COVID-19:  Cross country update (April 14, 2020)

April 14, 2020

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Temporary Foreign Workers

A $50 million proposal has been announced to help farmers, fish harvesters, and all food production and processing employers put in place the measures necessary to follow the mandatory 14-day isolation period required of all workers arriving from abroad. Temporary foreign workers contribute to the strength of Canada’s food supply chain, which is why the Government of Canada granted an exemption for temporary foreign workers from travel restrictions to Canada, provided they adhere to a strict 14-day isolation protocol upon arrival.

In addition to the responsibility of paying the workers for the two weeks during which time they cannot work, many employers are also responsible for providing workers with transportation and accommodations, as well as access to food and basic supplies needed to meet all of the conditions imposed by public health authorities.  To assist with this, the federal government will provide support of $1,500 for each temporary foreign worker to employers, or those working with them, to ensure requirements are fully met.

The funding is conditional on employers not being found in violation of the mandatory 14-day isolation protocols or any other public health order.  Those who do not comply with the Quarantine Act or the isolation protocol will face severe fines and sanctions.  Under proposed changes, employers could also face significant penalties, and a possible ban from the program, if they prevent adherence to the self-isolation order.

Enforcing the Quarantine Act

Regulatory amendments under the Contraventions Act have come into force which provide increased flexibility for law enforcement agencies, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, local and provincial police forces, to issue tickets from $275 to $1000 to individuals who do not comply with orders under the Quarantine Act.  These enforcement measures are in addition to provincial and municipal orders that have already been enacted in some jurisdictions, which allow for ticketing.  Depending on the circumstances, law enforcement may also pursue a matter through the summary conviction procedure set out in the Criminal Code.

Food Inspection

$20 million will be provided to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to support critical food inspection to ensure that Canadians will have continued access to safe, high-quality food to feed their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This investment will allow the CFIA to hire, train and equip additional staff to conduct critical inspection activities, reassign staff from within the Agency to focus on critical services, and work more closely with industry and trading partners to minimize supply disruptions during this crisis.  This funding will also support the training of provincial food inspectors so they can provide assistance to the CFIA as needed.

The CFIA is also looking at ways to introduce flexibility where possible. For example, the CFIA is making packaged food intended for use by restaurants and hotels more easily available for sale at retail outlets and grocery stores.

Northern Communities

To address the health, economic, and transportation needs in the North, the following measures have been announced:

  • $72.6 million to the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut to support their COVID-19 health and social services preparations and response;
  • Up to $17.3 million to the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut to support northern air carriers to ensure the continued supply of food, medical supplies, and other essential goods and services to remote and fly-in communities;
  • Up to $15 million in non-repayable support for businesses in the territories to help address the impacts of COVID-19; and
  • $25 million to Nutrition North Canada to increase subsidies so families can afford much-needed nutritious food and personal hygiene products.

Northerners are also receiving help through the Harvesters Support Grant, which was developed in direct collaboration with Indigenous partners. The grant helps to improve food security by increasing access to traditional foods and alleviating the high costs associated with traditional hunting and harvesting activities.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Non-AHS Facilities

Non-Alberta Health Services (AHS) facilities, such as pharmacies, disability service providers, social service and civil society groups, and independent medical clinics, can submit requests for PPE by emailing pessecc-logistics@gov.ab.ca.  Requests will be processed through the Provincial Operations Centre based on specific need.

Increased Supports for Alberta Caregivers

$3 million will be provided to Caregivers Alberta to expand supports for caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.  Supports include:

  • Developing a public awareness campaign to highlight the importance of caregivers and their work;
  • Compiling an inventory of caregiver supports across the province;
  • Expanding the hours of the Caregiver Advisor phone line;
  • Establishing a referral system to link caregivers and Caregivers Alberta through health-care providers;
  • Updating and expanding support programs;
  • Providing employers with resources to support caregivers in the workplace; and
  • Developing a coaching program for caregivers.

Psychosocial, along with other peer and community supports, are currently available through the toll-free caregiver advisor line at 1-877-453-5088 and online at caregiversalberta.ca for all caregivers, including those caring for someone with COVID-19 or in self-isolation.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority is informing Saskatchewan businesses that grossly excessive pricing of products or services during a period of crisis that takes advantage of consumers who are unable to protect their own interests due to the impact of the crisis is not permitted.  Businesses could face regulatory action and prosecution if found to have engaged in this conduct as it is an unfair business practice contrary to The Consumer Protection and Business Practices Act.  However, the prohibition on price gouging does not prevent businesses from reasonably raising prices, for instance, to cover increased costs of acquiring inventory.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

Administrative Leave

On April 14, Premier Brian Pallister announced that the Province will now provide administrative leave to healthcare workers who are required to self-isolate for 14 days due to possible COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.  Qualifying workers will be paid administrative leave for the full 14-day period of asymptomatic self-isolation.  Should a worker become symptomatic during self-isolation, the individual will be compensated by sick leave benefits, pursuant to their collective agreement.

Support for Businesses

On April 13, Premier Brian Pallister announced that the Province has engaged 24-7 Intouch to help businesses, not-for-profits and charities facing economic challenges due to COVID-19 connect with support programs.  24-7 Intouch is in the process of establishing a secure call centre to identify and reach out to identified and prioritized businesses and stakeholders that have been impacted by COVID-19 to offer help, and answer incoming calls and questions.

Strict privacy protocols, including the use of personal and business information, will be in place. It will offer bilingual service with the capacity to offer assistance in other languages spoken in Manitoba.

Details such as the call centre phone number and hours of operation will be available in the days ahead. Businesses should check the Manitoba government website to view an updated list of available federal and provincial supports.

Public Health Orders Extended

The Province is extending the public health orders, issued on March 30, to expire on April 28 rather than April 14. The following measures, among others, remain in effect:

  • Public gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people at any indoor or outdoor place or premises, including places of worship, gatherings and family events such as weddings and funerals.  This excludes facilities where healthcare or social services are provided, including child care centres and homeless shelters.
  • All restaurants and other commercial facilities that serve food are prohibited from serving food to customers in their premises.  However, delivery and takeout services are permitted as long as the operator of the restaurant ensures that all people maintain the appropriate social distancing from other customers when picking up food.
  • All businesses that are not listed in the schedule of critical services that accompanies the order must remain closed.

Education Platform for Teachers

On April 13, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced that the Province has partnered with the Pembina Trails School Division and the St. James-Assiniboia School Division to offer teachers expanded online access to high school courses through InformNet, which the two school divisions operate.

Manitoba teachers currently have access to 17 courses for Grade 11 and 12 students on the InformNet platform; the Department of Education is acting as a help desk and offering professional development to support the expansion of InformNet.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

Declaration of Emergency Extended

The Ontario government is extending the Declaration of Emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act for a further 28 days to May 12.

The extension allows the Province to continue to enforce current emergency orders, such as the closure of all non-essential workplaces, outdoor amenities such as parks and recreational areas, public places and bars and restaurants, as well as restrictions on social gatherings of more than five people, and prohibitions against price-gouging.

Legislative Amendments in Relation to COVID-19

The Ontario government passed the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act, amending certain legislation as follows:

Education Act – The amendment allows school boards to continue charging fees on new construction to retain a vital source of revenue for new school projects.

Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act – The amendment temporarily suspends student loan payments for OSAP borrowers and initiates a six-month interest-free moratorium on OSAP loans.

Development Charges Act – The amendment makes it possible to suspend certain municipal planning decision timelines during the state of emergency to allow municipalities to preserve vital revenue sources for local growth-related infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewers as well as fire and police services.

Police Services Act – The amendment allows the Solicitor General to give municipalities an extension beyond January 1, 2021 to prepare and adopt a community safety and well-being plan.

Essential Businesses

On April 9, the Province issued an order amending the list of essential businesses under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to include construction projects that are due to be completed before October 4, 2020 and that would provide additional capacity in the production, processing, manufacturing or distribution of food, beverages or agricultural products.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

On April 14, the agglomeration of Montreal extended the state of emergency on its territory until April 18.

On April 13, the government amended the list of priority services and activities to add:

  • Vehicle maintenance and repair activities, effective from April 15.
  • Suppliers of products, parts or other equipment necessary for transport and logistics services.
  • Mining operations starting April 15 in a supervised and progressive manner. To ensure safety, this industry will have to apply robust measures related to health, hygiene and physical distancing including the following:
    • Minimize fly-in fly-out of workers and maximize the use of local workers;
    • For air shuttle operations, charter a greater number of planes to ensure physical distance;
    • Offer a shuttle bus service that brings workers directly to the mine, thereby limiting contact with neighbouring communities;
    • Require the wearing of personal protective equipment (e.g., glasses, gloves, etc.) and accentuate special hygiene measures (e.g., use of disinfectant gel); and
    • Extend the work cycle of workers to allow them to stay longer on the mining site (e.g., 28 days instead of 14 days).

The recommendations for the mining industry are available on the website of the Public health expertise and reference centre.

  • Beginning April 15, landscaping and landscape maintenance businesses (including nurseries, garden centres and businesses selling swimming pools) will be able to resume their activities.
  • Beginning April 20, housing constructions sites will be able to resume their activities.  This authorization is valid for the work necessary to complete the deliveries of residential units scheduled for no later than July 31. Moreover, this measure includes the reopening of the supply chain for this sector of the construction industry.

On April 13, the CNESST published the Guide COVID-19 – Construction sites on best practices to adopt in the construction industry to reduce contamination among workers. This guide is intended for both employers and workers.

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Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes :

Le 14 avril, l’agglomération de Montréal a renouvelé l’état d’urgence jusqu’au 18 avril sur son territoire.

Le 13 avril, le gouvernement a modifié la liste des services et activités prioritaires pour y ajouter :

  • Les activités d’entretien et de réparation de tous les véhicules, en vigueur à compter du 15 avril.
  • Les fournisseurs de produits, pièces ou autre matériel nécessaires aux services de transport et de logistique.
  • Les activités d’exploitation minière de manière encadrée et progressive à compter du 15 avril. Pour rendre le tout sécuritaire, cette industrie devra appliquer des mesures strictes liées aux aspects sanitaires, d’hygiène et de distanciation physique incluant notamment :
    • Réduire au minimum le va-et-vient aérien (« fly-in fly-out ») et maximiser le recours aux travailleurs locaux;
    • Pour le navettage aérien, noliser un plus grand nombre d’avions pour favoriser la distanciation physique;
    • Offrir un service de navettes par autobus qui amène les travailleurs directement à la mine, et ainsi limiter les contacts avec les communautés avoisinantes;
    • Exiger le port d’équipement de protection (ex. : lunettes, gants, etc.) et accentuer les mesures d’hygiène (ex. : usage de gel désinfectant);
    • Allonger le cycle de travail des travailleurs pour leur permettre de rester plus longtemps sur le site minier (ex. : 28 jours, au lieu de 14 jours).

Les recommandations pour le secteur minier se trouvent sur le site de l’Institut national de santé publique.

  • Les entreprises d’aménagement et d’entretien paysagers (incluant les pépinières, les centres de jardinage et les commerces de piscines). Elles pourront reprendre leurs activités à compter du 15 avril.
  • Les chantiers de construction résidentielle à compter du 20 avril. Cette autorisation touche les travaux nécessaires pour compléter les livraisons d’unités résidentielles prévues au plus tard le 31 juillet. Cela entraîne par le fait même la réouverture de la chaîne d’approvisionnement de ce secteur de l’industrie de la construction.

Le 13 avril, la CNESST a publié le Guide COVID-19 – Chantiers de construction portant sur les bonnes pratiques à adopter dans le milieu de la construction pour réduire la contamination des travailleurs. Ce guide s’adresse tant aux employeurs qu’aux travailleurs.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Long Term Care Workers

Effective April 13, long term care workers can only work at a single site and must remain working there to the exclusion of other sites for the duration of the pandemic.

Emergency Registration of Nurses

Effective April 9, the government further modified the process for permitting the emergency registration of providers of nursing services. Where the Board or Registrar of the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador determines that there is an immediate need for practical nursing services due to an actual or potential threat to public safety, health or welfare or where the minister or the federal Minister of Health makes a request, the Registrar may issue an emergency licence where the registrant has qualifications, such as having previously been licensed to practice in the province or being licensed in another jurisdiction in Canada.

Tickets

The Provincial Offences Ticket Regulations have been amended such that, for a contravention of a provision of the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act or its regulations, a complaint may be laid and summons issued by means of a ticket instead of the procedure set out in the Criminal Code for laying an information and for issuing a summons.

 

New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

Effective April 14, people who want to donate items such as masks, gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment should contact Service New Brunswick, which manages government procurement.

Effective April 13, testing for COVID-19 is being broadened to capture more potential cases of the disease; testing will be recommended for people exhibiting at least two of the following five symptoms:

  • fever above 38°C;
  • a new cough or worsening chronic cough;
  • sore throat;
  • runny nose; and
  • headache.

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

Effective April 12, masks are mandatory for workers at Nova Scotia long-term care homes.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Effective April 14, the government announced a variety of employment and economic supports for PEI students. Cumulatively, these supports will create 1,000 new job placements for high school and post-secondary students. The government is expanding the Skills PEI post-secondary employment program by supporting an additional 320 positions. This expansion will help create additional summer jobs for Island post-secondary students who are unable to find employment due to the impact of COVID-19.  Any Island employers interested in participating in this program should contact the Skills PEI office at 1-877-491-4766.

The government will provide the student unions at Holland College, University of PEI, and Collège de l’Île with a total of $95,000 to provide direct financial assistance to students in need. This will benefit all students in need, including those not eligible for loans or bursaries, such as international students.  There will also be an immediate $75,000 investment to create a research fund which is intended to create research opportunities for students while allowing for social distancing.

Minister of Fisheries and Communities Jamie Fox announced an expansion of the Team Seafood program to encourage more Island youth to participate in the fishing and aquaculture industries. Through Team Seafood, the province provides a bursary, on top of employee wages, to high school or post-secondary students. The province will support 250 new placements through this program.

Minister Fox also announced enhancements to the Jobs for Youth Program to work with community, environment, and non-government organizations to create 280 student employment opportunities.  To help Island businesses retain their current employees, the Minister announced an increase to private sector wage subsidies through the Employment Development Agency.  The subsidy to private-sector businesses which participate in these programs will increase from 50 per cent of wages to 75 per cent of wages.

 

Miller Thomson is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation to ensure that we provide our clients with appropriate support in this rapidly changing environment. For articles, information updates and firm developments, please visit our COVID-19 Resources page.

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