing to support the development of high-speed internet in rural and remote areas?

Key messages:

  • High-speed Internet access is a necessity for all Canadians, no matter where they live — including to telework, to access on-line medicine and for distance learning. These unprecedented times have reinforced this need.
  • The Government of Canada has made up to $6 billion available to support the building of rural and remote Internet infrastructure so that these communities can succeed in the digital age.
  • The Government is working hard to ensure that rural Canadians have access to high-speed Internet.

Supplemental messages:

  • The Government has set an ambitious target of connecting 100 per cent of Canadian homes and businesses to high speed Internet by 2030, no matter where they are.
  • Projects funded under the Connect to Innovate program will bring new or improved high-speed access to over 975 rural and remote communities, including 190 Indigenous communities.
  • The Government will soon be launching the $1 billion Universal Broadband Fund (UBF), which will support whatever network infrastructure is needed to best meet rural and remote connectivity needs.
  • The Government is partnering with Telesat by investing up to $600 million to secure Low Earth Orbit satellite capacity over Canada to reach the most remote communities.
  • The CRTC has established a $750 million fund to help provide broadband and mobile services to underserved areas.
  • Other federal organizations, including Infrastructure Canada, the Canada Infrastructure Bank, and Indigenous Services Canada, also have funding available for high-speed Internet investments.

Background:

Universal Broadband Fund:

In Budget 2019, the government set a national target for 95 per cent of Canadian homes and businesses to have access to speeds of at least 50/10 Megabits per second (Mbps) by 2026 and 100 per cent by 2030, no matter where they are located.

ISED has conducted targeted engagement with stakeholders, including Internet service providers, industry associations, provinces and territories, and Indigenous organizations to help inform technical design aspects of the UBF, which will will support whatever network infrastructure is needed to best meet rural and remote connectivity needs.

Connect to Innovate:

Announced in Budget 2016, Connect to Innovate is primarily focused on the construction of new backbone infrastructure (digital highways that move large amounts of data in and out of communities at high speeds) to connect institutions like schools, hospitals, First Nation band offices and libraries, and to improve residential and business Internet services.

It is anticipated that many CTI projects will be completed and start coming online in 2020.

CRTC Broadband Fund:

In 2016, the CRTC established a fund of up to $750 million to help achieve universal access at speeds of 50/10 Mbps, as well as mobile coverage along major roads. The CRTC's fund is sourced from a levy on telecommunications service providers' revenues.

Telesat Low-Earth-Orbit Satellites:

The government has partnered with Telesat and invested up to $600 million to secure Low Earth Orbit satellite capacity over Canada to reach the most remote communities. These satellites will provide high-bandwidth, low-latency broadband internet coverage to rural and remote regions of Canada, including the North.

Preparation and approvals:
SCMS contact: Tim O'Connor, Manager, 613-294-7639
SCMS approval: Vicky Eatrides, ADM, 613-292-4016
Sector approval: Mark Schaan, ADM, SIPS, 613-790-7126

Impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous businesses

Question:

What is the Government of Canada doing to help Indigenous businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic?

Key messages:

  • The Government of Canada has introduced a series of significant measures to help support Canadian businesses facing the impacts of COVID-19.
  • One of these measures is funding of up to $306.8 million to help small and medium-sized Indigenous businesses, and to support Aboriginal Financial Institutions that offer financing to these businesses.
  • This measure will help an estimated 6,000 Indigenous-owned businesses get through these difficult times.
  • The government also made available $15 million in non-repayable support for businesses in the territories to assist them with operating costs not already covered by other government measures.
  • The government is committed to examining further supports needed to ensure that these important businesses can continue to remain viable.

Supplemental messages:

Importance of Indigenous businesses:

  • We know that Indigenous communities depend on their locally owned businesses.
  • There are over 43,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis business owners in Canada, according to the National Household Survey.
  • The Indigenomics Institute estimates the value of the Indigenous economy at $32 billion.

These business face a number of unique challenges, including rural or remote locations, distant supply chains, lack of adequate infrastructure/reliable internet connectivity, lack of credit history, and lack of financial management capacity.

Implementation of new funding ($306.8 million):

  • Financial support for Indigenous businesses will be provided through Aboriginal Financial Institutions, and administered by the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association and the Métis Capital Corporations in partnership with Indigenous Services Canada.
  • The funding will allow for interest-free loans, as well as non-repayable contributions, to help Indigenous businesses unable to access the government's existing COVID-19 support measures.
  • Additional funding will help Aboriginal Financial Institutions cover operational expenses, and help the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association increase its operational capacity.
  • The National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association is a network of 59 Aboriginal Financial Institutions providing a full range of financial services, loans, and grants to First Nations, Inuit and Métis entrepreneurs to start new, and to expand existing, businesses.

Support for northern communities:

  • The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) will immediately make available $15 million in non repayable funding, including direct support for ongoing costs incurred by northern small- and medium-sized businesses, in order to help them continue to play a vital role in northern communities.
  • CanNor's strong relationships with territorial governments best position the Agency to ensure that relief efforts are complementary and that funding gets to the businesses that need it most.

Indigenous tourism businesses:

  • The government is in constant contact with tourism stakeholders and business leaders to ensure that we are supporting businesses in this sector.

Preparation and approvals:
SCMS contact: Marie-Michele Caux, Manager, 343-550-9496
SCMS approval: Vicky Eatrides, ADM, 613-292-4016
Sector approval: Frances McRae, ADM, SBMS, 343-291-1800

Broadband and Indigenous communities

Question:

What is the Government of Canada doing to connect more Indigenous communities to high-speed broadband networks?

Key messages:

  • Canadians know that high-speed Internet access is no longer a luxury — it is necessary for all Canadians, including Indigenous Canadians — and is investing accordingly.
  • For example, the Connect to Innovate program is investing $585 million to connect over 975 communities, 190 of which are Indigenous, to high-speed broadband networks.
  • Further, under Connect to Innovate, approximately 1/3 of funding has been committed to Indigenous projects and proponents — ensuring Indigenous communities and companies are able to significantly shape connectivity for themselves.
  • Our investments in projects that impact Indigenous communities take into consideration things like local employment benefits during the construction of projects and cost of service to be offered.
  • We are building on this progress and continuing to engage with Indigenous communities to take their needs and priorities into account as we develop the upcoming Universal Broadband Fund.
  • Improved connectivity means that Indigenous communities will have access to online learning and job training, healthcare, social and cultural services, and opportunities for entrepreneurship.

Background:

  • According to the CRTC's 2019 Communications Monitoring Report, only 31.3% of First Nations Reserves have access to high-speed Internet at a speed of 50/10 Mbps, comparted to 97.7% of urban households and 40.8% of rural households.
  • In Budget 2019, the Government set a universal target for 95% of Canadian homes and businesses to have access to speeds of at least 50/10 Megabits per second (Mbps) by 2026, and all Canadians by 2030, no matter where they are located in the country.
  • To help achieve this objective, Budget 2019 announced $1.7 billion over 13 years for new broadband initiatives. This includes a new $1 billion program, the Universal Broadband Fund; securing new, low-latency low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite capacity for Canada's most remote communities; and additional funding for the Connect to Innovate (CTI) program.
  • These measures will build on existing collaboration with stakeholders and leverage complimentary broadband initiatives administered by the CRTC, Infrastructure Canada, Canada Infrastructure Bank, Indigenous Services Canada, and Provincial/Territorial governments.
  • ISED has conducted targeted engagement with stakeholders including Internet service providers, municipal associations, provinces and territories, and Indigenous groups to help design the UBF.
  • As part of this engagement, ISED is meeting with national Indigenous organizations, Indigenous companies, and Indigenous communities to ensure the Universal Broadband Fund respond to the unique needs of Indigenous peoples.
  • The UBF will also provide enhanced pathfinder services that will help applicants that need additional support, including Indigenous groups, to develop their projects, build partnerships, and find sources of funding.
  • The Universal Broadband Fund will be launched in the coming months.

Supplemental key messages on the speed of CTI projects or status of particular projects:

  • I understand that some CTI projects have experienced delays, but most are well underway and many communities will be connected in 2020.
  • These are typically multi-year infrastructure projects that experience common delays due to things like weather, equipment procurement, and permits.
  • We are working closely with our CTI recipients to resolve project delays and ensure they have the flexibility to complete their networks.

Preparation and approvals:
Sector contact (Director-level or above): Krista Campbell, STS, Connected Canada Branch
SCMS contact: Martin Agard, Communications and Marketing Branch, 613-292-0413