Special Committee on the COVID-19 pandemic: May 7, 2020
Date: May 7, 2020
- Amazon COVID-19 supply distribution deal
- Canada Post: Health and safety
- International competition and export restrictions impacting personal protective equipment procurement
- Federal construction work
- Status of defence procurement projects
- Procurement of medical supplies
- Harrington Lake renovations
- Phoenix status
- Eventual staged returns to the workplace
- Rent relief measures for federal building occupants
- Defence Construction Canada contract with Cegerco
- Translation Bureau staff capacity
Amazon COVID-19 supply distribution deal
On April 1, 2020 the Government of Canada entered into an agreement with Amazon to help manage the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies purchased by the government, to support the COVID-19 response. Amazon is providing these services to Canadians at cost, without profit until June 30th.
- The health and safety of Canadians is our top priority, and that means ensuring life-saving medical supplies reach our frontline healthcare providers as quickly as possible
- We have entered into an agreement with Amazon, providing us with an access to its technology interface to allow provincial and territorial health authorities to order PPE purchased by the federal government
- Canada Post and Purolator are delivering the personal protective equipment and supplies ordered
- This agreement will enhance distribution capabilities of the federal government to help ensure that supplies make it into the hands of healthcare workers across the country as quickly as possible
If pressed on the rationale for Amazon:
- This agreement will support the distribution of vast quantities of masks, gloves and other equipment purchased by the federal government
- This is about getting life-saving medical equipment into the hands of our frontline workers as quickly as possible
If pressed on the Public Health Agency of Canada's role:
- The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) will maintain oversight of all orders from provinces and territories to ensure supplies are distributed appropriately
If pressed on Amazon's role:
- These services are being provided at cost, without profit until June 30th
- Amazon provided an adapted customer interface that allows provincial and territorial health authorities to request supplies directly
If pressed on Canada Post and Purolator's role:
- Canada Post is currently handling the warehousing through its subcontractor Maritime Ontario, with Purolator assisting in getting the supplies to the warehouse from airports. Canada Post and Purolator, through their distribution networks, are delivering the supplies across Canada
If pressed the health and safety of workers:
- Our government believes that every Canadian has the right to a safe and healthy workplace
- We fully expect Amazon to follow the guidelines put forward by Canada's public health organizations and protect their workers during this crisis
- We urge all employers during this critical time to go above and beyond standard health and safety measures to make sure that workers are safe in this extraordinary situation, and accommodate reasonable requests from employees
On April 1st, 2020, the Government of Canada signed an agreement with Amazon for access its technology interface where the supplies will be catalogued to allow provincial and territorial health authorities to order them directly through the Amazon business store.
The delivery of the personal protective equipment and supplies ordered and approved by the PHAC will be done by Purolator when for large shipments and by Canada Post for smaller shipments. The personal protective equipment and supplies is currently warehoused at the facility of Maritime Ontario in Brampton, where the technology of Amazon has been installed to treat the orders of provincial and territorial health authorities. Maritime Ontario is an on-going key sub-contractor of Canada Post.
Canada will pay to Amazon its standard costs without profit until June 30th, 2020. Amazon fees after June 30, 2020 will be lower than Amazon's standard commercial fees for the same services.
This agreement will support the distribution of vast quantities of masks, gloves and other equipment purchased by the government to front-line healthcare workers and others in need as quickly as possible.
Canada Post: Health and safety
Canada Post continues to provide a vital service to Canadians under difficult circumstances, with employees continuing to operate in the field delivering parcels. Canada Post announced on March 19, 2020 that they are doing everything possible to continue its service while keeping the health and safety of its staff as its number one priority.
- Canada Post is closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic, and is taking steps to help keep its employees and the communities it serves safe, while following the guidance of the Public Health Agency of Canada
- We are working closely with Canada Post, and Canada Post is working closely with its unions, in order to ensure employees and the public are protected
- As the situation with the coronavirus evolves, the health and safety of employees and the Canadians they serve takes the highest priority while Canada Post takes steps to continue delivering the service Canadians rely on
If pressed on health and safety:
Canada Post is taking action to protect employees and customers, including
- Enhanced cleaning in all of its facilities and extra personal protective equipment for employees and staggered shifts which minimize everyone arriving at work and having their breaks at the same time. This also allows for enhanced physical distancing in the workplace
- Priority service at its retail post offices to those at a higher risk, such as seniors, during the first hour of each day
- Installing signage and floor decals to encourage physical distancing, limiting the number of customers in smaller offices, and installing clear barriers at the counter to increase safety
- Suspending its normal 15-day hold period and asking that customers who are ill or self-isolating delay their visit and pick up their parcel only when it's safe to do so
- Implemented a new process called Knock, Drop and Go to minimize contact with the Delivery Agent by eliminating signatures at the door
If pressed on volume and delays:
- Canada Post has been experiencing sustained, high volumes during this pandemic
- The employees of Canada Post are working hard to ensure deliveries continue to reach Canadians during this crisis, and we value their dedication
If pressed on distribution of the Epoch Times:
- The government is aware of concerns expressed regarding the content of the current edition of this publication, and the requests to have Canada Post stop distributing it
- As Minister responsible for Canada Post, I have the authority to prevent the distribution of material through Canada Post if it relates to a criminal offence
- We take these concerns very seriously. We will await further assessment and take appropriate action as required
If pressed on obligations:
- Canada Post has a legal obligation under the Canada Post Corporation Act to accept all neighbourhood mail for delivery subject to the regulations on Non-Mailable Matter
- Decisions made by Canada Post to deliver or refuse delivery of neighborhood mail are subject to the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms
- After an initial legal assessment of this material, it does not appear to meet the required criteria for prohibiting distribution. However, further assessment is ongoing
On March 19, 2020, Canada Post released a letter stating its number one priority is the health and safety of its employees. They encouraged employees who can work from home to do so. However, the majority of its employees are in the field delivering packages.
Canada Post has eliminated the need for customers to sign for parcels at the door to minimize personal contact. It has also suspended normal delivery guarantees for its parcel services as delivering safely without overburdening its employees requires more time.
Canada Post has been experiencing "Christmas level" volumes during this pandemic. For example, on Monday April 20, they delivered more than 1.8 million parcels to Canadians. That is similar to the biggest delivery days during the Christmas season. Canada Post has introduced several measures to encourage physical distancing and limit contact during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a "Knock, Drop and Go" approach for parcel delivery. This change eliminates the need for signatures at the door, speeds up delivery and has greatly reduced the number of parcels sent to post offices for pickup. Items that require signatures due to proof of age will be required to be picked up at the retail counter in a more controlled environment, where physical distancing can be accommodated.
International competition and export restrictions impacting personal protective equipment procurement
Countries have begun curbing the export of personal protective equipment (PPE), increasing competition for the procurement of these goods. Media has also reported on several instances of medical supplies procured from unfamiliar overseas suppliers not meeting advertised quality standards.
- Our priority is making sure we get safe, effective equipment and supplies into the hands of front-line healthcare workers
- Given the high level of complexity in the global supply chain, ensuring quality of the product Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is purchasing is extremely important
- We are working closely with our partners around the world, including embassies, as well as with on the ground logistics expertise in the private sector to get these supplies into the hands of health care workers on the front lines of this crisis
- We are taking a multi-pronged approach by purchasing supplies internationally where possible, while at the same time directly supporting Canadian industry to scale-up and re-tool to build domestic capacity
- Our goal is to be over prepared and we are ordering supplies in anticipation of future needs, to ensure they are available for provinces, territories, frontline health workers and Canadians
If pressed on quality-issues of medical supplies:
- We are working with established suppliers and distributors, as well as quality assurance experts, and we have strong processes in place to help ensure that the supplies we receive meet all necessary standards
- In addition, PHAC has robust testing measures in place, and they are in place for the very purpose of ensuring quality control of these essential products before they go out to provinces and territories
- We have encountered situations where supplies were found to be substandard, and we have acted quickly to address these issues, and to ensure that replacement supplies are rolled out where they were needed most
- These actions include suspending orders with certain manufacturers, and working closely with others to ensure that production issues are identified and corrected as soon as possible
- We must make sure that the equipment that our frontline workers rely on is high quality, so they can stay safe, and keep us safe too
If pressed on International Export Restrictions:
- Countries have begun implementing export restrictions on the goods critical to combating COVID-19, such as PPE
- This environment has made it increasingly challenging to source and acquire the PPE that Canada needs
- This is why we have been collaborating with provinces and territories on an ongoing basis to identify their needs and establish bulk buys to purchase required equipment, supplies, and services to combat COVID-19
If pressed on a plane departing China without cargo:
- One cargo flight returned without its intended federal shipment on board because the cargo couldn't be cleared through the handling protocols in time to be loaded resulting in the intended cargo being unable to get to the plane before its required takeoff time
- Air Canada took quick action to load standby shipments belonging to other customers, bringing much needed goods back to Canada
- Air Canada has credited the Government of Canada with the costs they recovered as a result of that transport flight
Global demand for medical supplies remains high for the fight against COVID-19, and competition remains fierce for their delivery. The federal government is procuring materials from a variety of sources, including from overseas suppliers. In addition to federal supply purchases, provinces and cities are also sourcing their own equipment.
Countries have moved to restrict the export of face masks, gloves and other medical supplies critical for front-line workers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a more time-consuming procurement process. Sixty-eight countries — Canada is not among them — have curbed exports of PPE or medicine. China is the largest supplier of PPE in the world, and global supply was impacted when the country had to shut down its factories earlier this year when the outbreak began. Canada has taken a two-pronged approach to the acquisition of supplies, by scaling up domestic capacity while seeking to acquire PPE internationally.
The federal government has recently hired private firms to provide quality assurance before supplies are shipped to Canada, and the federal public health agency does further checks before distributing goods.
Federal construction work
Construction work continues for critical federal health and safety infrastructure. Work also continues within the Parliamentary Precinct, in line with recommendations and the approach taken by the Ontario government.
- The health and safety of Canadians is our top priority as we respond to the COVID-19 outbreak
- In line with the approach taken by the Government of Ontario, work is continuing for critical health and safety infrastructure, major public institutions, and research and security installations
- Although federal construction projects do not fall under provincial authority, PSPC reduced its construction activity across Ontario in keeping with our collective efforts to flatten the curve in alignment with advice of public health officials
- We continue to work with our industry partners, and the provinces and territories to ensure that strict health and safety protocols, including appropriate social distancing and face covering protocols, are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on our worksites
If pressed on the Parliamentary Precinct:
- Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) temporarily halted 85 projects in the Parliamentary Precinct. This included all projects taking place in occupied space, including fit-up and building improvements
- Construction activities have continued on the Centre Block and the East Block but are limited to activities undertaken in unoccupied spaces to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transfer for both building occupants and construction workers. These projects are aligned with the Government of Ontario's direction, and we have put in place industry-leading health and safety protocols based on prevention, detection, and response
- Both projects are able to facilitate appropriate social distancing and compartmentalization of the construction site, and are employing such measures as temperature monitors at entry points and requiring non-medical masks for all construction workers
- Necessary repair and maintenance work required for the safe operations of parliamentary facilities will also continue
If pressed on the Canadian Construction Association Request to support industry:
- The Government of Canada will continue its ongoing collaboration with the Canadian Construction Association in key areas as we navigate the reality created by the COVID-19 pandemic
- PSPC officials have been actively participating in roundtable discussions with the industry. Our most recent roundtable with the Canadian Construction Association was held on May 1, 2020. We will continue our work to ensure the health and safety of construction employees, and to continue those projects that can meet the protocols established under provincial authorities
PSPC continues to monitor the situation to ensure that any decision regarding construction sites respects the advice of public health officials and aligns with the Canadian Construction Association's (CCA) standardized COVID-19 protocols for all Canadian construction sites and respective provincial and territorial government direction.
The CCA has voiced their support for keeping federal construction sites open and its workforce employed on project sites that can meet a high standard of health and safety measures and that involve defence, security, infrastructure and the administration of justice and government. Federal unions (e.g., Unionized Building & Construction Trades Council) have also written to the Minister directly expressing their gratitude for maintaining jobs by keeping the Parliament Hill site open specifically, noting that it is among the safest in the country.
PSPC has taken steps to significantly reduce construction activities in the Parliamentary Precinct as a result of the announcement by the Government of Ontario on Friday, April 3, 2020 to scale back construction activity throughout the province.
In addition to continuing work on the Centre Block and the East Block, PSPC will also continue emergency repairs and maintenance work to ensure the continued safe operations of parliamentary facilities. This is directly aligned with Province of Ontario direction.
Projects not aligned with the revised Province of Ontario directives have paused construction work. The 85 demobilized projects are in three primary categories:
- Interior fit-ups (e.g. office fit-ups in Parliamentary administrative leased space at 50 O'Connor; retail and operational space fit-up in the Wellington Building)
- Interior improvements (e.g. Drywall repairs and patchwork in the East Block; ceiling and radiator repairs in the Confederation Building; marble stone repairs in the Sir John A. Macdonald Building)
- Exterior repairs (e.g. window seal repairs to the Justice Building; window replacement/repairs to the Confederation Building; masonry maintenance on the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council; National Press Building exterior envelope)
Status of defence procurement projects
Due to COVID-19, several defence procurement projects have halted or slowed, including the construction and maintenance of ships.
- Our government is taking strong action to protect our economy, jobs, and the health and safety of Canadians during the global COVID-19 outbreak
- Canada will continue to monitor the situation, analyze potential impacts and explore all possible financial measures available to support the defence and marine industry and protect Canada's long term national security interests
- We are currently assessing the impact of COVID-19 on the delivery of ongoing and future major procurement projects
- We urge all employers during this critical time to follow the recommendations of public health officials, and to go above and beyond standard health and safety measures to make sure that workers are safe in this extraordinary situation
If pressed on the budget, delays and impact:
- Procurements are proceeding as planned, barring any issues faced by industry, which we will examine with companies on a case-by-case basis
- Canada will work through the contractual and financial implications of these circumstances to find resolutions acceptable to both Canada and industry
- We will work with the defence and shipbuilding industry to mitigate any budgetary and schedule impacts of the COVID-19 response
- Given the uncertainties associated with the duration of COVID-19 and related strategies, it is premature to assess the overall schedule impact to projects
If pressed on the third yard:
- Chantier Davie has pre-qualified to become the third strategic partner under the National Shipbuilding Strategy and has moved on to the request for proposal and evaluation stage of the process
- The third yard will build six Program Icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard
- The entire process is being overseen by an independent fairness monitor
If pressed on the Polar Icebreaker:
- The government is exploring procurement options for construction of the Polar Icebreaker. No decisions have been taken
- A request for information was issued to obtain information on domestic shipyard capability and capacity to build a Polar Icebreaker. Canada is currently evaluating responses
If pressed on the Future Fighter Capability Program:
- Canada has requested that all suppliers inform Canada by May 31, 2020 about their intention to submit a proposal
- Canada is actively planning for the upcoming bid evaluation once proposals are received on June 30, 2020
If pressed on ‘excusable delay' requests:
- In order for Canada to consider a delay excusable, certain factors set out in the contracts must be met, including a requirement for contractors to notify Canada and to submit a work around plan
- Therefore, in the specific context of COVID-19, contractors wishing to submit an Excusable delay claim to Canada should review their contracts and proceed in accordance with the requirements they contain
- We encourage industry to review their own specific contract and submit an excusable delay request according to the provisions of their respective contract
In response to COVID-19, Irving Shipbuilding Inc. (ISI) has suspended most industrial operations, production at Vancouver Shipyards (VSY) remains ongoing and the Province of Quebec has declared Chantier Davie an essential service.
ISI has suspended most industrial operations as of March 20, 2020. The initial 3-week pause has since been extended. The suspension impacts about 1,100 employees, while special measures for working from home or within ISI's offices have been implemented for remaining employees. Design work for the Canadian Surface Combatant continues through the suspension, along with limited work for the first and second Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships.
Operations at VSY continue but are being closely monitored. White collar workers not in direct support of production are working from home, while other measures being taken include following self-isolation guidelines, additional social distancing measures, cancelling large gatherings and increased cleaning. VSY has been working closely with WorkSafeBC in implementing these practices, and adjusting and escalating actions in response to new regulations and guidance.
On March 24, 2020, in response to COVID-19, the Quebec Government published a list of essential industrial sectors, under which Chantier Davie qualified. Chantier Davie has conducted on-site training for dealing with COVID-19, implemented a set of strict directives, and negotiated with their union to maintain intact squads instead of rotating employees through different teams. Nonetheless the workforce numbers and capacity has diminished to accommodate the social distancing measures implemented.
A number of Canadian defence suppliers have reached out to government officials identifying the need for urgent support, as they are experiencing serious cash flow difficulties resulting from reduced activities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic situation. In collaboration with other government organizations and central agencies, Public Services and Procurement Canada is currently exploring measures to support the defence industry.
Procurement of medical supplies
Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) has been working aggressively with domestic and international suppliers, along with provincial and territorial governments to procure medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).
- The whole-of-government is focused on responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, and working with partners at all levels of government, and with industry, to secure life-saving medical supplies
- We are taking a two-pronged approach by purchasing supplies internationally where possible, while at the same time directly supporting Canadian industry to rapidly scale-up and re-tool to build domestic production capacity, ensuring a reliable domestic supply to serve our needs for the short and long term
- We stand ready to take further action and adapt our approach as the situation evolves
If pressed on domestic suppliers:
- Industry and suppliers have absolutely stepped up and a dedicated team of procurement specialists are actively assessing responses as they come in
- It is a careful and time-consuming process to assess the viability of each offer, and our dedicated team of procurement specialists are working all-out assessing responses as they come in
- Many of the suppliers who have reached out have led to productive leads for us and we are so thankful for this support. We will continue working through every offer, and pursuing all viable leads
If pressed on provincial and territorial collaboration:
- From the outset we have been working directly with provincial and territorial governments to ensure that we are capturing their needs, and purchasing supplies with a "Team Canada" approach.
- I am in regular contact with my provincial and territorial counterparts to ensure that we are working cohesively and collaboratively, and that they are getting the support they need
- Our goal is to be over prepared and we are ordering supplies in anticipation of future needs, to ensure they are available for provinces, territories, frontline health workers and Canadians
If pressed on providing the private sector with PPE:
- Our top priority remains protecting the health and safety of Canadians
- Our government is actively exploring how to best support organizations beyond the healthcare system in accessing PPE supplies to meet the needs of Canadian workers
- Discussions across the federal government and with provinces, territories and partners continue as we work together to inform next steps in the procurement response to COVID-19, including how to best support workers on the frontlines and in essential services
The government is taking an aggressive, proactive procurement approach to fulfill immediate and future requirements. This includes buying in bulk from reputable distributors, to secure key items like masks and ventilators, which are in high global demand.
As the requirements across the country are rapidly evolving, the federal government is closely collaborating with the provinces and territories to ensure their needs are accurately identified in a timely manner. In addition, the government has shifted its procurement approach to anticipate future needs rather than only current requirements.
In addition, across Canada, governments are encouraging efforts to ramp up domestic manufacturing to reduce reliance on international supply chains but it is not clear when that will scale up enough to replace or supplement global procurement.
Harrington Lake renovations
The National Capital Commission (NCC) recently released the amount allocated to rehabilitate the Prime Minister's Harrington Lake summer residence, with investments totaling $8.6 million. The funding comes after a 2018 report found the residence to be in critical condition, requiring $17 million of repairs and renovations.
- The National Capital Commission is an independent Crown Corporation and is responsible for year-round maintenance and operations for the six official residences in Canada's Capital Region
- The NCC recognizes the significance of these official residences and are committed to working with its partners to ensure that issues related to security, heritage preservation, sustainability, and accessibility are addressed
- The NCC's work at Harrington Lake is part of a broader program to preserve, maintain and restore all Official Residences under NCC management
- We will continue to support the NCC in its important work
While the main cottage at Harrington Lake is 95 years old, most of the buildings were built between 1850 and 1925. Harrington Lake, the official country residence of the Prime Minister, is used for both official and private functions, with buildings that can accommodate official business as well as state visits.
Harrington Lake last saw major capital investment during the 1950s (over 60 years ago); the property has not seen any investment since 2005, when the NCC made critical repairs to the roofing, eavestroughs, piping, electrical, mechanical and structural systems of the property.
Given the precarity of its condition, the Harrington Lake property was deemed to be in critical condition in the NCC's 2018 Official Residences of Canada: Asset Portfolio Condition Report (see pages 38 to 43). At the time, the NCC estimated the capital investment required for rehabilitation of the residence and all its ancillary buildings at $17.8 million.
Of NCC's $8.6 million investment, $6.1 million is to address critical condition and life cycle requirements of the main cottage, including window replacement/rehabilitation, insulation of walls and attic, chimney repairs, foundation damp proofing and functional improvements.
Constructed in the 1850s, the Harrington Lake farmhouse has been closed since 2008 due to health and safety concerns, and is in need of complete rehabilitation to prevent further deterioration and restore usability. The budget of this ongoing farmhouse rehabilitation work is $2.5 million over two years.
This note focuses on the continuity of pay services in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pay and pension services are essential, and we have the resources in place to make sure they are operating without interruption.
- Ensuring public servants are paid accurately and on time is a top priority
- Pay and pension services are essential, and we have the resources in place to make sure they are operating without interruption
- Thanks to the hard work of our Pay Centre employees, the backlog has not increased. In fact, we have continued to see a steady decline in the queue
- The Client Contact Centre (CCC) remains available to assist any public servant experiencing pay issues
- Since January 2018, the backlog of financial transactions has decreased by 57%, from 384,000 to 166,000 transactions
If pressed on specific measures for COVID-19:
- We recognize that the recovery of overpayments can be a source of stress for employees, even more so now given the current circumstances
- Employees who have agreed on a repayment plan but now need to revisit it can contact the CCC to discuss available options
- The Pay Centre has also suspended all new recoveries of overpayments that are eligible for flexible repayment measures
- Employees with pay issues continue to have access to an emergency salary advance or a priority payment when necessary
- Employees who cannot access the government network can request to have their pay stubs through mail or epost, by contacting the CCC
- We have introduced interim administrative measures to simplify and speed up the approval process of a range of pay-related transactions
If pressed on the Bouchard class action lawsuit for all employees affected by the Phoenix pay system:
- The President of the Treasury Board Secretariat is the lead as the employer
- We are aware that the Supreme Court of Canada denied the plaintiff's application for leave to appeal the Novembers 2019 decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal on scope of the class action
- Canada's public servants deserve to be paid accurately and on time for their important work. The Government of Canada continues to take action on all fronts to resolve pay issues and we are seeing progress
- As this matter is currently before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time
Services related to pay are considered essential and measures are in place to ensure that operational requirements are met.
Following the recommendation of the Public Health Agency of Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada asked all its employees, including those at the Public Service Pay Centre and the CCC, to work from home if possible, while ensuring the delivery of essential services.
The Pay Centre continues to deliver all of its pay services which include regular pay, return from leave, maternity and parental leave as well as disability insurance.
Supporting employees and eliminating the backlog remain our top priorities and we continue to see progress.
From Februarys 19 to Aprils 1,s 2020, the backlog of transactions with financial implication has decreased by 17,000. Over the past two years, since Januarys 2018, the backlog has decreased by 57%, from 384,000s tos 166,000 transactions.
The CCC remains the first point of contact for current and former federal public servants looking for information or help with compensation and benefits, and for technical issues when using the Compensation Web Applications or MyGCPay. Clients may, however, experience increased wait times when calling the CCC.
We are working closely with all our partners, including employees, unions, Members of Parliament offices, departments and their representatives from HR and pay, to provide support during this challenging time.
Eventual staged returns to the workplace
A large proportion of the public service has transitioned to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Government offices remain open and have been maintained for essential and critical workers to support Government of Canada efforts nationally. This situation is now evolving as some key service functions are increasing their incremental presence in offices while remaining guided by public health agencies within regional jurisdictions.
- PSPC is committed to providing its clients and employees with healthy and productive work environments
- While social-distancing and telework provisions are reducing general occupancy rates in our buildings at this time, we recognize that, in the future, occupancy levels will begin to increase
- We continue to work with the Treasury Board Secretariat and Health Canada to establish guidance for departments in terms of staged return to offices combined with telework, as well as to determine appropriate cleaning and maintenance protocols for our buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Should additional measures be recommended, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is ready to implement them
- Effective return to work strategies will likely include balancing office work with teleworking, improving network infrastructure and bandwidth, and providing employees with access to mobility tools such as laptops, mobile phones and virtual collaboration platforms to ensure continued program delivery
If pressed on Government building Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems spreading COVID-19:
- We are committed to providing our building occupants with productive and healthy workplaces
- The department continues to ensure that building systems including HVAC systems are properly operated and maintained to ensure healthy work environments
- Air that is distributed into the occupied spaces by central HVAC system(s) promotes appropriate air circulation and the removal of fine particles that are suspended in the air
- In response to COVID-19 we have implemented additional HVAC measures to enhance occupant wellness in our buildings. These measures are in keeping with industry guidance and consultation with Health Canada
PSPC continues to expand its body of guidance to departments to support them in establishing their plans for an eventual return to the workplace.
Return to the workplace strategies are being elaborated based on the client's nature of work, the functions to support services provided to Canadians, and the current configurations of their workplaces. Key practices include physical distancing for workstations, gathering rooms, and pathways for circulation within the work areas along with enhanced sanitation measures for workers including hand sanitizer and wipes for workspaces supported by guidelines recommended by the public health authorities to be accommodated within the workplace. Further, as other key employment infrastructure elements progressively resume, such as small businesses, schools and daycares, progressive back to work strategies will continue to require balancing office work with teleworking, sustaining and improving network infrastructure and bandwidth, and providing employees with access to mobility tools such as laptops, screens, mobile phones and virtual collaboration platforms to ensure continued program delivery.
The department will continue engagement with central agencies and clients to collaborate on guidance for workplace return to work strategies. PSPC will also continue to advance procedures to ensure healthy and productive work environments for the resumption of occupancy in our buildings as guidance evolves.
Media article on the spread of COVID-19 through ventilation systems
A recent National Post article reference a Chinese study that was done on individuals who contracted Covid-19 while at a restaurant. The restaurant had a wall mounted air conditioning unit above the table with infected individuals that was blowing high velocity air into the rest of the restaurant.
Such high velocity air could transport and spread droplets that are released by infected individuals near the air conditioning unit beyond a 2 meter area of physical distancing. The mode of transmission for infection in this case is droplet spread that was influenced by the high velocity air from the wall mounted air conditioning unit.
Unlike the air conditioning system referenced in the Chinese study, the HVAC system(s) in PSPC buildings are centrally located and do not distribute air into the occupied zone at high velocity. The air that is distributed into the occupied spaces by the central HVAC system(s) promotes appropriate air circulation and removal of fine particles that are suspended in the air.
In response to Covid-19 PSPC has implemented the following additional HVAC measures to enhance occupant wellness in our buildings.
These measures are in keeping with industry guidance and consultation with Health Canada:
- Increasing the amount of outdoor air being provided to the space above code requirements
- Increasing the hours of operation of the HVAC systems to promote increased dilution of contaminants and improved air circulation that promotes removal of fine particles
- Ensuring appropriate temperature and humidity levels in occupied spaces to promote occupant comfort and wellness
- Ensuring appropriate filtration is installed
- Ensuring that there is no potential cross contamination between washroom exhaust air and ventilation airflow
Rent relief measures for federal building occupants
Public Services Procurement Canada (PSPC) has put in place measures to alleviate financial pressure on its commercial tenants during a period of low-building occupancy brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- PSPC is committed to providing its building occupants and employees with healthy and productive work environments
- The Department has taken steps to allow tenants to defer their rent payments for a three-month period effective April 1, 2020, for those businesses whose income has been affected by the COVID-19 containment measures
- On April 24, 2020, the Prime Minister also announced additional details regarding the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, aiming to lower rent by 75% for eligible small businesses, and non-profit and charitable organizations that are facing financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program currently covers the months of April, May and June 2020
- PSPC is working with the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) on the application of similar flexibilities for commercial tenants in its buildings
Given the health and safety measures put in place to contain COVID-19, buildings under Public Services and Procurement Canada's management are largely empty. As a result, commercial tenants may have experienced reductions in their business volumes.
In line with March 31, 2020, guidance from TBS on rent relief to external tenants, PSPC has taken steps to allow tenants to defer their rent payments for a three-month period effective April 1, 2020, for those businesses whose income has been affected by the COVID-19 containment measures. To date, rent deferrals were sought by 136 tenants for a total of $1.5 million for the three-month period.
On April 24, 2020, the Prime Minister announced that the federal government had reached an agreement in principle with all provinces and territories to implement the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) targeted for small businesses and non-profit organizations. This program will lower rent by 75% for businesses that have been affected by COVID-19 for a three-month period (April to June 2020).
On April 25, 2020, TBS Assistant Comptroller General sent a communique stating that, although CECRA does not apply to PSPC, as a custodian, it is required to ensure a whole-of-government approach to the implementation of the program. As such, custodians are expected to extend similar flexibilities to provide eligible tenants with appropriate rent relief. TBS's guidance will follow to ensure a consistent approach. Based on expected program criteria, it could equate to a total rent relief of up to $2.8 million (75% of $3.8 million in revenues from 263 leases).
Defence Construction Canada contract with Cegerco
Cegerco, a Quebec-based general contractor based in Chicoutimi (Saguenay), won a contract bid in late 2016 to construct two buildings on Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Bagotville in Quebec. The project's completion was initially scheduled for December 2019, but delays have pushed back this this timeline to 2021. Cegerco has submitted a claim requesting additional compensation for the delays.
- The Government of Canada is committed to providing the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces with the support they need, including modern facilities where they can work and train safely
- We are working hard to ensure this project is completed quickly
- However, Defence Construction Canada (DCC) is acting responsibly and taking measures to support critical operations with respect to the workplace while operating in compliance with directives from Canadian provincial authorities
- We cannot comment on ongoing discussions between DCC and its contractors
- We will continue our work to ensure the health and safety of construction employees, and to continue those projects that can meet the protocols established under provincial authorities
On April 24, 2017, the Department of National Defence announced a contract valued at $46.9 million with Cegerco Inc. of Chicoutimi (Quebec) for the construction of two new buildings and the deconstruction of several old buildings at CFB Bagotville. The new buildings will be primarily dedicated to the maintenance and storage of aircraft maintenance support equipment and heavy vehicles such as snow plows. These buildings will also include administrative areas and parking spaces.
Cegerco claims changes made to the project represent an additional [Redacted] in costs, bringing the cost total closer to [Redacted] than the initial figure.
Translation Bureau staff capacity
Translation Bureau staffing capacity and wellness was raised by members of the Standing House Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) during a Translation Bureau's appearance on May 4, 2020.
- The Translation Bureau's top priority is the health and safety of its employees
- The Translation Bureau has not experienced capacity issues to date and is taking measures to ensure it has the capacity to continue serving Parliament and the Government of Canada
- The Translation Bureau currently has approximately 50 official languages interpreters available to meet the needs of Parliament
- We will continue to do our work to ensure the health and safety of Government of Canada employees, while providing an essential service for parliamentarians
On May 4, 2020, during an exchange at PROC, the President of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees stated that out of the 70 Translation Bureau interpreters working in official languages during the pandemic, there are about 40 interpreters that are unable to work because of child care or health issues.
The Translation Bureau has confirmed that these numbers are not accurate.
From January 1, 2019 to March 15, 2020, there was one report of a disabling injury and one report of a minor injury. Both employees are now recovered and have returned to work. Both incidents were a result of traditional (in person) interpretation. During the same time period, there were 28 other hazardous occurrences reported related to poor sound quality (e.g., feedback, high-pitched noises, interference) and that resulted in fatigue, headaches, and hearing sensitivity. Two of these hazardous occurrences were related to remote interpretation (teleconferences), while the remainder were related to traditional interpretation.
With increased use of videoconferences over the last two months, there has been an increase in incident reports from interpreters, including headaches, earaches and fatigue due to poor sound quality. No acoustic shock or other injury requiring hospitalization has been reported.
From March 16, 2020 to April 29, 2020, there were no reported disabling or minor injuries. There were 39 other hazardous occurrences reported that related to poor sound quality that resulted, most commonly, in headaches, hearing sensitivities, and fatigue. Fourteen of those hazardous occurrences were related to teleconferences; 25 were related to videoconferences.
The Translation Bureau has provided its interpreters with headsets with sound limiters to protect against acoustic shock and implemented a series of hygiene and physical distancing measures. In addition, the Bureau requires its clients to take technical measures that promote not only the health of its interpreters but also high-quality interpretation. These include having a qualified audiovisual technician present at all times, remote participants' use of good quality headsets with built-in microphones and good quality Internet connections, and the provision documents to interpreters in advance of meetings.
The Translation Bureau's approach aligns very closely to international best practices, including the International Association of Conference Interpreters principles, guidance for institutions and best practices.
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