COVID-19:  Cross country update (March 20, 2020)

March 20, 2020

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Commissioner of Competition Matthew Boswell issued a statement saying that the Competition Bureau “remains vigilant against potentially harmful anti-competitive conduct by those who may seek to take advantage of consumers and businesses during these extraordinary circumstances.”  The Bureau will scrutinize any evidence that companies or individuals have violated Canada’s competition laws, including:

  • Deceptive marketing practices, such as false or misleading claims about a product’s ability to prevent, treat or cure the virus; and
  • Collusion by competing businesses, such as illegal agreements about what price to charge for products or services.

The Commissioner also assured businesses that Canada’s competition laws accommodate pro-competitive collaborations between companies to support the delivery of affordable goods and services to meet the needs of Canadians and encourages businesses to review the Bureau’s Competitor Collaboration Guidelines to ensure their activities comply with the law.

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announced amendments to mortgage insurance eligibility criteria, which are meant help provide stable funding and liquidity to financial institutions and mortgage lenders and support continued lending to Canadian businesses and consumers.

For information, refer to our update on US and Canada travel and immigration.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

WorkSafeBC COVID-19 resources for employers and workers are available.

The MSP coverage wait-period will be waived for those who are returning from COVID-19 impacted areas and intend to stay in BC and for those who return to BC and find they were outside of the province for longer than the allowable time period to maintain MSP coverage.  MSP beneficiaries who are out of the province and unable to return may be provided with limited temporary coverage.

TransLink and BC Transit bus riders have been asked to board through the rear door of the bus and fares will be free for the time being.

There is a new resource for managing COVID-19 stress, anxiety and depression.

Effective immediately (March 20), all dine-in food services are prohibited.  Delivery or take-out options are still permissible.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

For students from kindergarten to Grade 12, school authorities will offer at-home learning opportunities, either through online means or through other accommodations, such as course packages and telephone check-ins.  These provincial resources are available at: LearnAlberta.ca (more than 4,000 digital resources aligned with Alberta’s K-12 curriculum) and My Child’s Learning: A Parent Resource (provides parents with information specific to each grade level).

The membership of the Economic Recovery Council was announced.  The Council has been created to provide advice on how to protect jobs during the economic crisis stemming from COVID-19 and the recent collapse in energy prices.  The Council will focus on strategies for long-term recovery, including efforts to accelerate diversification of the Alberta economy.

The government is taking steps to provide immediate economic relief to Alberta’s energy sector:

  • Funding the Alberta Energy Regulator levy: $113 million
    • Government is funding the industry levy for the Alberta Energy Regulator for a period of six months, achieving $113 million in industry relief.
  • Granting extensions for oil and gas tenures
    • Extending the term of mineral agreements expiring in 2020 by one year provides increased certainty for industry by allowing additional time to raise capital and plan future activities.
  • Extending a loan to the Orphan Well Association in the amount of $100 million to bolster the association’s immediate reclamation efforts, decommission about 1,000 wells, and start more than 1,000 environmental assessments, creating up to 500 direct and indirect jobs.
  • Continuing to cut unnecessary red tape to reduce the burden of doing business.

Amendments have been made to the Emergency Management Act to allow local and provincial states of emergency to exist at the same time.  Before the amendments, a provincial state of emergency nullified a local state of emergency, taking some powers away from local officials.  Now a provincial state of emergency can supplement and reinforce a local authority’s state of emergency, allowing both levels of government to work more closely.  To date, 25 local states of emergency have been declared.

In order to protect individuals, seniors and vulnerable groups, the following measures have been taken:

  • Visitors to continuing care or long-term care facilities are limited to a single individual designated by the resident or guardian.
  • Essential visitors must each be verified and undergo a health screening prior to entering the facility.
  • Facilities must have security staff or a greeter to screen and verify that each visitor is designated.
  • Family members who are visiting an individual who is dying are exempt as long as only one visitor enters the facility at a time.

Further announcements from the government include:

  • Deadlines are suspended for businesses, corporations and non-profits that require holding annual general meetings in order to file their annual returns with Alberta Corporate Registry.
  • ATB Financial has temporarily closed selected branches and has reduced hours for all other branches.  Details about ATB Financial’s customer relief programs, closures and reduced hours can be found at atb.com.
  • Effective immediately, driver road tests are suspended until April 20.
  • Liquor and cannabis retail locations remain open in Alberta.  As well, AGLC is supporting Alberta distillers’ efforts to begin producing alcohol-based hand sanitizers in their facilities to help fill the gap in many markets due to COVID-19.
  • Visitors to long-term and seniors care facilities will be restricted to a single individual who can be family, a friend, or a paid companion who provides care and companionship necessary for the well-being of the resident (physical and mental health) and/or a single designated visitor for a person who is dying, as long as only one visitor enters the facility at a time. Every visitor will undergo health screening.
  • Alberta Parks is closing winter camping effective immediately.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

Beginning Monday, March 23, the government will be re-purposing child care facilities in schools to provide child care services to support staff in health care and other employees who are delivering services related to the pandemic response.  Employers are being notified today to provide information to those workers related to the pandemic.  An application and information about the process is available at saskatchewan.ca/COVID19.

Premier Scott Moe announced a financial support plan for Saskatchewan employers and employees impacted by COVID-19:

  1. Changes to Employment Standards Regulations to:
    • Ensure that during a public emergency, businesses will not have to provide notice or pay in lieu of notice when they lay off staff if it is for a period of 12 weeks or less in a 16-week period.
    • If an employer lays off employees periodically for a total of more than 12 weeks in a 16-week period, the employees are considered to be terminated and are entitled to pay instead of notice as outlined in the Act.  This will be calculated from the date on which the employee was laid off.
  1. Self-Isolation Support Program – will provide $450 per week, for a maximum of two weeks or $900 for those Saskatchewan residents meeting these criteria:
    • They have contracted COVID-19 or are showing symptoms;
    • They have been in contact with an individual infected with COVID-19;
    • They have recently returned from international travel and have been required to self-isolate;
      AND if they
    • are not eligible for compensation including sick leave, vacation leave from their employer;
    • do not have private insurance covering such disruptions; and
    • are not covered by other programs such as federal employment insurance that has been updated.
  1. Three Month PST Remittance Deferral and Audit Suspension – effective immediately, Saskatchewan businesses that are unable to remit their PST due to cash-flow concerns will have relief from penalty and interest charges. Businesses that are unable to file their provincial tax return(s) by the due date may request relief from penalty and interest charges on the return(s) affected.  Audit program and compliance activities have been suspended.
  2. Crown Utility Interest Deferral Programs – effective immediately, the crown utility interest deferral program is available to all crown utility customers.
  3. Student Loan Repayment Moratorium – effective immediately, a six-month student loan repayment moratorium has been put in place.
  4. Business Response Team to be Established – this team will be led by the Ministry of Trade and Export Development and will work with businesses to identify program supports relevant to particular businesses. The government is also working on establishing a single window information webpage for businesses to access information about provincial support initiatives.

Premier Scott Moe signed an order on March 20 directing that all orders of the government and Chief Medical Health Officer must be followed and that law enforcement agencies in Saskatchewan have full authority to enforce those orders.  Effective immediately, the following measures are in effect:

  • Public gatherings of more than 25 people in one room are prohibited except where two metre distancing between people can be maintained; workplace and meeting settings where people are distributed into multiple rooms or buildings; and retail locations (grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations).
  • All nightclubs, bars, lounges and similar facilities will be closed, except for delivery and take-out (with two metre distancing between customers).
  • In-person classes in all primary and secondary educational institutions both public and private are suspended.
  • Visitors to long-term care homes, hospitals, personal care homes, and group homes shall be restricted to family visiting for compassionate reasons.
  • All persons who have travelled internationally shall go into mandatory self-isolation for 14 days from date of arrival back into Canada.  Health care workers who have travelled internationally, truckers, rail, airline or other working crews are exempt from this advisory only if they are required to work to maintain essential services, provide emergency health care services and maintain supply chain, and are supervised by Infection, Prevention Control Officers and/or Occupational Health and Safety in the workplace.
  • All persons who have been identified by a Medical Health Officer as a close contact of a person or persons with COVID-19 shall go into mandatory self-isolation for 14 days from the date of last having been exposed to COVID-19.
  • All persons who have become symptomatic while on mandatory self-isolation shall call HealthLine 811 and follow HealthLine’s directives.
  • All persons who are household members of a person having laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 shall immediately go into mandatory self-isolation, call HealthLine 811 and follow HealthLine’s directives.

Effective March 23, all daycare facilities are limited to maximum of eight children unless they can configure the facility so that a maximum of eight children are kept in room and be in accordance with the Saskatchewan child care guidelines for care.  As well, all daycares that are co-located with a long-term care or personal care home that meet the above restriction shall be segregated with a private entrance so that there are no shared common areas with the home and no interaction between daycare children and residents of the facility.

Also effective on March 23, there will be closure of:

  • restaurants, food courts, cafeterias, cafes, bistros and similar facilities, except for take-out (with two metre distancing between customers), drive-through food services, delivery of food products, and soup kitchens, not-for-profit community and religious kitchens (with two metre distancing between tables);
  • all recreational and entertainment facilities including fitness centres, casinos, bingo halls, arenas, curling rinks, swimming pools, galleries, theatres, museums and similar facilities;
  • all personal service facilities including tattooists, hairdressers, barbers, acupuncturists, acupressurists, cosmetologists, electrologists, estheticians, manicurists, pedicurists, suntanning parlours, relaxation masseuses, facilities in which body piercing, bone grafting or scarification services are offered; and
  • dental, optometrist, chiropractic, registered massage therapy and podiatry clinics except for non-elective procedures.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

The government has a $27.6 million plan to help provide child care to essential front-line workers who need it as they support the province’s COVID-19 response.

A province-wide state of emergency has been declared.

The following measures have been put in place, effective immediately, for a period of 30 days:

  • Limiting public gatherings of more than 50 people at any indoor or outdoor place or premises.  This does not apply to a facility where health care or social services are provided.  Retail business including grocer or food stores, shopping centres, pharmacies or gas stations must ensure separation of one to two metres between patrons.
  • Limiting hospitality premises where food or alcohol is served or any theatres offering live performances of music, dance and other art forms, such as movies theatres, to 50 people or 50 per cent of the capacity of the premises, whichever is lesser.  These establishments must be able to ensure social distance of one to two metres between customers.
  • Immediate closures of all bingo and gaming events.

Beginning Monday, March 23, elective (non-urgent) surgical procedures will be suspended.

Prescription renewals will be limited to a 30-day supply.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

The government launched the first phase of Learn at Home and Apprendre à la maison, a new online portal that will provide resources for students to continue their education while schools are closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

Ontario is waiving the three-month waiting period for Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage and the province will cover the cost of COVID-19 services for uninsured people who do not meet the criteria for OHIP coverage.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

Effective March 20, Québec launched the Programme d’action concertée temporaire pour les entreprises (PACTE), which will make loans of minimally $50,000 available to eligible companies through Investissement Québec.

Effective March 19, Québec reduced the mandatory withdrawal amount from a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) by 25%.

Effective March 18, Revenue Québec harmonized its practices with those of the Canada Revenue Agency and postponed the payment of tax balances from the 2019 taxation year until September 1, 2020 for individuals and businesses.

The deadline for filing individual tax income returns was also extended to June 1, 2020. The same was not announced for businesses.

Effective March 17, the Quebec government unilaterally modified the collective agreements applicable to public employees in the following manner: allowing these employees to be redeployed to other functions or workplaces; allowing the modification of their schedules; rendering inapplicable the provisions allowing additional compensation (over and above regular and overtime compensation) to be paid where service must be maintained due to force majeure.

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Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes:

Le 20 mars, le Québec a lancé le Programme d’action concertée temporaire pour les entreprises (PACTE) lequel permettra aux entreprises admissibles d’obtenir des prêts d’un montant minimal de 50 000 $ par l’entremise d’Investissement Québec.

À compter du 19 mars, le Québec a réduit de 25 % le montant du retrait obligatoire d’un fonds enregistré de revenu de retraite (FERR).

À compter du 18 mars, Revenu Québec a harmonisé ses pratiques avec celles de l’Agence du revenu du Canada et a reporté le paiement des soldes d’impôt de l’année d’imposition 2019 au 1er septembre 2020 pour les particuliers et les entreprises.

La date limite pour la production des déclarations de revenus des particuliers a également été reportée au 1er juin 2020. Cela étant, il n’en a pas été de même pour les entreprises.

À compter du 17 mars, le gouvernement du Québec a modifié unilatéralement les conventions collectives applicables aux employés de la fonction publique, et ce, afin de permettre le redéploiement de ces employés vers d’autres fonctions ou lieux de travail, de permettre la modification de leurs horaires de travail et en rendant inapplicables les dispositions permettant le versement d’une indemnité additionnelle (en sus de la rémunération des heures normales et du temps supplémentaire) lorsque le service doit être maintenu pour cause de force majeure.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Effective March 20, the Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a Special Measures Order to augment an earlier Special Measures Order on March 18. All individuals arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador from outside the province must self-isolate for 14 days, including those individuals arriving from other provinces and territories in Canada. The other orders in the Special Measures order of March 18 remain in effect. Failure to comply may result in fines and/or imprisonment.

 

New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

Effective March 23, a limited number of Service New Brunswick centres will reopen for essential transactions only.

Effective March 20, the province has announced that WorkSafeNB is deferring premiums for businesses for three months.

The government has also posted an interpretative guideline to provide clarification of the effects of the emergency declaration on various businesses, which is available on their website. Businesses with questions can contact nav@navnb.ca, call the Business Navigator line at 1-833-799-7966, or consult the COVID-19 page specifically for businesses.

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

The Minister of Business said that the province will provide $161 million to address cash flow and access to credit for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Some payments and interest under government loans will be deferred, including those under the Jobs Fund, the Municipal Finance Corporation, and Housing Nova Scotia.

The government will defer business-related fees until June 30. A list of those fees will be posted online in coming days.

Workers’ compensation premiums will also be deferred, which should keep $60 million in the hands of small businesses.

Loan payments under the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program, administered through Nova Scotia credit unions, will also be deferred until June 30. Nova Scotia is enhancing that program to make it easier for small businesses to access credit of up to $500,000. For those who might not otherwise qualify for a loan, the government will guarantee the first $100,000.

Addressing small businesses that have employees working from home, the government said that, in addition to the $46 million they have already committed to expand internet access across the program, they are committing $15 million extra to speed up projects and increase access in rural areas.

 

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

The territorial government has outlined the NWT’s economic response to the pandemic. The initial economic relief package amounts to $13.2 million.

The due date for Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission fees has been extended from April 1 to May 1.

The government will also suspend fees for the Deh Cho Bridge, truck permits, and airport landing fees, and will offer low interest business loans from BDIC to offset up to one month of COVID-19 impact.

 

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Please refer to our COVID-19 Resource Hub for previous updates, as well as additional information to help you identify the pertinent issues, understand the legal implications, minimize risk exposure and manage legal obligations during the pandemic.

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