COVID-19: Cross country update (March 26, 2020)

March 26, 2020

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

As of midnight on March 25, the Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act is in effect and requires any person entering Canada by air, sea or land to self-isolate for 14 days whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19.  There are exceptions for certain persons who cross the border regularly to ensure the continued flow of goods and services, and those who provide essential services.  Failure to comply with this Order is an offense under the Quarantine Act and can result in penalties including a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months.  In addition, a person who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while wilfully or recklessly contravening this Act could be liable for a fine of up to $1,000,000 and/or up to three years of imprisonment.  The government has announced that it will be conducting spot checks to verify compliance.

The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, outlined the details of the $305 million for the new distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund, to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities related to COVID-19.  The Fund will be distributed as follows:

  • $215 million for First Nations, allocated to each First Nation based on population, remoteness and community well-being;
  • $45 million for Inuit, which will flow to each of the four land claims organizations through an allocation determined by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and regional Inuit land claims organizations;
  • $30 million for Métis Nation communities, which will flow through each of the Governing Members; and
  • $15 million for regional and urban Indigenous organizations supporting their members living away from their communities, and to regional organizations such as Friendship Centres and the Métis Settlements General Council of Alberta.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

In consultation with Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s provincial health officer, the province has defined essential services that British Columbians rely on in their daily lives in the context of COVID-19.  These types of essential services are distinct from essential designations under BC’s Labour Relations Code.

Any business or service that has not been ordered to close already, and that is not identified on the essential services list, may only stay open if it can adapt its services and workplaces to the orders and recommendations of the provincial health order.  A list of essential services can be found in the backgrounder to this press release.  In summary, essential services are those daily services essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning and include services in these areas:

  • Health and health services;
  • Law enforcement, public safety, first responders, emergency response personnel;
  • Vulnerable population service providers;
  • Critical infrastructure service providers;
  • Food and agriculture service providers;
  • Transportation, infrastructure and manufacturing;
  • Sanitation; and
  • Communications, information sharing and information technology (IT).

Using the powers under the Emergency Program Act, the minister is issuing a series of ministerial orders to support COVID-19 responses including:

  • Establishing a new Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to co-ordinate goods and services distribution; taking a more active role in co-ordinating essential goods and services movement by land, air, marine and rail; and, suspending any bylaws that restrict goods delivery at any time of day.
  • Banning the secondary resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other essential supplies and restricting quantities of items purchased at point of sale.
  • Enabling municipal bylaw officers to support enforcement of the provincial health officer’s orders for business closures and gatherings, in line with offences under the Public Health Act.  Bylaw officers can issue fines of up to $25,000 and jail terms of up to six months under BC’s Public Health Act.
  • Ensuring all passenger and car-ferry services provide minimum service levels and priority access for residents, and essential goods and workers.
  • Making it easier to support critical services for vulnerable people, like food banks and shelters.
  • Suspending local states of emergency specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, except for the existing orders of the City of Vancouver (going forward the city will require permission to issue new orders); giving municipal councils the ability to hold more flexible meetings to expedite decisions; and, co-ordinating potential use of local publicly owned facilities, like community centres, for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution.
  • On the direction of the Province, a hotel operator or commercial lodging operator must provide accommodation services for the purposes of self-isolation, supporting essential workforces or for other purposes identified by the Province.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Albertans needing to speak with someone about mental health concerns are encouraged to call the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 or the Addiction Help Line at 1-866-332-2323 between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., seven days a week, where they will be connected directly to a dedicated team of AHS addiction and mental health staff.  It is hoped that this change will allow support 811 operators to focus on COVID-19 calls during the day.  Calls placed from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. will continue to be routed through 811.

Effective March 27, the Provincial Court of Alberta will close all of its case management offices.

To reduce strain on the healthcare system, Alberta Transportation has extended the timeline to 90 days for most drivers requiring a medical evaluation to complete their medical form when applying for or renewing their licence.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

Starting March 26, the Office of Residential Tenancies will not be accepting applications for eviction related to missed or late rent, or for other non-urgent (i.e., not related to health and safety concerns) claims.  As well, previous eviction orders for non-urgent matters will not be enforced and previously scheduled hearings for non-urgent matters have been cancelled.

As of March 26, the closure and restrictions of food services includes an order that staff must dispense food products.  Self-service of open prepared food products (such as salad bars, soup and hot food items at convenience stores) is no longer permitted.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

A new measure, which will run through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), will allow premium payments to be deferred for six months for all Ontario businesses.  All employers covered by the WSIB’s workplace insurance will be automatically eligible for the provisions of the relief package and can defer premium reporting and payments until August 31, 2020. They will not be required to opt in to receive this benefit.  As well, the WSIB will cease interest accrual on all outstanding premium payments and will not charge penalties during this six-month deferral period.  For more, see WSIB financial relief package.

Liquor sales licensees (i.e., licensed bars and restaurants) are temporarily allowed to sell beer, wine and spirits as part of a food order for takeout or delivery.  This change is in effect until December 31, 2020.  Liquor sales licensees are automatically permitted to do this (they do not have to apply or notify the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario), but they must ensure they are in compliance with requirements under the Regulation.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Effective March 26, the provincial government outlined a number of new measures via the introduction of Bill 33, An Act Respecting Certain Measures in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in the House of Assembly. The bill would amend the Labour Standards Act to entitle an employee to a leave of absence from employment without pay where the employee will not be performing the duties of his or her position for a variety of reasons, including:

  • the employee has returned from travel and must self-isolate;
  • the employee is under medical investigation or treatment for COVID-19;
  • the employee is in isolation or quarantine or is acting under direction from public health officials;
  • the employee is directed by their employer to not work due to COVID-19;
  • the employee needs to provide care to a person as a result of the effects of COVID-19, such as in response to school or daycare closures; or
  • the employee is affected by travel restrictions and cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to the province.

Bill 33 would also grant additional protections to tenants who are unable to pay their rent as a result of the pandemic, and enacts interim budget measures to ensure that government services such as healthcare can continue until September 30 in the event that the House of Assembly is unable to meet in the near future.  Additionally, a $200 million contingency fund will be created to address the impacts of COVID-19 and reduced oil prices. The provincial government will obtain $2 billion in borrowing authority to allow for ongoing government operations.

Effective March 25, the Chief Medical Officer of Health made the following exemptions to the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering Newfoundland:

  • Asymptomatic workers in the trade, transportation, mining, hydro-electric and oil and gas sectors, including truck drivers and crew on any plane, helicopter, train, or marine vessel, including fish harvesting vessels, arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador from another province or territory in Canada are exempted from the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days only while these workers are travelling to and from their home and place of work in the province. When not working, these workers must otherwise self-isolate while in the province.
  • Asymptomatic workers who reside in the province but who work in another province or territory in Canada, including Alberta, are exempted from the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days only while these workers are travelling to and from their home and place of work. When in the province, these workers must otherwise self-isolate.
  • Asymptomatic workers essential to the critical maintenance of the province’s infrastructure in the trade, transportation, health care, fishing and aquaculture, hydro-electric, mining and oil and gas sectors are exempted from the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days only while these workers are travelling to and from their home and place of work in the province. When not working, these workers must otherwise self-isolate while in the province. Workers travelling to and from the province to offshore oil installations off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador are considered to not have left the province by travelling to the offshore. Thus, those workers are not subject to the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days as long as they remain asymptomatic.
  • Asymptomatic health care workers essential to the provision of critical healthcare in the province, including organ retrieval teams, medical flight specialists, crew on any plane serving as an air ambulance or medevac operation, are exempted from the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days only while these workers are travelling to and from their home and place of work in the province. When not working, these workers must otherwise self-isolate while in the province.

 

New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

Effective March 26, the government has announced new measures to support impacted workers and businesses, and has provided additional detail about previously-announced measures. As was announced earlier this week, the government will make $4.5 million available for recently unemployed workers. This benefit is intended to help workers bridge the gap between a job loss or business closure after March 15 until the time when the national benefit takes effect. Access should be provided before the end of March, and will end on April 30.

Legislative and regulatory amendments will be introduced to provide job protection for workers who must take a leave of absence due to COVID-19, allowing for an unpaid leave of up to 15 weeks to New Brunswickers who have COVID-19 or are caring for someone with the virus.

A total of $50 million has been allocated to support the province’s economy, including the elimination of interest on WorksafeNB assessment premiums; deferring interest and principal payments on existing government loans; allocating up to $25 million in working capital for New Brunswick small business owners (via loans of up to $200,000); and allocating up to $25 million in working capital for medium-sized to large business owners (via providing working capital of more than $200,000).

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

Effective March 26, the government has announced that veterinary care is an essential service.

 

Yukon

The Government of the Yukon announced the following measures:

Effective March 26, all non-urgent or routine hospital services are suspended. The usual 180-day residency requirement for healthcare insurance has been waived.

 

Nunavut

The Government of Nunavut announced the following measures:

Effective March 26, the Chief Public Health Officer travel orders and the travel/critical worker protocol for the travel restrictions presently in effect have been posted on the Department of Health’s website.

 

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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