COVID-19:  Cross country update (March 23, 2020)

March 23, 2020

Federal

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau beseeched Canadians to follow public health guidelines and has warned that if they fail to, the government may be forced to implement stiff enforcement measures.

The Prime Minister also said there will be:

  • a $5 billion credit program to support farmers;
  • $192 million in new funding for the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines; and
  • a $30 million advertising campaign to raise awareness about how to stop the spread of infection.

The House of Commons is set to reconvene March 24 to adopt the emergency financial support measures outlined by the federal government last week.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

A new self-assessment app can be downloaded here.

The government announced its COVID-19 Action Plan, which includes:

  • A new B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers, which will provide a tax-free $1,000 payment to British Columbians whose ability to work has been affected by the outbreak. This one-time payment will be for British Columbians who receive federal Employment Insurance (EI), or the new federal Emergency Care Benefit or Emergency Support Benefit as a result of COVID-19 impacts.  This includes workers who have been laid-off, who are sick or quarantined, parents with sick children, parents who stay at home from work while child care centres and schools are closed, and those caring for sick family members. The workers can be EI-eligible and non-EI eligible, such as the self-employed. This benefit will be paid to B.C. residents, in addition to their federal income supports.
  • An expansion to the B.C. Climate Action Tax Credit in July 2020, which will give eligible families of four up to $564 and eligible individuals up to $218 in an enhanced payment.
  • $1.7 billion for investments in housing and shelter supports, income and disability assistance programs and crucial health services, such as funding for the BC Centre for Disease Control hotline, quarantine costs, lab tests and work underway at the First Nations Health Authority and the United Way’s Better at Home program for seniors.
  • A commitment to support non-profits, service delivery agencies and child care providers by continuing to provide funding even if these agencies are closed or their regular operations have been disrupted.  For example, licensed child care providers staying open will receive enhanced funding to keep operations going.
  • A freeze on B.C. student loan payments for six months, starting March 30, 2020.  Federal student loan payments are also being frozen.
  • A reminder that British Columbians can apply to existing payment deferral programs at ICBC and BC Hydro.  ICBC is extending deferrals up to 90 days.  People dealing with job loss, illness or loss of wages due to COVID-19 may also qualify for BC Hydro’s Customer Crisis Fund grant program for up to $600.
  • A deferral until September 30, 2020 of employer health tax payments for businesses with a payroll of over $500,000.
  • An extension of tax filing and payment deadlines until September 30, 2020 for the provincial sales tax (PST), municipal and regional district tax, tobacco tax, motor fuel tax and carbon tax.
  • A delay in the scheduled April 1, 2020 increase to the provincial carbon tax, as well as the new PST registration requirements on e-commerce and the implementation of PST on sweetened carbonated drinks.  The timing of these things will be reviewed by September 30, 2020.
  • A cut in half of school taxes for commercial properties (Classes, 4, 5 and 6).
  • $1.5 billion for economic recovery to help particularly hard-hit parts of the economy, such as tourism, hospitality and culture sectors.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

New temporary billing codes are being added to the schedule of medical benefits so that physicians are compensated for providing virtual care.  The codes cover all physical and mental health needs, not just those related to COVID-19 care.

The government announced three new measures to provide Albertans and Alberta employers with additional supports:

  1. Education property tax freeze – the government plans to immediately cancel the 3.4% increase planned for the education property tax in Budget 2020.  Instead, this tax will remain at last year’s level.
  2. Education property tax deferral for business – the government will defer education property tax for businesses for six months, although businesses capable of paying their taxes in full are strongly encouraged to do so.
  3. WCB premiums deferral:
    • Private sector employers may defer WCB premiums until early 2021.
    • Employers who have already paid their WCB premium payment for 2020 are eligible for a rebate or credit.
    • For small and medium businesses, the government will cover 50 per cent of the premium when it is due.
    • Large employers may defer their 2020 WCB premium payments until 2021, at which time their premiums will be due.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

A Business Response Team, led by the Ministry of Trade and Export Development, has been launched to support businesses in the province dealing with the economic challenges resulting from COVID-19.  The Team will work with businesses to identify program supports available to them both provincially and federally.  For more information, businesses can contact the Team by calling 1-844-800-8688, emailing supportforbusiness@gov.sk.ca or by visiting saskatchewan.ca/covid19-businesses.

SaskBuilds Single Procurement Service will serve as a central point of contact and co-ordination for those businesses, individuals and groups who have ideas or solutions to help fight COVID-19.  Submissions can be made to procurement@gov.sk.ca.

A website has also been launched to provide information on support for workers who have had their employment impacted by the current economic situation.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

Research Manitoba is working with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to invest in the Canadian 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Rapid Research Funding Opportunity.  The Manitoba government is investing $800,000 and the CIHR is investing more than $465,000 in three research projects including:

  • investigating how logistical systems can adapt to a pandemic at the University of Manitoba;
  • developing a cost-effective, point-of-need diagnostic test for COVID-19 at the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health; and
  • developing a COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Manitoba.

A new online tool, HelpNextDoorMB.ca, went live on March 23 to connect volunteers wanting to provide support with those that need assistance with such things as groceries, medication pickups, snow-clearing and so on.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

The government has ordered the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces effective March 24 at 11:59 p.m. EST.  This order is in effect for 14 days but there is a possibility of extension.  Essential services may continue their operations to maintain supply chains and ensure people have access to necessities, including groceries, medicines and other essential products.  A full list of businesses that are permitted to stay open is expected to be released March 24.  Businesses that can continue operations with employees working remotely, or through other measures, are being given approximately 36 hours to adapt.

Ontario has launched an enhanced and interactive self-assessment tool for COVID-19.

$200 million in social services relief funding will be provided to municipalities and service providers such as shelters, food banks, emergency services, charities and non-profits continue to deliver their critical services, hire additional staff, and find ways to promote social distancing and self-isolation to keep clients safe and healthy.  This funding will also help individuals who do not qualify for emergency financial supports under federal programs.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

Effective March 24 at 11:59 p.m. EST, all non-essential services and economic activities are closed. A complete list is available here.

Effective March 20, the Quebec government passed a new Order in Council renewing the public health emergency until March 29, 2020. This order included a prohibition on assemblies, indoor or outdoor, subject to certain exceptions, notably in a workplace not covered by a suspension, to obtain a service or good from a business whose activities are not suspended, or in a means of transportation. For the purposes of assemblies, persons must keep as much as possible a distance of two metres between them.

Also pursuant to the above Order in Council, the time period for bringing an action before many tribunals in Quebec, including the Administrative Labour Tribunal, has been suspended until the expiration of the public health emergency, except for urgent matters or applications for certification under article 22 of the Labour Code.

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Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes:

À compter du 24 mars à 23h59, tous les services et les activités économiques non-essentiels seront fermés. Une liste complète est disponible ici.

En date du 20 mars dernier, le Gouvernement du Québec a adopté un nouveau décret renouvelant l’urgence sanitaire jusqu’au 29 mars 2020. Ce décret prévoit l’interdiction de se réunir, à l’intérieur comme à l’extérieur, sous réserve de certaines exceptions, notamment, s’il est requis dans un lieu de travail pour l’exercice d’un activité non-visée par une suspension, pour obtenir un service ou un bien d’une entreprise dont les activités ne sont pas suspendues ou dans un moyen de transport. Pour ces types de rassemblement, les personnes rassemblées doivent maintenir, dans la mesure du possible, une distance minimale de deux mètres entre elles.

Les délais afin d’intenter une action devant plusieurs tribunaux au Québec, incluant le Tribunal administratif du travail, ont été suspendus jusqu’à l’expiration de l’état d’urgence sanitaire, à l’exception des affaires urgentes ou les demandes en accréditation selon l’article 22 du Code du travail.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Effective March 23, the municipality of Avalon has deferred tax payments until the end of June. No interest will be charged until June 30, and the extension applies to residential, commercial and business taxes. The City of St. John’s will not charge interest on commercial or residential property taxes, or water meter taxes, until August 30.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Effective March 23, the Chief Public Health Officer has been empowered to fine anyone who is not complying with the direction to self-isolate. The penalties include $1,000 for a first offence, $2,000 for a second offence and a fine of $10,000 for a third or subsequent offence.

 

Nunavut

The Government of Nunavut announced the following measures:

Effective March 24 at 11:59 p.m., the Chief Public Health Officer has ordered the prohibition of travel into Nunavut, with limited exceptions. All public gatherings are banned. Only Nunavut residents and critical workers will be allowed into the territory. Residents will have to provide proof of residency. Prior to boarding a plane into the territory, they will undergo a mandatory 14-day isolation period in either Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife. At the end of the 14 days, asymptomatic residents will be cleared and able to return to their home community. This also includes medical travel patients. Critical workers will have to provide written permission from the Chief Public Health Officer to be allowed to fly into the territory. Critical workers returning from another Canadian jurisdiction who are asymptomatic and cleared will be allowed to resume work and travel in communities with the approval of the territorial health team. Any critical workers from outside Canada will be required to isolate for 14 days prior to coming to Nunavut. Accommodation, food and necessities for all travellers will be provided during the isolation period.

 

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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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