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Budget 2021: VIDO in Saskatoon poised to become ‘Canada’s centre for pandemic research’

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WATCH: VIDO in Saskatoon is slated to receive $59.2 million over three years to enhance the organization's efforts to tackle COVID-19 and future infectious diseases – Apr 19, 2021

The University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) received a major booster shot in the 2021 federal budget.

The Liberal government announced $59.2 million over three years for the expansion of VIDO’s current facilities, along with its vaccine candidates.

“This money is really for VIDO to become Canada’s centre for pandemic research,” Dr. Volker Gerdts said in an interview. Gerdts is the director and CEO of VIDO.

Read more: Saskatchewan government commits $15M to pandemic research at VIDO

The new funding is in addition to a previous $15 million commitment from the Saskatchewan government, $250,000 from the City of Saskatoon and various amounts from private donors.

Part of the new funding will go toward new housing for animals that are rare to work with, but often sources for new diseases. Gerdts used bats, insects and reptiles as examples.

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Researchers would be able “to immediately start the work on any new emerging disease, essentially on the day that a new disease emerges,” Gerdts said.

A small portion of VIDO’s containment facility will also be upgraded to biosafety level four — the highest level possible.

Construction is slated to be completed at some point in the next three years.

Read more: Canada’s debt set to cross $1 trillion mark as Liberals extend COVID-19 aid in budget

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe welcomed the funding for VIDO — one of his major pre-budget requests. He and Canada’s premiers sought a $28 billion increase in health transfers from the federal government, but it wasn’t delivered. Instead, the Liberal government approved the minimum increase allowable – three per cent.

Moe highlighted $3 billion in funding for long-term care in Canada as a piece of encouraging news.

“Any funding into our health care delivery, including long-term care is appreciated if the parameters around those dollars are workable,” Moe said.

The Trudeau government’s cornerstone promise of $10 per day daycare within five years will require negotiation with the provinces.

Last year, median daycare fees for parents in Saskatoon and Regina ranged from just over $20 per day to just under $30 per day, depending on whether it was an infant, toddler or preschooler, according to an analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

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The math doesn’t necessarily add up if lower daycare fees mean higher usage, said University of Regina economics associate professor Jason Childs.

Read more: Federal budget delivers big promises on childcare, tamer housing measures

Quebec sets a flat fee for child care services, contributing to 60 to 65 per cent uptake, Childs said

“We’ll need to be generating, if we all go to Quebec-level usages, about 4 million child care spaces over the entire country if we’re all on this system,” Childs said.

Ten dollars per day would likely only support 1.5 to 2 million child care spaces, he said.

“It’s not obvious to me what is going to happen with those other spaces.”

The federal budget also includes plans to offer rebates to farmers who use natural gas and propane for things like grain drying. In its first year, farmers are estimated to receive $100 million, according to the government.

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