COVID-19:  Cross country update (March 27, 2020)

March 27, 2020

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Wage Subsidy

Previously, the government had announced that eligible small business employers, non-profit organizations and charities would be provided with a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.

Today, the government announced that this subsidy would be increased to 75% for small and medium-sized businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and would be backdated to March 15, 2020.  Details of the program are still being worked out and more information is expected by March 30.

Support for Businesses

The Government of Canada is making additional investments to support Canadian businesses from the economic impacts of COVID-19:

Deferral of Sales Tax Remittance and Customs Duty Payments

Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) remittances and customs duty payments will be deferred until June 30, 2020.  More specifically, with respect to GST/HST remittances, the Minister of National Revenue will extend until June 30, 2020 the time that:

    • Monthly filers have to remit amounts collected for the February, March and April 2020 reporting periods;
    • Quarterly filers have to remit amounts collected for the January 1, 2020 through March 31, 2020 reporting period; and
    • Annual filers, whose GST/HST return or instalment are due in March, April or May 2020, have to remit amounts collected and owing for their previous fiscal year and instalments of GST/HST in respect of the filer’s current fiscal year.

Deferral of Customs Duty and Sales Tax for Importers

Imported goods by businesses are generally subject to the GST, at a rate of 5 per cent, as well as applicable customs duties, which vary by product and country of origin.  Typically, payments owing for customs duties and the GST on imports are due before the first day of the month following the month in which the statements of accounts are issued.  However, payment deadlines for statements of accounts for March, April, and May are being deferred to June 30, 2020.

New Loan Programs for Businesses

To help with liquidity options, the following measures have been announced:

1. Canada Emergency Business Account

The government is launching the Canada Emergency Business Account, which will be implemented by eligible financial institutions in cooperation with Export Development Canada (EDC).This program will provide interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, to help cover their operating costs during a period where their revenues have been temporarily reduced due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Small businesses and not-for-profits should contact their financial institution to apply for these loans.  To qualify, these organizations will need to demonstrate they paid between $50,000 to $1 million in total payroll in 2019. Repaying the balance of the loan on or before December 31, 2022 will result in loan forgiveness of 25 percent (up to $10,000).

2. New Loan Guarantee for Small and Medium Enterprises

To support the operations of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), EDC will guarantee new operating credit and cash flow term loans that financial institutions extend to SMEs, up to $6.25 million.  The program cap for this new loan program will be a total of $20 billion for export sector and domestic companies.

3. New Co-Lending Program for Small and Medium Enterprises

The Co-Lending Program will bring the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) together with financial institutions to co-lend term loans to SMEs for their operational cash flow requirements.  Eligible businesses may obtain incremental credit amounts up to $6.25 million.  BDC’s portion of this program is up to $5 million maximum per loan. Eligible financial institutions will conduct the underwriting and manage the interface with their customers.

Canada Revenue Agency Measures

To assist individuals and businesses, the Canada Revenue Agency will be applying these measures:

Administrative tax measures

In addition to the previously announced tax filing and payment deadline extensions, administrative income tax actions required of taxpayers by the CRA that are due after March 18, 2020, can be deferred to June 1, 2020. These administrative income tax actions include returns, elections, designations and information requests. Payroll deductions payments and all related activities are excluded.

Trusts, Partnerships and NR4 Information Returns

The deadlines for trusts, partnerships and NR4 information returns are all extended to May 1, 2020.

Objections

Any objections related to Canadians’ entitlement to benefits and credits have been identified as a critical service and will continue to be processed during the COVID-19 crisis.  However, objections related to other tax matters filed by individuals and businesses will be held in abeyance for the time being.  For any objection request due March 18 or later, the deadline is effectively extended until June 30, 2020.

Canada Pension Plan/Employment Insurance (CPP/EI) appeals to the Minister

Taxpayers who wish to file an appeal in relation to a CPP/EI rulings decision are encouraged to do so through MyAccount to avoid potential delays.  The CPP/EI appeals program is currently only working on appeals where EI benefits are pending. Other appeals will be looked at when normal services resume.

Deadlines for charities

CRA is extending the filing deadline to December 31, 2020, for all charities with a Form T3010, Registered Charity Information Return due between March 18, 2020 and December 31, 2020.

Suspending audit activities

CRA will not initiate contact with taxpayers for audits, with certain exceptions, including no new audits being launched, no requests for information related to existing audits, no audits being finalized and no reassessments being issued.

Suspending collections on new debt

Collections activities on new debts will be suspended until further notice, and flexible payment arrangements will be available.  If you cannot pay your taxes, child and family benefit overpayments, Canada Student Loans, or other government program overpayments, you can make payment arrangements on a case-by-case basis by contacting a Collections Officer at toll free 1-800-675-6184 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. your local time.

Requirement to pay (RTP)

Banks and employers do not need to comply or remit on existing RTPs during this time.

Taxpayer relief requests

Taxpayers who are unable to file a return or make a payment by the tax-filing and payment deadlines because of COVID-19 can request the cancellation of penalty and interest charged to their account.  For more information about taxpayer relief and how to make a request to the CRA to have interest and/or penalties cancelled, please go to Canada.ca/taxpayer-relief.

Service Canada Centres

In person Service Canada Centres will be closed, but Canadians will still be able to access their benefits by applying online at https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei.html.  Employees at Service Canada sites will serve Canadians over the phone.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

Seniors and Volunteers

The province is funding the expansion of bc211, an information and referral service, to match seniors whose support network has been affected by COVID-19 with volunteers.

MSP for Temporary Foreign Workers

In addition to providing immediate Medical Services Plan coverage to those moving back to British Columbia, MSP coverage will also be expanded to temporary foreign workers until July 31, 2020.

Online Markets

The BC Association of Farmers’ Markets is helping member markets move to an online model to continue providing consumers with locally grown and prepared food products.  As markets move to online operations, information about them will be found at bcfarmersmarkettrail.com.

A public health office order has been issued providing that at all occasional/recurring/weekly events where food and other merchandise is sold (e.g., markets, street markets, night markets, Saturday markets or community markets) only vendors that sell food are to be at these events.  Vendors of non-food items and all other merchandise are prohibited to sell.  As well, market organizers must follow the public gathering order and physical distancing measures.

Arts & Culture

To support the arts sector, a $3-million Arts and Culture Resilience Supplement has been developed, which will be administered by the BC Arts Council.  Operating and eligible project clients may receive a supplement of up to $15,000 in early April to help them pay their bills.  As well, starting in early April, the BC Arts Council will provide operating clients a 50% advance on 2020-21 funding to help with cash flow.

Limitation Periods

The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General has made an order under the Emergency Program Act suspending limitation periods to commence court proceedings in British Columbia.  The order also provides a person, tribunal or other body that has a statutory power of decision, with the discretion to waive, suspend or extend time periods related to their powers.

Keep Learning BC

Parents are reminded not to bring their children to school on March 30 following the end of spring break.  However, essential frontline healthcare workers who need urgent care for their school-aged child(ren) the week of March 30 are being asked to contact their school principal as soon as possible to discuss care arrangements available during the first week back after spring break.  Other parents who are deemed an essential service worker and who may need child care for their school-age children can expect to hear from their school regarding care options by April 3, 2020.

Schools are actively working on finding alternative approaches for continued learning while schools remain closed and parents can expect to receive an update from their school in the coming week.  The government has launched Keep Learning BC, a central place where families can find ideas for everyday educational activities, annotated links to free learning resources, and ideas on how to help children learn and ensure their well-being.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Business Closures

Non-essential businesses have been ordered to close, including:

  • Close contact businesses such as hair salons and barbershops, tattoo and piercing studios, esthetic services, as well as wellness studios and clinics and non-emergency and non-critical health services provided by regulated health professionals or registered professionals including dentistry, physiotherapy, massage, podiatry, chiropractic and optometry services.
  • Dine-in restaurants will no longer be able to offer dine-in service. Take-out and delivery services will continue to be available.
  • Non-essential retail services that fall into the categories of clothing, computer and gaming stores, and services in shopping malls and shopping centres such as hobby and toys, gift and specialty items and furniture.

A complete list of affected businesses is available on the government’s website.

Essential service businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and delivery services, can continue to have more than 15 workers on a worksite as long as they maintain public health measures, including two metre social distancing, hygiene enforcement and processes that ensure that any person who is ill does not attend these spaces.

Violation of this public health order is subject to a fine of up to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence for more serious violations.

Restrictions for Gatherings

Gatherings with more than 15 people are prohibited including conferences, workshops, worship gatherings, family events (such as weddings and funerals) and social gatherings outdoors.

Gatherings with fewer than 15 people must be cancelled if the event:

  • includes any attendees travelling from outside of Canada;
  • has, as its focus, attendees that are members of critical infrastructure or critical service roles (e.g. healthcare workers, first responders, electric/power workers, telecommunications);
  • includes attendees from demographic groups at greater risk of severe disease, such as people 60 years of age or older and individuals with chronic medical conditions;
  • has attendees participating in activities that promote disease transmission (e.g. singing, cheering, close contact, sharing food or beverages, buffet style meals); or
  • is in a space that does not allow for recommended social distancing (at least 6 feet between attendees).

Tourism

Tax relief for the tourism industry has been announced.  Hotels and other lodging providers can delay paying the tourism levy until August 31, 2020 for amounts that become due on or after March 27.  Hotels and other lodging providers are still expected to file returns, as required by legislation, and must continue to collect the tourism levy from guests staying at their properties during this period. Payments deferred until August 31 will not be subject to penalties or interest.

Protection for Renters

  • Effective March 27, tenants cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent and/or utilities before May 1 and rents on residential properties or mobile home sites will not increase while Alberta’s state of public health emergency remains in effect (even if notice of an increase has already been given).
  • Effective April 1, late fees cannot be applied to late rent payments for the next three months and landlords and tenants need to work together to develop payment plans while the state of public health emergency is in effect.  The Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service will not hear applications that could lead to eviction due to non-payment unless a reasonable attempt has been made to work out a payment plan.

Legislature to Reconvene

Government House Leader Jason Nixon will call Alberta MLAs back to the legislature on March 31 to debate important legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parks

Effective 1:00 p.m. on March 27, provincial parks and recreation areas are closed to vehicles (all facilities in provincial parks have been closed for over a week).

Self-Assessment Tools

Effective March 27, a unique online self-assessment tool will be available specifically for healthcare workers. This tool is in addition to the online self-assessment tool which is already available for the public.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

Temporary Exception to Layoff Rules

The Manitoba government is adding a temporary exception to employment standards layoff rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Under current employment standards legislation, employees who have been laid off for eight or more weeks in a 16-week period are deemed to have been terminated and are entitled to wages in lieu of notice.  The temporary amendments would ensure any period of layoff occurring after March 1, 2020 will not be counted toward the period after which a temporary layoff would become a permanent termination.  This measure is specific to situations where employees will eventually be rehired once the COVID-19 crisis has subsided and economic activity picks up again.

Anxiety Program

The province is introducing a virtual program to help Manitobans cope with mild to moderate anxiety related to COVID-19.  The province is partnering with Morneau Shepell to launch an internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy program free of charge for up to a year to all Manitobans 16 years old and over.  The program will be available in English and French in the coming weeks at manitoba.ca/covid19.  Other organizations that provide crisis support can be found at gov.mb.ca/health/mh/crisis.html and gov.mb.ca/health/mh/addictions/index.html.

Public Health Act Measures

Effective 12:01 a.m. on Monday, March 30, as authorized under The Public Health Act, the following measures will take effect:

  • Public gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 people at any indoor or outdoor place or premises.  This includes places of worship, gatherings and family events such as weddings and funerals.  This does not apply to a facility where healthcare or social services are provided including child care centres and homeless shelters.
  • Retail businesses including grocery or food stores, shopping centres, pharmacies or gas stations must ensure separation of one to two metres between patrons assembling in the business.
  • Public transportation facilities must also ensure that people assembling at the facility are reasonably able to maintain a separation of one to two metres.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

On March 26, Premier Legault called upon Quebeckers to volunteer their time, if they can, to help the vulnerable sectors of the population during this COVID-19 crisis. Over 1,500 organizations have been consolidated onto one site where volunteers can apply: jebenevole.ca.

On March 27, Premier Legault announced that Quebec would cooperate with the federal government to delay the collection of GST and QST from businesses until June 30, 2020.

Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes:

Le 26 mars dernier, le premier ministre Legault a invité les Québécois à se porter bénévoles, s’ils le peuvent, afin d’aider les secteurs vulnérables de la population pendant cette crise COVID-19. Plus de 1500 organismes ont été regroupés sur un seul site où les bénévoles peuvent s’inscrire : jebenevole.ca.

Le 27 mars, le premier ministre Legault a annoncé que le Québec collaborerait avec le gouvernement fédéral pour reporter la perception de la TPS et de la TVQ auprès des entreprises jusqu’au 30 juin 2020.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Effective March 26, Bill 33, the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Act received Royal Assent and became law. In addition, regulations were promulgated which, among other things, state that a communicable disease order may prohibit or restrict a person from driving a vehicle and require them to surrender their drivers’ license to a regional medical officer of health.  Additional regulations permit emergency registration and licensing for nursing services where the registrant has qualifications such as having previously been licensed to practice in the province, or is licensed in another jurisdiction in Canada.

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

Effective March 27, Nova Scotia’s government is encouraging retail and commercial landlords to defer lease payments for the next three months for businesses that had to close directly due to the public health order. Landlords who participate by granting such businesses a three month deferral and register by April 3 will be able to claim losses of up to $5,000 per month, if the renting business does not continue operating. Landlords are not permitted to change locks or seize property of businesses who cannot pay rent, if the business closed directly because of COVID-19 public health orders.

Restaurants will be allowed to include alcohol purchases with takeout and delivery orders as long as the alcohol cost is not more than three times the value of food ordered, effective March 30.

The government clarified that an amendment to a previous health protection order now allows veterinarians to provide virtual care, prescription refills and in-patient urgent or emergency services.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Effective March 27, the previously-announced Employee Gift Card Program has been expanded to include any Islander laid off between March 13 and 31 regardless of their hourly wage. The government also announced the expansion of the PEI Broadband Fund to support equipment and installation of Mi-Fi (mobile hotspot) units and Wi-Fi Signal Boosters for businesses and the self-employed. The Chief Public Health Officer has advised that non-essential businesses and government services should remain closed indefinitely.

 

Yukon

The Government of the Yukon announced the following measures:

Effective March 27, dental practices are ordered to suspend all non-urgent treatment until further notice. The government also clarified that everyone arriving in Yukon must self-isolate for 14 days, including workers at placer or hard rock mines, exploration camps or conducting any other business or duty associated with the mining and exploration industry. Workers cannot carry out their regular duties in a camp or at a mine while they are self-isolating.

 

Nunavut

The Government of Nunavut announced the following measures:

Effective March 27, the government has announced a one-time grant of $5,000 for eligible small businesses through the Small Business Support Program. The government has also clarified its “critical workers” directive as follows: anyone deemed a critical worker is allowed into the territory provided they are approved by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer. All critical workers undergo greater COVID-19 screening and must follow strict guidelines while in the territory. Critical workers who have travelled internationally or are from areas with high risk of COVID-19 transmission will not be allowed into Nunavut.

 

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.

Disclaimer

This publication is provided as an information service and may include items reported from other sources. We do not warrant its accuracy. This information is not meant as legal opinion or advice.

Miller Thomson LLP uses your contact information to send you information electronically on legal topics, seminars, and firm events that may be of interest to you. If you have any questions about our information practices or obligations under Canada's anti-spam laws, please contact us at privacy@millerthomson.com.

© 2020 Miller Thomson LLP. This publication may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety provided no alterations are made to the form or content. Any other form of reproduction or distribution requires the prior written consent of Miller Thomson LLP which may be requested by contacting newsletters@millerthomson.com.