Politics

Ottawa to give provinces $2 billion to help reopen schools

The federal government will transfer $2 billion to provinces and territories to help them with the safe reopening of schools, CBC News has confirmed.

Sources say provinces will have broad discretion when it comes to spending

The federal government is transferring funds to provinces to help them reopen their schools. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

The federal government will transfer $2 billion to provinces and territories to help them with the safe reopening of schools, CBC News has confirmed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make the formal announcement Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. ET in Toronto. CBCnews.ca will carrying the announcement his press conference live.

The scope and details of the plan were discussed Tuesday afternoon during a call with the premiers. The news was first reported by the Toronto Star.

Multiple sources familiar with the arrangement say the provinces and territories will have broad discretion on how to use the money to deal with challenges in the classroom created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The $2 billion will be divided up on a per capita basis based on student population.

Sending kids back to school has become a source of anxiety for parents across the country — and a flashpoint for tensions between teachers unions and some provincial governments. Health professionals have called for smaller class sizes to help with physical distancing.

Critics have said too many school districts lack systems for monitoring staff and students for symptoms, and too many schools have antiquated ventilation systems.

Some researchers also have said Canada is lagging behind other countries in introducing saliva-based tests for COVID-19 in schools. There's still no word on when saliva-based testing for COVID-19 will be allowed in Canada, while in the U.S., five saliva-based tests have been approved so far by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Earlier today, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the province would ensure that school boards continue to receive the funding required to make sure they have appropriate personal protective equipment necessary to restart the school year. 

"In the area of ventilation the province recently announced an additional $50 million," said Lecce. "On an annual basis, every single year, under this government we're allocating $1.4 billion in maintenance and renewal funding."

Lecce said that school boards have been told to upgrade their ventilation systems to ensure that older buildings are at an acceptable standard for the return of school. 

"We're going to do whatever we can for our boards and we're going to continue to be there for our boards, especially as challenges emerge in the fall," he said.

About the Author

David Cochrane is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary bureau. He previously wrote for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador.

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