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Canada investing $150 million in better ventilation for schools, hospitals, & other public buildings

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an unprecedented impact on communities across Canada, the health and well-being of Canadians remains the top priority of the Government of Canada.

Today, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, announced $150 million for better ventilation in public buildings to help reduce the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19.

These investments will help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission by funding projects to assess, monitor, and improve indoor air quality and ventilation, including upgrades or conversions of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, as well as community-based solutions in Indigenous communities.


Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada will deliver $30 million of the funds to projects that directly benefit First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to help address the unique challenges they face. The balance of the funding, $120 million, will be available to provincial, territorial, municipal and local governments (and Indigenous communities via respective provincial and territorial governments) as a top-up to the Government of Canada's COVID-19 Resilience stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.


The COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream, announced in August 2020, was introduced to help flow more funding to provinces and territories faster so that work could begin quickly and safely, protecting jobs and supporting communities across Canada. Under this stream, the federal government is investing up to 80% for projects located in provinces and up to 100% for projects located in territories or with Indigenous recipients. The COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream is being extended by two years to allow more time for provinces and territories to benefit from an increased federal cost-sharing. This will allow for a broader range of vital infrastructure projects, such as health facilities, shelters and emergency services buildings. Projects must start construction by September 30, 2023.


Through the COVID-19 Resilience stream, over $3 billion is available to provide provinces and territories with added flexibility to fund quick-start, short term projects. Several ventilation improvement projects have been funded under the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream, such as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Prince Edward Island, which is receiving more than $870,000 in federal funding to improve the air exchange system and energy efficiency in its post-surgical and pediatric unit.

Infrastructure Canada is working with its provincial and territorial government partners to amend Integrated Bilateral Agreements to ensure that funds flow quickly and help protect the health of Canadians.


Quotes

"The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the wellbeing of people right across the country. All Canadians, from students to seniors, need clear air where they gather—in schools, health facilities, shelters and emergency services buildings. That's why the Government of Canada is investing an additional $150 million with provinces, territories and Indigenous communities in ventilation projects to improve air quality in public buildings. This funding will support the federal government's effort to help Canadians get through the pandemic safely, create good jobs across the country, and build stronger, more resilient communities."

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities


"Everyone deserves to feel confident that the air they are breathing in is safe. This investment will support Indigenous communities and their leadership to implement community-based solutions to respond to the spread of COVID-19. From coast-to-coast-to-coast, First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities are working hard to keep their citizens and Elders safe – we thank them for their leadership as we continue to work together to fight the Covid-19 pandemic."

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations


"The health and wellbeing of First Nations peoples is my department's highest priority. This new investment will aid First Nations communities and partners in the fight against COVID-19 by funding critical ventilation upgrades to infrastructure most susceptible to COVID-19 spread."

The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services


"Ensuring that the air we breathe is safe and clean is essential to protecting the health of Canadians through the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future. These investments will ensure that Northern, Territorial, and Indigenous partners have the resources they need to implement local solutions, update ventilation systems, monitor air quality, and keep communities healthy and safe.

The Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs


"No matter where Canadians are, they need to be able to breathe clean air. Good indoor ventilation is an important element that, when layered with personal preventative measures, can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Today's investment is just one step that we are taking to keep Canadians safe and healthy—through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond."

The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health



Quick facts

  • The first line of defence against COVID-19 continues to be:

  • reducing contact with persons outside your household;

  • interactions of short duration;

  • maintaining physical distancing;

  • proper use of well-fitting masks;

  • proper hand hygiene.


  • Improving indoor air quality through increased ventilation is an additional step. Ventilation, whether through the opening of windows or the use of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, can increase the amount of outside air brought inside. This will dilute the number of viral particles in the air, and help to reduce the risk of exposure.


  • Through the Investing in Canada plan, the Government of Canada is investing more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes, and Canada's rural and northern communities.

  • The COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream of the Investing in Canada plan, announced in August 2020, is responding directly to the immediate pressures and concerns of Canadians to address the current pandemic, with new eligible project categories, faster approvals, and an increased federal cost share for public infrastructure projects—80 per cent in the provinces, and funding 100 per cent of the cost of projects in the territories and for projects with Indigenous recipients.

  • Given the urgency of the public health crisis, and the critical need for additional protective measures to control the spread of COVID-19, for the first year of the program costs for approved projects will be retroactively eligible to December 1, 2020 for the $120 million portion of the fund being delivered through the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream, which would help to expand aid offered to recipients in this crisis situation and allow recipients to initiate new projects on a risk-managed basis until funding agreements can be signed.

  • This funding complements existing federal programs that fund building ventilation upgrades such as Health Canada's Safe Long-term Care Fund, Employment and Social Development Canada's Preventing Outbreaks in Shelters Initiative, the Safe Return to Class Fund and Indigenous Services Canada's Safe Return to First Nations Schools on Reserve.

  • The Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program is delivered through bilateral agreements with all provinces and territories to make unprecedented investments in public infrastructure.



Backgrounder

Government of Canada investing an additional $150 million in better ventilation for schools, hospitals, and other public buildings

To address the challenges faced by communities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada is investing an additional $150 million to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission by funding projects to assess, monitor, and improve indoor air quality and ventilation, including upgrades or conversions of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, as well as community-based solutions in First Nations.


Of the $150 million, the Government of Canada will add $120 million to the $33.5 billion Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) bilateral agreements to support ventilation improvement projects in public buildings. The new funding supports existing efforts to address the current health crisis and support economic stability and recovery efforts.


This funding will be delivered through a new category of investments under the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. It will allow provincial, territorial, municipal and regional governments and Indigenous communities to fund projects whose primary purpose is to increase outdoor air intake and/or increase air cleaning in order to help reduce the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.


Through the COVID-19 Resilience stream, over $3 billion is available to provide provinces and territories with added flexibility to fund quick-start, short term projects. Projects could include repair or replacement of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units, increasing maintenance of existing systems to ensure optimized operation, or other interventions that bring in more outdoor air, or result in cleaner air, such as the installation of operable windows, or portable air filtration units. Eligible projects will improve ventilation in public infrastructure assets that:

  • Serve populations with conditions that are at increased risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19 (e.g. long term care homes);

  • With high occupancies (e.g. schools, congregate living housing);

  • Where activities take place that are at higher risk of infectious aerosol particle generation (e.g. recreation or sports centers);

  • Remain open through lockdown, or are the last to close when restrictions are increased, in order to continue to provide services (e.g. Libraries, buildings used as emergency shelters);

  • Have been identified by public health authorities as higher risk for outbreaks based on local conditions.


Projects funded under the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream cannot exceed $10 million in total eligible expenditures. All ventilation projects funded under the new ventilation category must be completed by March 31, 2023.



Additional flexibilities for provinces and territories

Cost sharing for projects in the new ventilation improvement category of funding will mirror other categories of the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream: provinces and municipalities in provinces can receive up to 80% in federal contribution, while territories, municipalities in territories and all Indigenous recipients can receive up to 100% federal contribution.


Given the urgency of the public health crisis, and the critical need for additional protective measures to control the spread of COVID-19, for the first year of the program, costs for approved projects will be retroactively eligible to December 1, 2020, for the $120 million portion of the fund being delivered through the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream, which would help to expand aid offered to recipients in this crisis situation and allow recipients to initiate new projects on a risk-managed basis until funding agreements can be signed.


Ventilation improvement projects will also benefit from the streamlined application and faster approvals under the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream.


To accommodate these changes, the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream will also be extended, so as to allow construction start and end dates to be prolonged for a period of two years. Other time-limited elements in the original ICIP streams have also been extended by two years.



Ventilation Improvements in Indigenous Communities

Another $30 million will be allocated to Indigenous recipients and delivered through a distinctions-based approach that recognizes First Nations, the Métis Nation, and Inuit, as distinct, rights-bearing communities with their own histories.


$22.5 million will be administered by Indigenous Services Canada to deliver funding to First Nations recipients through the Capital Facilities and Maintenance Program, First Nations Infrastructure Fund, and the Health Infrastructure Support Authority. Funding will be distributed throughout the provinces and projects will be selected through a variety of mechanisms depending on the type of infrastructure.


$7.5 million will be administered by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to deliver funding to Inuit and Métis recipients. $3.75 million will be allocated to the Governing Members of the Métis Nation through the Federal Interlocutor's Contribution Program through an allocation formula. The remaining $3.75 million will be allocated to the Inuit, using an existing funding formula developed by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.


This ventilation funding builds on federal government investments in the COVID-19 response for Indigenous communities, including the distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund announced in March 2020 to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.


This funding provides Indigenous leadership with the ability to implement community-based solutions to respond to the spread of COVID-19 within their communities in some public buildings.