COVID-19: Cross country update (May 19, 2020)

May 19, 2020

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Expansion of Canada Emergency Business Account

Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an expansion to the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) to include many owner-operated small businesses.  The changes to the CEBA are intended to allow more Canadian small businesses to access interest-free loans that will help cover operating costs during a period when revenues have been reduced due to the pandemic.

Launched on April 9, 2020, the CEBA provides zero-interest, partially forgivable loans up to $40,000 to small businesses that have experienced diminished revenues due to COVID-19.  25% of this loan is forgivable if repaid by December 31, 2022.

The program will now be available to a greater number of businesses that are sole proprietors receiving income directly from their businesses, businesses that rely on contractors, and family-owned corporations that pay employees through dividends rather than payroll.

To qualify under the expanded eligibility criteria, applicants with payroll lower than $20,000 would need:

  • a business operating account at a participating financial institution;
  • a Canada Revenue Agency business number, and to have filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return; and
  • eligible non-deferrable expenses, such as rent, property taxes, utilities and insurance, between $40,000 and $1.5 million.

Expenses will be subject to verification and audit by the Government of Canada. Funding will be delivered in partnership with financial institutions. More details, including the launch date for applications under the new criteria, are expected shortly.

Canada-US Border to Remain Closed

The closure of the Canada-US border for non-essential travel has been extended to June 21.  The restrictions were initially announced on March 18.

Help for the Dairy Sector

On May 5, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the government’s intention to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act and increase the Canadian Dairy Commission’s (CDC) borrowing limit by $200 million to allow cheese and butter to be temporarily stored and avoid waste. On May 15, Parliament adopted these amendments that will increase the CDC’s borrowing limit from $300 million to $500 million.

Support for Women Entrepreneurs

On May 16, it was announced that the Government of Canada will provide $15 million in additional funding to support women entrepreneurs through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES). This money will go directly to select organizations that are currently WES Ecosystem Fund recipients and will help women entrepreneurs through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Support for Community Organizations

Charities and non-profit organizations requiring financial assistance to address the pandemic can apply for funding as of May 19, 2020.  The Government of Canada is working with the United Way Centraide Canada, the Canadian Red Cross and the Community Foundations of Canada to disburse the $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund. These partners will each post information on eligibility criteria and how to apply on their respective websites.

Community-based organizations from across the country will be able to apply for funding to support a variety of activities, such as:

  • increasing volunteer-based home deliveries of groceries and medications;
  • providing transportation services, such as accompanying or driving seniors or persons with disabilities to appointments;
  • scaling up help lines that provide information and support;
  • providing training, supplies and other required supports to volunteers so they can continue to make their invaluable contributions to the COVID-19 response; and
  • replacing in-person, one-on-one contact and social gatherings with virtual contact through phone calls, texts, teleconferences or the Internet.

The government will also be investing $25 million over five years to provide assistance to Black community organizations. As part of this additional investment, grassroots organizations will be able to apply for grants of up to $100,000 in late spring to build the necessary capacity and infrastructure they need to better serve Black Canadian communities.

First Canadian Clinical Trial for COVID-19 Vaccine

Health Canada has approved the first Canadian clinical trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccine at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology at Dalhousie University.  The National Research Council of Canada will be working with the manufacturer so that, if these vaccine trials are successful, the vaccine will be able to be produced and distributed in Canada.

Legislative Time Limits and Deadlines

Today, the Government of Canada published draft legislative proposals, which are meant to alleviate possible legal repercussions that businesses or individuals may face if they fail to meet deadlines and time periods set by law with respect to legal proceedings and regulatory matters due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These draft legislative proposals will be available online for 10 days and interested stakeholders are welcome to share their comments.

The draft legislative proposals would suspend certain time limits and enable federal ministers to extend or suspend other time limits included in federal legislation to:

  • ensure that Canadians and Canadian businesses are able to meet regulatory time limits and deadlines found in federal legislation, such as some key deadlines found in the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and in regulations made under the Canada Labour Code, during these exceptional times; and
  • protect Canadians’ rights and access to justice in the context of civil legal proceedings before the courts, by ensuring that individuals are not prevented from asserting their rights for having missed a time limit or deadline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The draft legislative proposals also include provisions to ensure that temporary extensions or suspensions cannot be made after September 30, 2020, and could be retroactive to March 13, 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic officially began.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

COVID-19 Pandemic Pay

As part of a cost-shared program with the federal government, temporary pandemic pay will support people working on the front lines in B.C.’s health-care system, social services and corrections.

More than 250,000 eligible front-line workers will receive temporary pandemic pay, a lump-sum payment of about $4 per hour for a 16-week period, starting on March 15, 2020. Eligible workers will receive the payment directly through their employer and do not need to apply.

For more information, visit: gov.bc.ca/pandemicpay.

Phase 2 Begins

Today, Phase 2 of the reopening of British Columbia’s economy began.  For more information about BC’s reopening phases, see our publication: COVID-19:  Cross country update (May 6, 2020).

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Outside Gatherings

As of May 15, the Chief Medical Officer of Health has extended limits on outside gatherings to no more than 50 people from the previous limit of 15.  However, physical distance of two metres must remain between people from different households, and attendees must follow proper hygiene practices.  As well, attendees should not share food or drinks.

Indoor gatherings are still limited to fewer than 15 people, except when otherwise identified in public health orders such as workplaces, places of worship, and in restaurants.

Road Tests

A limited number of road tests are available.  Information on the limited road tests can be found on the COVID-19 Commercial Carrier Information website.

Relief for Tourism Industry

Hotels and other lodging providers will be allowed to keep tourism levy amounts collected between March 1 and December 31, 2020.  This measure is expected to free up between $16 million and $27 million in additional cash flow for the hospitality sector.

It was also announced that Travel Alberta is working on measures to support local tourism organizations across Alberta that will be announced at a later date.

Support for Seniors

The Alberta Government has announced a provincial investment of more than $170 million to help keep residents and staff in long-term care, designated supportive living facilities and seniors lodges safe from COVID-19.  Funding will be used for enhanced staffing and extra cleaning supplies and will address lost accommodation revenue.

A total of $14.2 million will be allocated per month and funding is retroactive to March 15.  Facilities must report on the use of these funds and will need to return money not spent on COVID-related purposes.  Funding will continue until the orders from Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health are lifted.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

Prescription Drug Supply Limits

Effective May 20, the government is lifting the supply limits on prescription drugs that were introduced to guard against drug shortages, with the exception of specific drugs that remain in short supply.

Though the majority of the Canadian drug supply is more stable, some drugs (e.g. salbutamol inhalers) and drug classes (e.g. sedatives and antibiotics) are in short supply.  For these medications, pharmacists will use their judgement and dispense appropriate quantities.  The drug supply is being actively monitored, at federal and provincial levels, as the pandemic evolves.

Slow Reopening of Health System

Today, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has begun to resume some health services in varying parts of the province as a cautious first step toward re-opening the health system.

The province has resumed a few everyday services such as outpatient physiotherapy appointments, kidney health services, some laboratory services, home care (e.g. bathing services) and expanded immunizations. It should be noted that not all services listed in phase one will begin immediately on May 19.

The priority of surgeries resumed is being done in collaboration with surgeons, based on their assessments of patients and recommendations.  The availability of surgical bookings for each provider is being balanced across all the surgical specialties, and considers the availability of appropriate post-surgical care such as nursing and therapies.  Medical Imaging departments are also cautiously increasing CT, MRI and other diagnostic testing to enable non-urgent and elective exams.

More information can be found in the SHA’s Service Resumption Plan and in the Health System Pandemic Response.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

Economic Growth and Job Creation

On May 16, Economic Development and Training Minister Ralph Eichler announced the introduction of the Manitoba Works Capital Incentive (“Incentive”), a new approach to tax increment financing (TIF) that levers incremental education property tax rebates to stimulate economic growth and job creation.

The Incentive also encourages business development during the economic recovery from the pandemic. A new or existing business interested in getting established or expanding in Manitoba may apply to the program if:

  • the business is prepared to make a minimum capital investment of $10 million to a specific property, which will be designated for tax increment financing benefits;
  • a minimum of 65% of total project costs are from private sources; and
  • there is demonstrable potential to create and/or maintain jobs in Manitoba, or the new business activity will have a substantial and measurable net economic benefit to the province.

The first project to be announced under the program will lever a potential $392-million private capital investment and create 450 new jobs to redevelop the Portage Place mall in downtown Winnipeg, through a rebate of up to $28.7 million over 20 years.

The Incentive carries no risk in that it provides no up-front money to the developer, and the province pays only what is collected in incremental education property tax as a result of the development.

Support for Victims of Domestic Abuse

Today, new resources to help those affected by family and intimate partner violence during the COVID-19 pandemic were announced.  The province funds a toll-free crisis line staffed by shelters across Manitoba. The new campaign was created to promote the crisis line and introduce a new texting option.

If you have concerns about your safety, call the toll-free crisis line at 1-877-977-0007, text 204-792-5302 or 204-805-6682, or visit gov.mb.ca/familyviolence. Crisis lines are confidential and available 24 hours a day. In an emergency, dial 911 or call the local police service.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

Reopening the Province

Today, the province began the first stage of its Framework for Reopening the Province, as detailed below:

Some Outdoor Areas Reopening with Restrictions

Effective May 19, the government is permitting the reopening of some outdoor recreational amenities, including outdoor sports facilities and multi-use fields, off-leash dog areas, and outdoor picnic sites, benches and shelters in parks and recreational areas. Outdoor playgrounds, play structures and equipment, fitness equipment, public swimming pools, splash pads and similar outdoor water facilities will remain closed until later stages of the province’s reopening plan.

The public is reminded to continue following the public health measures put in place by the government such as keeping a safe distance of at least two metres from members outside of their household.

Emergency Orders Extended with an Exemption

On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the government has extended all emergency orders currently in force until May 29, 2020, however, the government is now permitting drive-in religious gatherings under the following conditions:

  • keeping vehicles two metres or more apart;
  • only members of the same household can be in one vehicle;
  • people will not be able to leave their vehicles; and
  • no more than five people can conduct the service at one time from outside a motor vehicle and those who do must stay at least two metres apart.

The emergency orders that are subject to the extension can be found in this press release.

Support for Non-Medical Manufacturing Companies

The Province is working with Medical Innovation Xchange (MIX), Canada’s first industry-led hub for med-tech start-ups, to provide non-medical manufacturing companies free support as they retool to provide essential supplies and equipment to health care facilities during COVID-19.

This collaboration is intended to drive innovation in the sector, create jobs and build Ontario’s domestic medical supply chain to ensure the province is as self-sufficient as possible and prepared for a future health crisis.

Non-medical manufacturing companies that have received funding through the Ontario Together Fund, or a Purchase Order with the Province of Ontario, can access MIX members’ medical advisory services, including assistance navigating regulatory hurdles and increasing efficiencies. By taking advantage of these opportunities, companies can accelerate the delivery of much needed medical supplies and products to the front lines.

Schools and Camps

Today, the Ontario Government announced that schools will remain closed for the rest of this school year for the well-being of the students. This decision was made in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, health experts on the COVID-19 Command Table, and medical experts at The Hospital for Sick Children.

Private schools, licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs will also remain closed for the safety and protection of children, families and staff through Stage 1 of the Framework for Reopening the Province. Emergency child care will continue to operate and provide support for health care and other frontline workers. A gradual reopening of child care is expected to begin when the province is ready to transition to Stage 2 based on public health criteria, which will include robust safety protocols.

The government is also planning for the reopening of summer day camps. Subject to the continuing progress in trends of key public health indicators, summer day camps may be permitted to operate in July and August of this year. Overnight camps will not be permitted to operate in the summer of 2020.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

Reopening of Economic Activities in the Greater Montreal Region

On May 18, Premier François Legault confirmed the reopening in the Metropolitan Community of Montreal of:

  • Businesses with an external door, from Monday 25 May, as planned. However, retail businesses that do not have direct access to the outside must remain closed until further notice.
  • Educational childcare services, starting on June 1. This announcement is also applicable to the regional county municipality of Joliette. The daycare occupancy rate at the time of the reopening will be between 30% and 50% and the return to normal will be done in stages, in accordance with the recommendations of Public Health.

In addition, the government has announced that the temporary changes to the opening hours and days of businesses will end a week earlier than planned. Thus, all businesses authorized to resume their activities will now be able to reopen on Sundays. In addition, they will no longer be able to extend their business hours from Monday to Saturday.

Resumption of Surgical Activities

On May 18, Minister of Health and Social Services Danielle McCann announced the gradual resumption of surgical activities. However, given the more difficult context in the Metropolitan Community of Montreal, the resumption of surgical activities will be more gradual.  Nevertheless, various options are being considered to increase the capacity of hospitals, including the extension of working hours in the operating facilities, agreements with private clinics and the transfer of Montreal patients to other regions.

CNESST Supports the Agricultural Sector

On May 18, the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail  (CNESST) published a toolkit to specifically support the stakeholders in the agricultural sector in their management of occupational health and safety in the context of COVID-19. More specifically, a guide to health standards, a poster and a daily checklist are now available on the CNESST website. Measures are also planned for temporary foreign workers regarding accommodation and work.

Easing of Travel Bans

As of May 18, the access restrictions to the following territories are repealed:

  • Bas-Saint-Laurent region (including, only for the parish municipality of Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs, the repeal of the confinement measures concerning the residents);
  • Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine region;
  • Regional county municipalities of Charlevoix and Charlevoix-Est for the Capitale-Nationale region (including, for this territory, the repeal of the confinement measures concerning the residents); and
  • The portion of the territory of the City of Gatineau and the Municipalité régionale de comet de Les Collines-de-L’Outaouais which were subject to an exception.

Montreal – State of Emergency Renewal

On May 16, the Montreal agglomeration extended the state of emergency on its territory until May 21.

Concerted Action Program for Job Retention (PACME)

On May 15, the Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity, Mr. Jean Boulet, increased the Programme actions concertées pour le maintien en emploi (PACME) envelope by $50 million. With this enhancement, the total envelope of the Program increases to $150 million.

As a reminder, PACME was launched on April 6 and the program helps businesses through subsidies for training activities. It is divided into two parts: businesses and collective promoters. Eligible training can target digital skills relating to teleworking, good practices related to health issues, organizational communication and improvement of know-how. PACME will end on September 30 or when the budget envelope is used up.

Private Employment Agencies

On May 15, the government regulated, through a ministerial order, the terms of the contracts between placement agencies and health establishments, intermediate resources and residences for seniors. Notably, this includes the maximum permitted pricing for the different types of positions.

__________

Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes :

Réouverture dans la grande région de Montréal

Le 18 mai, le premier ministre François Legault a confirmé la réouverture, dans la Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal :

  • Des commerces disposant d’une porte extérieure, à partir du lundi 25 mai, comme prévu. Les commerces de détail qui n’ont pas d’accès direct à l’extérieur doivent quant à eux demeurer fermés jusqu’à nouvel ordre.
  • Des services de garde éducatifs à l’enfance, à compter du 1er juin. Cette annonce est aussi applicable à la MRC de joliette. Le taux d’occupation des garderies au moment de la reprise sera entre 30 % et 50 % et le retour à la normale s’effectuera par étapes, en fonction des recommandations de la santé publique.

De plus, le gouvernement a annoncé que les changements temporaires aux heures et aux jours d’admission dans les commerces prendront fin une semaine plus tôt que prévu. Ainsi, tous les commerces autorisés à reprendre leurs activités pourront désormais rouvrir le dimanche. En outre, les commerçants ne pourront plus étendre leurs heures d’ouverture du lundi au samedi.

Reprise des activités chirurgicales

Le 18 mai, la ministre de la Santé et des Services sociaux, Danielle McCann, a annoncé la reprise progressive des activités chirurgicales. Cependant, étant donné le contexte plus difficile dans la Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal, la reprise des activités chirurgicales y sera plus graduelle. On envisage actuellement différentes options pour augmenter la capacité des centres hospitaliers, incluant notamment l’extension de l’horaire des blocs opératoires, des ententes avec des cliniques privées et le transfert de patients montréalais vers d’autres régions.

Support de la CNESST au secteur agricole

Le 18 mai, la Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) a publié une trousse à outils pour appuyer spécifiquement les entreprises du secteur agricole dans leur prise en charge de la santé et la sécurité du travail. Plus spécifiquement, il s’agit d’un guide de normes sanitaires, une affiche de même qu’une liste de vérifications quotidiennes qui sont disponibles dès maintenant sur le site Web de la CNESST. Des mesures sont aussi prévues pour les travailleurs étrangers temporaires (TET) concernant l’hébergement et le travail.

Assouplissement des restrictions de déplacements

À compter du 18 mai, les limitations d’accès aux territoires suivants sont abrogées :

  • Région du Bas-Saint-Laurent (incluant, seulement pour la municipalité de paroisse de Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs, l’abrogation des mesures concernant le confinement des résidents);
  • Région de la Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine;
  • Municipalités régionales de comté de Charlevoix et de Charlevoix-Est pour la région de la Capitale-Nationale (incluant, pour ce territoire, l’abrogation des mesures concernant le confinement des résidents);
  • La portion du territoire de la Ville de Gatineau et de la municipalité régionale de comté de Les Collines-de-L’Outaouais qui étaient visées par une exception.

Montréal – Renouvellement de l’état d’urgence

Le 16 mai, l’agglomération de Montréal a renouvelé l’état d’urgence jusqu’au 21 mai sur l’ensemble de son territoire.

Programme actions concertées pour le maintien en emploi (PACME)

Le 15 mai, le ministre du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale, M. Jean Boulet, bonifie de 50M$ l’enveloppe du PACME. Avec cette bonification, l’enveloppe totale du Programme passe à 150M$.

À titre de rappel, le PACME a été lancé le 6 avril dernier et le programme aide les entreprises par le biais de subventions pour des activités de formation. Elle se divise en deux volets : entreprises et promoteurs collectifs. Les formations admissibles peuvent notamment viser les compétences numériques relatives au télétravail, les bonnes pratiques liées aux enjeux sanitaires, la communication organisationnelle et l’amélioration du savoir-faire. Le PACME prendra fin le 30 septembre ou à l’épuisement de l’enveloppe budgétaire.

Agences de placement privées

Le 15 mai, le gouvernement a encadré, au travers d’un arrêté ministériel, les modalités des contrats entre les agences de placement et les établissements de santé, des ressources intermédiaires et des résidences pour aînés. Ceci inclut notamment un encadrement de la tarification maximale permise pour les différents types de postes.

 

New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

Residential Evictions

On May 19, the government reminded residents that the section of the province’s state of emergency that prevented residential evictions for non-payment of rent will end on May 31. After that date, landlords will be authorized to serve tenants with a notice to vacate for non-payment of rent. The Residential Tenancies Tribunal is encouraging landlords and tenants to work together to come up with a payment plan.

Judiciary

On May 15, the province’s judiciary announced that, as of June 1, all matters currently on the docket of the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench will proceed on their respective dates as scheduled. Jury trials will resume as of August 15.

The Department of Justice and Office of the Attorney General announced that the Court of Queen’s Bench in the judicial district of Fredericton will be moving all its matters to the Fredericton Convention Centre. The decision is meant to accommodate spacing requirements to hold jury selections and jury trials. It will also ensure the continuity of all Court of Queen’s Bench matters, including family court hearings. The move will allow provincial court matters to continue being held at Fredericton’s existing justice building.

 

Yukon

The Government of the Yukon announced the following measures:

Easing Public Health Restrictions

On May 15, the government released the territory’s plan for easing public health restrictions. The easing of restrictions is set out over a number of phases. All employers are now required to complete a COVID-19 Operational Plan to identify hazards and mitigate risks for staff and the public. Template plans are available on the government’s website.  Any organization wishing to have the plans of their event or activity reviewed by public health professionals can submit the details using an online form: Request for review of operations during COVID-19.

 

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

Support for Artists

On May 15, the government announced that it is accepting funding proposals from professional artists in the Northwest Territories (NWT) recovering from the impacts of COVID-19. Up to $3,000 is available to NWT artists or commercial film and media arts producers with lost revenues or whose activities are restricted due to physical distancing requirements.

 

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.