COVID-19:  Cross country update (April 15, 2020)

April 15, 2020

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Expanding Access to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provides $2,000 every four weeks for up to four months to workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The CERB is available to workers who meet all of the following conditions:

  • live in Canada and are at least 15 years old;
  • stopped working because of COVID-19 or are eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits;
  • have not voluntarily quit their job; and
  • had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application.

To help more Canadians benefit from the CERB, the government is announcing changes to the eligibility rules to:

  • Allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB;
  • Extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak; and
  • Extend the CERB to workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.

These changes will be retroactive to March 15, 2020 . More details are expected to be posted on the CERB portal shortly.

Wage Boost for Essential Workers

The Government of Canada has announced that it will work with provinces and territories through a new transfer to cost-share a temporary top up to the salaries of low-income essential workers (those who earn less than $2,500 per month), that the provinces and territories have deemed essential in the fight against COVID-19.  Details as to the application and delivery of this measure will be released shortly following further work with provinces and territories.

Federally Regulated Pension Plan Sponsors

The Pension Benefits Standards Regulations, 1985 require sponsors of federally regulated pension plans with funding deficiencies to make solvency special payments to eliminate these deficiencies over a period of five years. However, due to the pandemic’s effects on the economy, some sponsors are facing significant financial constraints, which are creating short-term liquidity issues and, in some cases, threatening the long-term viability of their business.

To help address these issues, Finance Minister Bill Morneau today announced that the government will provide immediate, temporary relief to sponsors of federally regulated, defined benefit pension plans. This relief will be in the form of a moratorium, through the remainder of 2020, on solvency payment requirements for defined benefit plans.

The government will consult with stakeholders over the coming months on options to provide relief from 2021 funding obligations, as necessary.

Occupational Health and Safety Resources

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety is currently offering a number of online courses and resources related to COVID-19 free of charge, and is working on additional sector-specific best practices.

Border Crossings

As of April 15 at 11:59 p.m. EDT, the Canada Border Services Agency will be temporarily reducing service hours at 27 Canadian land border locations.  Economic supply chains and trade will remain open and the CBSA will work to ensure that access to goods and services is not interrupted.  As a result, these changes  are not expected to affect commercial traffic.

The adjustments will remain in effect until the expiration date of the Order in Council made under the Quarantine Act prohibiting entry into Canada from the United States.  Details about which locations are impacted can be found on this Fact Sheet.

Update to Mandatory Requirements for Entry into Canada

Currently, the Government of Canada’s Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act already requires persons entering Canada to isolate for 14 days if they have symptoms of COVID-19, or to quarantine themselves for 14 days if they are asymptomatic.

An updated Order is being issued, under which any traveller arriving in Canada – whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic – cannot isolate or quarantine in a place where they would be in contact with people who are vulnerable, such as adults aged 65 years or over and people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Upon arrival, every traveller (even asymptomatic ones) will be expected to make plans in advance of arriving to Canada and will need to confirm that they have a suitable place to isolate or quarantine, where they will have access to basic necessities, such as food and medication.  Travellers who do not have an appropriate place in which to isolate or quarantine themselves must go to a place designated by the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.

In addition, all travellers arriving in Canada will be required to wear a non-medical mask or face covering to proceed to their final destination where they will isolate or quarantine. They will be provided with a mask if they do not have one.

This Order is mandatory and will come into force and be implemented one minute after midnight on April 15, 2020.

The Order applies to all people entering Canada, except those who cross the border regularly to ensure the continued flow of goods and essential services, or individuals who receive or provide other essential services to Canadians, as long as they do not have symptoms of COVID-19 upon entry into Canada.  These people, however, are still required to wear an appropriate mask or face covering upon entry into Canada and while in transit, and should otherwise respect the intent of the Order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.

Spot checks will be conducted by the Government of Canada to verify compliance.  Maximum penalties include a fine of up to $750,000 or imprisonment for six months, or both, for failure to comply with this Order.  Additionally, a person who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while willfully or recklessly contravening the Quarantine Act or the regulations could be liable for a fine of up to $1,000,000 or imprisonment of up to three years, or both.

Mental Health Supports

A new portal dedicated to mental health, Wellness Together Canada, has been launched to offer Canadians different levels of support depending on their need, ranging from information and self-assessment tools, to the opportunity to chat with peer support workers and other professionals.

Parks Canada

Camping, group activities and events at all national parks, national historic sites, heritage canals and national marine conservation areas are suspended until at least May 31, 2020. The current suspension of visitor services and vehicle access by visitors, as well as the temporary closure of visitor facilities, will remain in place until further notice.

Parks Canada will not be taking new reservations until at least June 1, 2020.  All existing reservations set to take place prior to May 31, 2020 will be automatically cancelled and refunded in full.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

State of Emergency Extended

The provincial state of emergency has been extended through the end of the day on April 28, 2020, which will allow the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support the Province’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

Temporary Foreign Workers

All temporary foreign workers (TFWs) arriving in British Columbia for seasonal farm work will be required to self-isolate in government-managed accommodations for 14 days prior to being transported to farms throughout B.C. during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Province will fund hotel and food-service costs during the 14-day self-isolation period – the accommodation will be in the Lower Mainland near the airport and will not be at the farm workplace.

Employers must pay TFWs for a minimum 30 hours per week during self-isolation, and at the rate of pay specified on the federal Labour Market Impact Assessment.  In addition, all farms will need to complete a COVID-19 infection prevention protocol, and be subject to a provincial inspection, before being able to accept TFWs.

Employers with questions should contact AgriServiceBC at 1 888 221-7141 or by email: AgriServiceBC@gov.bc.ca.  Information for workers arriving in Canada can be found at: http://news.gov.bc.ca/files/TFW_Farm_Workers.pdf.

Extension of Liquor Store Hours

There has been a temporary extension of hours for retail liquor service to provide greater opportunities for physical distancing for seniors and people who are immune-compromised.  Liquor retailers, such as wine stores or private liquor stores, throughout the province are now allowed to operate between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily, if they choose to do so.

Under the temporary directives, delivery services are also authorized to purchase liquor products on behalf of a customer from a liquor store, or any licensee authorized to sell in unopened containers, and to deliver and sell that liquor during these same hours.

The new policies are effective immediately and will remain in effect until July 15, 2020.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Mental Health Supports

The Government of Alberta is spending more than $53 million to implement more online, phone and in-person mental health and addiction recovery supports to make it easier for Albertans to access services from anywhere in Alberta during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.  The investment will be as follows:

  • $21.4 million to improve access to phone and online supports with existing helplines, including the Addiction Helpline, the Mental Health Helpline, the Kids Help Phone and the Community and Social Services Helpline (Alberta 211);
  • $2.6 million to expand individual and group treatment to address family violence, addiction and mental health for Albertans;
  • $4.2 million to expand the addiction and mental health supports available through Primary Care Networks; and
  • $25 million for a new community grant program to enhance community mental health and addiction recovery for the public, including Indigenous communities, seniors, families and people experiencing social barriers, who are negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Child Care for Military Families

Military personnel were not originally included in the list of provincial workers who can access child care because they are overseen by the federal government.  However, military families needing child care will now be able to access reopened child care centres so they can continue their essential work supporting Albertans.

Road Tests

Alberta is extending the suspension of road tests until the public health emergency ends and while procedures are developed to conduct road tests that prevent against the spread of COVID-19.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

On April 15, further to an emergency sitting convened by the Manitoba legislature, Premier Brian Pallister announced that the government is releasing up to $1 billion to support its ongoing actions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.  The funds were requested to be allocated as follows:

  • $500 million for the Health Services Insurance Fund;
  • $400 million for the internal service adjustments appropriations of government; and
  • $100 million for emergency expenditures.

Half of the investment would be directly available for health-care costs, while $400 million would be available for allocation to new COVID-19 pandemic-related costs across the whole of government, to create new government programs or support services for Manitobans, or address increased costs under existing programs whose volumes have increased as a result of the pandemic.

The remaining $100 million would be earmarked for potential natural disasters later in the fiscal year, such as floods and forest fires, as well as new emergency costs relating to the pandemic should they arise.

In addition, the government introduced the Emergency Measures Amendment Act.  The amendments would provide the provincial government with authority to make three types of orders:

  • emergency orders, such as establishing facilities (for ex., emergency shelters), fixing prices for necessary goods and services, and prohibiting price gouging;
  • temporary suspension orders, such as extending the length of a provincial permit or delaying filing deadlines if people affected by the emergency need greater services, benefits, or time than the law normally provides; and
  • reporting deadline variation orders, such as extra time to prepare and table annual reports for the legislature during a declared state of emergency.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

On April 15, Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care announced the COVID-19 Action Plan: Long-Term Care Homes (Action Plan), which is intended to stop the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes.  In addition, the province has issued a new emergency order restricting long-term care staff from working in more than one long-term care home, retirement home or health care setting.

The Action Plan adds the following new measures to prevent further outbreaks and deaths from COVID-19 in long-term care homes, including:

  1. Testing, Screening, and Surveillance: enhancing testing for symptomatic residents and staff and those who have been in contact with persons confirmed to have COVID-19; expanding screening to include more asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases; and leveraging surveillance tools to enable care providers to move proactively against the disease.
  2. Managing Outbreaks and Spread of the Disease: supporting long-term care homes with public health and infection control expertise to contain and prevent outbreaks; providing additional training and support for current staff working in outbreak conditions.
  3. Expanding Long-Term Care Workforce: redeploying staff from hospitals and home and community care to support the long-term care home workforce and respond to outbreaks, alongside intensive on-going recruitment initiatives.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

As of May 1, the Quebec government confirmed that it will increase the minimum wage as follows:

  • The general hourly minimum wage rate will increase from $12.50 to $13.10.
  • The minimum wage payable to employees receiving tips will climb to $10.45 per hour.
  • The minimum wage payable to an employee assigned exclusively, during a pay period, to the picking of raspberries or strawberries will be respectively $3.89 and $1.04 per kilogram.

This measure is in addition to the Incentive Program To Retain Essential Workers, which offers a taxable sum of $100 a week to low-income earners during the crisis.

On April 15, Premier François Legault, in his press conference, asked medical specialists and family physicians to go to the understaffed residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) to help nurses and patient attendants by performing various tasks.  The government has estimated at 2000 the number of qualified professionals required in the various living environments for seniors to overcome the current crisis.

______

Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes:

À compter du 1er mai, le gouvernement du Québec a confirmé la hausse du salaire minimum. Plus spécifiquement :

  • Le taux horaire général du salaire minimum passera de 12,50$ à 13,10$.
  • Le salaire minimum payable aux salariés rémunérés au pourboire sera de 10,45$ par heure.
  • Le salaire minimum payable à un salarié affecté exclusivement, durant une période de paie, à la cueillette de framboises ou de fraises sera respectivement de 3,89 $ et de 1,04 $ du kilogramme.

Cette mesure s’ajoute au Programme incitatif pour la rétention des travailleurs essentiels qui offre une somme imposable de 100$ par semaine aux salariés à petit revenu pendant la crise.

Le 15 avril, le premier ministre François Legault dans sa conférence de presse a demandé aux médecins spécialistes et aux médecins de famille de se rendre dans les centres d’hébergement et de soins de longue durée (CHSLD) en manque d’effectifs pour aider les infirmières et les préposés aux bénéficiaires à effectuer différentes tâches. Le gouvernement a évalué à 2000 le nombre de professionnels qualifiés requis dans les différents milieux de vie pour aînés pour surmonter la crise actuelle.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Effective April 15, the government is arranging financial relief for fee-for-service doctors who agree to assist regional health authorities fight COVID-19.  Physicians will be paid 80% of what they would normally have billed if they agree to be available to help regional health authorities, and will receive 100% once they are called on to provide COVID-19-related services.

Additionally, the government is expanding testing for COVID-19. Individuals with 2 or more of the following (new or worsening) symptoms should complete the province’s self-assessment tool at gov.nl.ca/covid-19:

  • Fever;
  • Cough;
  • Headache;
  • Sore throat; or
  • Runny nose.

 

New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

Effective April 16, the state of emergency will be extended for a fourteen-day period.

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

Effective April 15, the government clarified that drive-in church services will no longer be allowed during COVID-19.

 

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

Effective April 15, the Territorial Public Health Emergency and the State of Emergency have both been extended to April 28, 2020.

 

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.

Disclaimer

This publication is provided as an information service and may include items reported from other sources. We do not warrant its accuracy. This information is not meant as legal opinion or advice.

Miller Thomson LLP uses your contact information to send you information electronically on legal topics, seminars, and firm events that may be of interest to you. If you have any questions about our information practices or obligations under Canada's anti-spam laws, please contact us at privacy@millerthomson.com.

© 2020 Miller Thomson LLP. This publication may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety provided no alterations are made to the form or content. Any other form of reproduction or distribution requires the prior written consent of Miller Thomson LLP which may be requested by contacting newsletters@millerthomson.com.