COVID-19:  Cross country update (June 5, 2020)

June 5, 2020

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Support for Canadians with Disabilities

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced support to help Canadians living with disabilities deal with extra expenses during the pandemic.

This support includes a special one-time, tax-free payment to individuals who are certificate holders of the Disability Tax Credit as of June 1, 2020, as follows:

  • $600 for Canadians with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate.
  • $300 for Canadians with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate and who are eligible for the Old Age Security pension.
  • $100 for Canadians with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate and who are eligible for the OAS pension and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

People who are eligible for this special payment will receive it automatically.

Canada’s Telecom Service Providers

The Canadian Government has been engaged with Canada’s telecom service providers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that they can continue to provide the services Canadians rely on to stay connected.

Today Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced a six-month postponement of the 3500 MHz spectrum auction process and its associated key dates to allow the telecommunications industry to maintain its focus on providing essential services to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. The auction is now scheduled to start on June 15, 2021.

Delay of Divorce Act Amendments

David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced today the delay of the coming into force of changes to the Divorce Act, which was scheduled for July 1, 2020. Due to extraordinary circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the coming into force date has been deferred until March 1, 2021.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

Temporary Authorizations from Liquor Distribution Board

The Province is providing temporary relief to hospitality licensees who have had to suspend their operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These licensees will be allowed to sell their existing liquor stock to other licensees who are still operating and/or to private liquor stores.

This authorization is set to expire on July 15, 2020. However the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) will review this and other temporary authorizations as necessary.

For more information, visit LDB’s policy directive.

Additional Funding for B.C. Farmers

Due to high demand from B.C. farmers and food companies, additional funding has been added to support more of the Buy BC e-commerce applications that were received after the initial funding was committed.

The B.C. government is providing an additional $250,000 to support industry-led Buy BC activities focused on e-commerce, for a total of $550,000 under the government’s Buy BC Partnership Program.

For more information, visit Buy BC website.

Privacy

Ministerial Order No. M085 issued in March under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act has been extended by Ministerial Order 2020-M180 to remain in effect until December 31, 2020.  The order was issued to temporarily permit, amongst other things, healthcare bodies and health authorities to use communication and collaboration software that may host information outside of Canada.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Safely Saving COVID-19 Samples for Research

A safe biorepository is being built by health partners to preserve COVID-19 samples. The biorepository is now safely collecting, cataloguing, and storing samples.

Alberta-based researchers, who are working on numerous research projects, need the COVID-19 samples to explore areas such as rapid point-of-care testing, drugs, antibody testing, and genome sequencing.

Supporting Alberta’s Beekeepers during COVID-19

In response to recent challenges faced by Alberta’s beekeepers, Agriculture and Forestry is introducing a Canadian Agricultural Partnership program. This program will provide up to $1 million to assist beekeepers with the costs of increased colony replacements due to COVID-19. The program will be retroactive and will cover issues commencing in spring 2020.

For more information, the Alberta Government is encouraging producers to subscribe to Alberta’s Canadian Agricultural Partnership website.

Alberta Supporting Economic Relaunch

New grants will ease relaunch costs faced by businesses

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to ease the impacts of upcoming measures, businesses and non-profits need support to reopen. The Alberta Government announced it is committing up to $200 million in funding for eligible businesses and non-profits. The funds can be used for implementing measures to minimize the risk of virus transmission, rent, employee wages or replacement of inventory.

Ending the fear of commercial tenant eviction

Alberta businesses are facing challenges paying their rent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help alleviate this issue, the Alberta Government is planning further measures, including implementing legislation to ensure commercial tenants will not face rent increases or be evicted for non-payment of rent due to COVID-19. The new measures will help address shortfalls in the current Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, and will give eligible business owners peace of mind as they reopen and help with the provincial economic recovery.

WCB premiums deferral for private sector businesses and support for small and medium businesses

The following measures have been implemented to assist businesses by easing their current Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) payments:

  • Private sector employers’ WCB premiums are deferred for one year, until early 2021.
  • Employers who have already paid their WCB premium payment for 2020-21 are eligible for a rebate or credit.
  • For small and medium businesses, the government is covering 50 per cent of the premium when it is due.
  • Large employers’ 2020 WCB premium payments are deferred until 2021.

Alberta supporting economic relaunch

The Alberta Government has taken a number of steps to help businesses obtain relief and support during the COVID-19 pandemic.  These supports include:

  • Freezing education property taxes at 2019 levels and providing businesses with a six-month education property tax deferral;
  • Deferring corporate income tax payments to August 31, 2020, interest free;
  • Introducing a 90-day utility payment relief;
  • Providing a two-month filing deadline extension for annual returns with Alberta Corporate Registry;
  • Deferring of the Tourism Levy for hotels and other lodging providers;
  • Within the energy sector:
    • Committing to a $1.5 billion equity investment in 2020 towards the Keystone XL pipeline project and a $6 billion loan guarantee in 2021;
    • $113 million towards the Alberta Energy Regulator to waive industry levies for a period of six months; and
    • $100 million loan to the Orphan Well Association.
  • Deferring loan payments at ATB Financial and credit unions;
  • Deferring timber dues for six months;
  • Supporting continuing care facilities;
  • Advancing up to $24.5 million to help continuing care facilities operators address immediate cost pressures;
  • Providing $7.3 million per month for:
    • increased health-care aide staffing levels;
    • a wage top-up of an additional $2 per hour for health-care aides; and
    • Up to $3.5 million for 1,000 paid student practicum positions.
  • Relief for the child care sector, including up to $17.8 million in grants for the child care sector;
  • Supporting Alberta’s agriculture industry by:
    • Providing up to $5 million to the Agriculture Training Support Program, including about $1 million for meat processors to provide support for new hires for meat-cutting training;
    • Increasing the interim payment under AgriStability from 50 per cent to 75 per cent for both the hog sector and the potato industry; and
    • Contributing up to $17 million in Agri-Recovery funding.

200 Ventilators Donated to Help Save Lives

Local businesses have collectively donated 200 high-tech ventilators to Alberta Health Services, supporting life-saving treatment for all Albertans.

The ventilators (“Alberta E-Vent”), are intended to provide short-term respiratory support, monitoring, and treatment for adult patients if a conventional ventilator is unavailable.

Should the need arise, Alberta E-Vent will allow hospitals to increase their patient care capacity and reallocate conventional ventilators to patients with more complex needs.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

Municipal Economic Enhancement Fund Now Live

A $150 million special warrant for the Municipal Economic Enhancement Program 2020 (MEEP) has been approved.  Starting today, Saskatchewan municipalities that have submitted and had their project plans approved by the Ministry of Government Relations can access funds within MEEP.

For more information on MEEP 2020, visit the Saskatchewan Government’s website.

Saskatchewan Announces Commercial Eviction Protection for Tenants

Today, June 5, 2020, the Government of Saskatchewan announced temporary commercial eviction protection for small business tenants during the COVID-19 emergency.  The moratorium on evictions applies to landlords that are eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program but choose not to.

The CECRA program began accepting applications from commercial property owners in Saskatchewan on May 27, 2020.  This program provides rent relief to small business tenants where their operations have paused or been curtailed and lost at least 70 per cent of their revenue as a result of COVID-19.

The emergency order restricting commercial evictions is effective immediately.

Government to Provide Relief Measures for Mining Industry

The Government of Saskatchewan has announced amendments to The Mineral Tenure Registry Regulations that grant relief to the mining sector in response to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following amendments have been implemented:

  • Waiving expenditure requirements for the current term and subsequent 12 months for mineral claims and leases that were active on the March 18, 2020, State of Emergency declaration date;
  • Allowing expenditures incurred during the period for which relief is granted to be applied toward expenditure requirements of The Mineral Tenure Registry Regulations; and
  • Allowing the holder to meet requirements for refund of deficiency deposits after the relief period has ended.

These amendments apply to northern exploration programs for all Crown minerals including uranium, diamonds, gold, copper, zinc, cobalt and rare earth elements.  The relief measures come at no cost to the government, but allow companies to hold on to dispositions previously obtained.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

Reduced Mark Up on Tap for Craft Liquor

The Manitoba government announced it is enhancing support for small liquor producers by reducing and streamlining markup rates and extending the zero-markup for public sales to include outdoor markets.

The province is adding new micro-producer discounted markups that support craft producers of wine, mead, and cider. It will also reduce markups for craft distillers. Additionally, building on exempted markups for the sale of liquor made and sold on-premises by local producers, this exemption is now in place for producers selling at outdoor markets and other temporary locations.

The changes will take effect on July 1, 2020.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Service NL

Service NL is resuming some services that have not been available to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These will resume using a phased-in approach to a number of in-person services, beginning June 10, 2020.

Phase one focuses on opening eleven full-time Government Service Centres (GSCs) for written testing and practical driver exams as well as photo capture for new licences and ID cards. These services will be available by appointment only. Each office location has been assessed and measures have been implemented to ensure the safety of staff and the general public, including physical distancing.  Individuals who had an appointment cancelled due to COVID-19 closures will be given priority.

Residential tenancy hearings by Consumer Affairs Division will be expanded to include all disputes. Residential tenancy dispute applications can be submitted by postal mail or email at landlordtenant@gov.nl.ca. The Residential Tenancy staff will call applicants to schedule hearings. For any questions on the process call 1-877-829-2608 or email at landlordtenant@gov.nl.ca.

Capacity at the public registry will be increased from six to nine persons. This access remains by appointment only for title searchers, lawyers, and surveyors. The general public can also book appointments for urgent search requests.  Call 729-3317 or email snlregistryofdeeds@gov.nl.ca to book an appointment. Online access to CADO is also available.

Red Tape Reduction Initiative

On June 5, 2020, the Provincial Government announced the launch of a red tape reduction initiative to help alleviate some of the regulatory burden on the province’s business sector.

The red tape reduction initiative is an online tool where businesses can provide feedback on how to reduce government red tape. The online portal is a single point of entry for all business stakeholders, community sector organizations, and not-for-profit groups in the province for red tape reduction ideas arising from the challenges experienced in response to COVID-19. All feedback will be considered as government tries to streamline the regulatory process for businesses in the province.

The business community, along with community and not-for-profit organizations, are encouraged to participate in the consultations process. Visit engageNL to complete the online questionnaire. Written submissions are also being accepted and can be emailed to RTInitiative@gov.nl.ca.

Feedback will be accepted until August 31, 2020.

 

New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

Face Coverings

When outside of the home, and in any location in which physical distancing of 2 metres is not possible, people must wear a face covering that covers their mouth and nose. Effective June 9, everyone entering a building open to the general public must wear a face covering. Children under the age of two, children of any age while attending licensed early education and childcare facilities, and those unable to wear face coverings due to medical issues are exempt from these requirements.

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

Graduation Celebrations

The Government of Nova Scotia released guidelines to support safe community celebration of graduates.

Communities will be able to celebrate their 2020 graduates this year, provided they are led by an established organization and follow public health guidelines to ensure celebrations are safe.

On June 5, 2020, Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Medical Officer of health for Nova Scotia, announced an exemption under the Public Health Act order to allow community organizations, businesses, or municipalities to hold celebrations to recognize graduates due to the loss of traditional graduation ceremonies.

All non-school based, community celebrations of graduates must be held by a recognized business, municipality or community organization (like a club, association, society, volunteer group, faith-based group), and the local municipality, police and fire departments, and Emergency Health Services must be informed and supportive of the planned event.

Conditions under the exemption include:

  • attendees must arrive in a vehicle;
  • all passengers in the vehicle must be from a single household or household bubble;
  • graduates can be out of their vehicle to do things like cross a stage or take part in a parade of graduates as long as physical distance (two metres or six feet) is maintained between all graduates while they are out of their vehicle; and
  • organizers must communicate clearly with attendees in advance and ensure other public health protocols, like physical distancing, are followed.

A full list of protocols under this exemption have been released by the Government of Nova Scotia.

 

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

Checkpoint Re-Established in Fort Smith

Effective June 5, 2020, a checkpoint will resume at the Northwest Territories – Alberta border at Fort Smith as part of the Government of the Northwest Territories’ COVID-19 response.

Public Health Officers will be present to monitor those persons entering at the border for travel within the Northwest Territories.

Travel between Smith’s Landing, Fort Fitzgerald, Pine Lake, and Fort Smith will remain unrestricted, provided those traveling to Fort Smith have not visited communities outside of this immediate region of Northern Alberta within the last 14 days.

Highway 8 (Dempster Highway)

The Government of the Northwest Territories advised that Highway 8 (The Dempster Highway) is scheduled to re-open on June 6, subject to river and weather conditions.

While Highway 8 will be open from kilometre 1 to 272, the Yukon/Northwest Territories border will remain closed to all traffic except for:

  • Maintenance Vehicles
  • Emergency Vehicles
  • Supply Chain Vehicles
  • Residents with an approved social isolation plan in place
  • Persons with approved exemption from Protect NWT

The highway re-opening will coincide with the opening of the MV Louis Cardinal ferry, which is scheduled for June 3, and the opening of the CF Abraham Francis ferry, which is scheduled for June 6.

 

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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