COVID-19: Cross country update (March 25, 2020)

March 25, 2020

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Mandatory Quarantine

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced that effective midnight on March 25, all travellers returning to Canada, except “essential workers,” will have to enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine and that there will be significant penalties for those violating the quarantine.  This is now a legal obligation under the Quarantine Act.

Trade

Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, issued a statement saying in part:  “Today, Canada, alongside our international partners Australia, Brunei, Chile, Myanmar, New Zealand and Singapore, committed to facilitate the cross-border movement of goods, services and people by maintaining open and connected supply chains throughout the pandemic.”

Publishing and News Sectors

To support the publishing and news sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has taken these actions:

  1. New Independent Advisory Board on Eligibility for Journalism Tax Measures

This board is now in place and will make recommendations to the CRA on whether a journalism organization meets certain criteria to receive the Qualified Canadian Journalism Organization (QCJO) designation. The QCJO designation is one of the prerequisites organizations must meet to take advantage of the new tax measures, which were introduced in Budget 2019.

  1. Canada Book Fund and Canada Periodical Fund: A Simplified Process

Canadian Heritage is working to establish a simplified process for submitting and processing 2020-21 funding requests for the Canada Book Fund and Canada Periodical Fund. The process will significantly reduce the time it takes to process files and eligible beneficiaries will be able to access financial assistance more quickly than usual.

OH&S Courses

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has made selected courses and publications freely available to help support workplaces in their efforts to protect the health, safety and well-being of their employees during the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.  

Bill C-13

The COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, an aid package worth $107 billion, was passed today.  The measures include (amongst others):

  • a one-time additional payment under the GST/HST tax credit;
  • providing temporary additional amounts under the Canada Child Benefit;
  • reducing required minimal withdrawals from registered retirement income funds by 25% for 2020;
  • providing eligible small employers a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months;
  • the enactment of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act to authorize the making of income support payments to workers who suffer a loss of income for reasons related to the coronavirus disease 2019.  From March 15 to October 3, 2020, a worker is eligible for these payments for a maximum of 16 weeks, or for the number of weeks fixed by regulation (if such regulation occurs).  A worker is eligible if:
    • the worker, whether employed or self-employed, stops working for reasons related to COVID-19 for at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week period in respect of which they apply for the payment;
    • they do not receive, in respect of the consecutive days on which they have ceased working,
      1. subject to the regulations, income from employment or self-employment,
      2. benefits, as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Employment Insurance Act,
      3. allowances, money or other benefits paid to the worker under a provincial plan because of pregnancy or in respect of the care by the worker of one or more of their new-born children or one or more children placed with them for the purpose of adoption, or
      4. any other income that is prescribed by regulation.
  • the enactment of the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act, which authorizes payments to be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund in relation to public health events of national concern (it also provides for the repeal of the Act on September 30, 2020);
  • amendment of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act to allow the Minister of Finance to increase the deposit insurance coverage limit until September 30, 2020;
  • amendment of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act to authorize the Minister of Finance, with the approval of the Governor in Council, to make payments to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purpose of increasing the Corporation’s capital;
  • amending the Export Development Act to broaden the purposes for which Export Development Canada is established and to permit the Minister of Finance, until September 30, 2020, to determine the amount of Export Development Canada’s authorized capital as well as the amount of certain limits applicable to Export Development Canada.  It broadens the transactions for which the Minister of International Trade, with the concurrence of the Minister of Finance, may grant an authorization. It also provides for the suspension of certain provisions of the Export Development Canada Exercise of Certain Powers Regulations;
  • amending the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to authorize additional payments to the provinces and territories for the fiscal year beginning on April 1, 2019;
  • amending the Financial Administration Act to:
    • authorize the Minister of Finance, until September 30, 2020, to borrow money under that Act for certain payments without the authorization of the Governor in Council,
    • extend the time for the tabling of the report on that Minister’s plans in relation to the management of the public debt, and
    • authorize that Minister to make payments to an entity and to procure the incorporation of a corporation or establish an entity, other than a corporation, for the purposes of promoting the stability or maintaining the efficiency of the financial system in Canada;
  • amending the Food and Drugs Act to authorize the Governor in Council to make regulations:
    • requiring persons to provide information to the Minister of Health and
    • preventing shortages of therapeutic products in Canada or alleviating those shortages or their effects, in order to protect human health;
  • amending the Canada Labour Code to:
    • temporarily do away with the requirement of a certificate issued by a health care practitioner for compassionate care leave (s. 206.3), leave related to critical illness (s. 206.4) and medical leave (s. 239) (this will be repealed on September 30, 2020);
    • provide that employees are entitled to a medical leave of absence from employment of up to 16 weeks as a result of quarantine; and,
    • provide that employees are entitled to a leave of absence from employment of up to 16 weeks (or, if another number of weeks is fixed by regulation, that number of weeks) if the employee is unable or unavailable to work for reasons related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). No medical certificate is required for this leave, but the employer may require an employee to provide a written declaration in support of the reasons for the leave.
  • amending the National Housing Act to increase, for a period of five years, the maximum total for the outstanding insured amounts of all insured loans;
  • amending the Patent Act to provide that the Commissioner must, on the application of the Minister of Health, authorize the Government of Canada and any person specified in the application to make, construct, use and sell a patented invention to the extent necessary to respond to a public health emergency that is a matter of national concern;
  • amending the Canada Student Loans Act to provide that, during the period that begins on March 30, 2020 and ends on September 30, 2020, no interest is payable by a borrower on a guaranteed student loan and no amount on account of principal or interest is required to be paid by the borrower;
  • amending the Farm Credit Canada Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to determine the limit on the amounts that the Minister of Finance may pay to Farm Credit Canada out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund;
  • amending the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act to provide that, during the period that begins on March 30, 2020 and ends on September 30, 2020, no interest is payable by a borrower on a student loan and no amount on account of principal or interest is required to be paid by the borrower;
  • amending the Business Development Bank of Canada Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to determine the limit on the aggregate of the paid-in capital — and any related contributed surplus — of the Business Development Bank and any proceeds prescribed as equity;
  • amending the Apprentice Loans Act to provide that, during the period that begins on March 30, 2020 and ends on September 30, 2020, no interest is payable by a borrower on an apprentice loan and no amount on account of principal or interest is required to be paid by a borrower; and
  • amending the Employment Insurance Act to:
    • give the Minister of Employment and Social Development the power to make interim orders for the purpose of mitigating the economic effects of COVID-19; and
    • to provide that every reference in the Act and regulations made under it to a certificate issued by a medical doctor or other medical professional or medical practitioner or by a nurse practitioner is deemed to be of no effect and that any benefit that would have been payable to a claimant had such a certificate been issued is payable to the claimant if the Canada Employment Insurance Commission is satisfied that the claimant is entitled to the benefit.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

The Government has provided Guidance to mining and smelting operations during COVID-19 and Guidance to B.C. manufacturers during COVID-19.

The Province is introducing a new temporary rental supplement ($500 per month), halting evictions and freezing rents.  The rental supplement will benefit people with low to moderate incomes who are facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, but do not qualify for existing rental assistance programs.  The supplement will be paid directly to landlords.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Funding criteria and forms for the emergency funding to charities, non-profits and civil society organizations have been posted on their website: Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) program.

Albertans can now apply for emergency isolation support if they are working Alberta adults who have experienced total or significant loss of income as a result of having to:

  • self-isolate because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • care for a dependent who is self-isolating; or
  • self-isolate as directed by health authorities;
    AND
  • who are not receiving compensation from any other source.

Qualifying applicants will receive a one-time payment of $1,146.

Law enforcement agencies have been granted full authority to enforce public health orders and issue fines.  Community peace officers, in addition to police, will be able to issue tickets to enforce COVID-19 public health orders.  Fines have been increased from up to $100 per day to a prescribed fine of $1,000 per occurrence.  Courts will also have increased powers to administer fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence for more serious violations.  Public health orders subject to fines for violation include:

  • Any individual who has travelled outside of Canada must go into mandatory self-isolation for 14 days from their return, plus an additional 10 days from the onset of any symptoms should they occur, whichever is longer.
  • Any individual who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms must self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days from the start of their symptoms, or until the symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. Symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, or a sore throat.
  • Any individual who has been identified as a close contact of a person(s) with COVID-19 must go into mandatory self-isolation for 14 days from the date of last having been exposed to COVID-19, plus an additional 10 days from the onset of any symptoms should they occur, whichever is longer.
  • Mass gatherings must be limited to no more than 50 attendees.
  • Access to public recreational facilities, private entertainment facilities, bars and nightclubs is prohibited.
  • Visitation to long-term care and other continuing care facilities is limited to essential visitors only.

Exemptions will continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis by public health officials.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

Effective March 26, 2020:

  • Public and private gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 10 people except where two metre distancing between people can be maintained.
  • In addition to the business services that were ordered closed on March 23, all other non-allowable business services will be unable to provide public-facing services, but will be able to engage in online retailing, or providing pick-up or delivery services.
  • Critical public services and business services will be allowed to continue operating, including health care and public health workers; law enforcement, public safety and first responders; production, processing and manufacturing and the supporting supply chains; transportation and logistics; government and community services; media and telecommunications; construction including maintenance and repair; select retail services; and banking and financial services.  The full list can be found under “Available Business Services.”

The Government of Saskatchewan and the Federal Government are committing $28 million to help Saskatoon researchers find a vaccine for COVID-19.  This funding will support the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac).

The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency has launched a toll-free phone line for people with general non-health related questions about COVID-19:  1-855-559-5502 (for Regina residents: 306-787-8539).  The line is expected to free up room for 811 healthcare professionals to reach more people with medical issues.  The line will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

The province will defer any increases to the Manitoba Pharmacare deductible that were scheduled to take effect April 1.  The deductible will still come into effect on April 1, but will remain at 2019-20 levels throughout 2020-21 to assist Manitobans with supply limits imposed on pharmacies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province has introduced an online portal asking businesses to assist with supplying and manufacturing products to help efforts in the fight against COVID-19.  This initiative will remove barriers allowing Manitoba businesses and manufacturers to redeploy capacity towards the production of essential equipment like ventilators, nasopharyngeal swabs, N95 respirators, surgical/procedure masks, nitrile gloves, vinyl gloves, specific types of reagent to be used in labs, gowns, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and disinfecting supplies.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

The province has launched a toll-free business information line 1-888-444-3659 for businesses that have questions about the province’s recent order to close at-risk workplaces.  A complete list of essential services is available on their website.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips released Ontario’s Action Plan:  Responding to COVID-19 (March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update).  Highlights include:

  • $3.3 billion of additional resources for health care ($2.1 billion in new measures to support the COVID-19 response and $1.2 billion to meet demand for services in the health and long-term care sector).
  • $3.7 billion to support people and jobs, including:
    • $75 million in urgent additional support for 194,000 low-income seniors by proposing to double the Guaranteed Annual Income System maximum payment to $166 per month for individuals and $332 per month for couples for six months, starting in April 2020;
    • Helping families pay for extra costs associated with school and daycare closure during the COVID‑19 outbreak by providing a one-time $200 payment per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 for those with special needs, including kids enrolled in private schools;
    • Providing six months of Ontario Student Assistance Program loan and interest accrual relief for student borrowers, in partnership with the federal government;
    • Providing new, additional support of $26 million to Indigenous peoples and communities, including emergency assistance for urban Indigenous people in financial need and costs for health care professionals and critical supplies to reach remote First Nations;
    • $200 million in new funding to provide temporary emergency supports for people in financial need as well as funding to municipalities and other service providers so they can quickly respond to local needs;
    • Making electricity bills more affordable for eligible residential, farm and small business consumers through a $1.5 billion increase in electricity cost relief compared to the 2019 Budget. In addition, the Province is also setting electricity prices for time-of-use customers at the lowest (off-peak rate) for 24 hours a day for 45 days;
    • $9 million in direct support to families for their energy bills by expanding eligibility for the Low‑income Energy Assistance Program and ensuring that their electricity and natural gas services are not disconnected for nonpayment during the COVID‑19 outbreak;
    • Cutting taxes by $355 million for about 57,000 employers through a proposed temporary increase to the Employer Health Tax exemption;
    • Helping to support regions that have been lagging in employment growth with a proposed new Corporate Income Tax credit — the Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit; and
    • Supporting the timely delivery of critical food and supplies by amending a regulation that restricted delivery trucks from operating during off-peak hours.
  • $10 billion in support for people and businesses to improve cash flows by:
    • Providing a five-month interest- and penalty-free period to make payments for the majority of provincially administered taxes;
    • Deferring the upcoming quarterly (June 30) remittance of education property tax to school boards by 90 days; and,
    • Providing up to $1.9 billion in financial relief by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board allowing employers to defer payments for up to six months.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

Pursuant to the Order in Council passed on March 24, 2020, the Quebec government provided further details with regards to the suspension of activities of non-essential businesses announced this week. The order specified that the suspension does not prevent teleworking in a private residence or its equivalent nor does it prevent e-commerce or any other form of remote trading. The list of essential businesses was also updated and can be found here: Minimization of non-priority services and activities

Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes:

En vertu du décret adopté le 24 mars 2020, le gouvernement du Québec a fourni des précisions sur la suspension des activités des entreprises non essentielles annoncée cette semaine. Le décret précise que la suspension n’empêche pas le télétravail dans une résidence privée ou son équivalent, ni le commerce électronique ou toute autre forme de commerce à distance. La liste des entreprises essentielles a également été mise à jour et peut être consultée ici: Réduction au minimum des services et activités non prioritaires

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Effective March 26, new restrictions will be implemented for passengers travelling on provincial ferries. The only passengers that may travel are: essential workers travelling to their workplace; patients travelling for medical reasons, including for doctors’ appointments and visits to pharmacies; those travelling to purchase essential goods and supplies, such as groceries, that are not available in their home community; and those transporting essential goods. The number of trips for each ferry run are being reduced.

 

New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

Effective March 25, restrictions will be implemented for all travellers arriving in New Brunswick from outside the province. Interprovincial travellers, like international travellers, will need to self-isolate for 14 days. All unnecessary travel into New Brunswick is prohibited, and peace officers are authorized to turn away visitors when they attempt to enter. Travellers entering the province from Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia will be stopped by peace officers and required to produce identification. Contact information and intended destinations are being collected and tracked for all travellers, including those travelling through New Brunswick to another province.

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

Effective March 26, regulated health professions can only stay open for emergency or urgent cases or to provide virtual care (excluding doctors, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, nurses and paramedics) as long as they can meet social distancing requirements in their waiting room or other non-clinical areas and follow the cleaning protocol.

Non-regulated health professions (such as naturopaths) must close. One exception is podiatrists, who must follow the directive related to regulated health professions.

Essential service sectors in Nova Scotia, which are exempt from the five-person-or-fewer gathering rules, have been clarified and are: health; food, agri-food and fisheries; transportation, including trucking, rail and transit; construction and manufacturing; IT, telecommunications and critical infrastructure; and public services, such as police, fire and ambulances. Individual business in these sectors must still maintain social distancing and other public health protocols.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Effective March 25, the Chief Public Health Officer has clarified that all Islanders must now remain on their own property when outside. Those in apartment buildings must stay on the property of the building while outside.

The Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission is suspending all rental hearings until April 6.

 

Nunavut

The Government of Nunavut announced the following measures:

Effective March 25, the government has waived the normal 20- and 30-day payment terms to ensure that payments due to vendors are provided on the next cheque run. The territorial government is not pursuing any internal collection activity for monies owed to it, and all accounts that have been transferred to the government’s collection agency and the CRA have been placed on hold.

 

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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