COVID-19: Cross country update (May 29, 2020)

May 29, 2020

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Government Relief for Pension Plan Sponsors

Today, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the coming into force, on May 27, of the government’s Solvency Special Payment Relief Regulations, 2020, which establish a temporary moratorium on solvency special payments.

This relief is meant to help ensure that employers have the financial resources they need to maintain their operations and their pension plans, and to protect the retirement security of their workers and retirees.

Under the regulations, from today until December 30, 2020, federally regulated defined benefit pension plan sponsors are not required to make solvency special payments. The regulations also provide accommodations for solvency special payments made since April 1, 2020.

Cruise Ships and Passenger Vessels

Today, updated measures pertaining to cruise ships and passenger vessels in Canadian waters were announced:

  • Cruise ships with overnight accommodations allowed to carry more than 100 persons are prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until October 31, 2020; and
  • As of July 1, 2020, all other passenger vessels must follow provincial, territorial, local and regional health authority requirements for timelines and processes to resume operations.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

On May 28, Provincial Health Officer, Bonnie Henry, issued an updated order pertaining to farmers’ markets and community markets.  The order prohibits vendors from providing samples and contains requirements for the use of containers.  The order also sets out a number of requirements for managers of these markets, including rules about physical distancing, signage and hygiene measures.  For more information, see the Order.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

20 Million Masks to be Distributed

A&W, McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Ltd. and Tim Hortons are partnering with the Alberta government to distribute non-medical masks at no cost through their drive-thru locations across the province to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Distribution will start in early June.

The Alberta government is also working with municipalities, First Nations communities, Metis Settlements and local agencies to distribute the non-medical masks to those who need them, such as people who depend on public transit. This initiative is part of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy to safely begin removing public health restrictions and reopen the economy.

Preschools Allowed to Open

Alberta preschools are now allowed to reopen if facilities meet heightened safety standards.  For more information, see the government’s publication, Guidance for Preschools.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measure:

Provincial Campgrounds Open June 1, 2020

On May 29, 2020, the government of Saskatchewan announced that provincial campgrounds will open Monday, June 1, 2020. However, until further notice, beaches, swimming pools and playgrounds remain closed, in addition to laundry and shower facilities. Access to washrooms will also be limited.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

Deferred Tax Filing Deadlines, Postponed Eviction Hearings and Rent Freeze

Today the Manitoba government announced that it is once again extending measures aimed to help residents and businesses impacted by COVID-19. After extending the April and May filing deadlines for small and medium-sized businesses with monthly remittances of no more than $10,000, the province is now extending the deadlines for June as well. Businesses will now have up to three additional months to remit retail sales taxes and the Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax Levy, commonly called the payroll tax.

The province is also continuing to postpone non-urgent eviction hearings and suspending any rent increases scheduled to take effect in June. Eviction orders will only be issued to address issues affecting health and safety including unlawful activities. The government noted that landlords are also experiencing financial challenges as some tenants are unable to pay full rent. Therefore, after June 30, 2020, the Residential Tenancies Branch will schedule hearings to adjudicate landlord applications for orders of possession on a priority basis.

Phase Two

On Monday, June 1, Manitoba will enter Phase Two of the Restoring Safe Services plan. More information, including workplace guidance for businesses can be found on the government’s website.

Travel Order

The government of Manitoba issued an Order prohibiting travel to Northern Manitoba and Remote Communities.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

Extension of Temporary Lay-Off Period

Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 provides that if an employer lays off an employee for a period longer than the period of “temporary layoff” then the layoff is deemed to be a termination, which triggers various obligations for an employer.  A “temporary layoff” is defined as:

  1. a lay-off of not more than 13 weeks in any period of 20 consecutive weeks; or
  2. a lay-off of more than 13 weeks in any period of 20 consecutive weeks, if the lay-off is less than 35 weeks in any period of 52 consecutive weeks and,
    1. the employee continues to receive substantial payments from the employer,
    2. the employer continues to make payments for the benefit of the employee under a legitimate retirement or pension plan or a legitimate group or employee insurance plan,
    3. the employee receives supplementary unemployment benefits,
    4. the employee is employed elsewhere during the lay-off and would be entitled to receive supplementary unemployment benefits if that were not so,
    5. the employer recalls the employee within the time approved by the Director, or
    6. in the case of an employee who is not represented by a trade union, the employer recalls the employee within the time set out in an agreement between the employer and the employee; or
  3. in the case of an employee represented by a trade union, a lay-off longer than a lay-off described in clause (b) where the employer recalls the employee within the time set out in an agreement between the employer and the trade union.

For non-unionized employees, Ontario’s new regulation, O. Reg. 228/20: Infectious Disease Emergency Leave, has modified this by saying that these timelines do not apply to an employee whose hours of work are temporarily reduced or eliminated by the employer, or whose wages are temporarily reduced by the employer, for reasons related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) during the “COVID-19 period.”

The “COVID-19 Period” is defined as the period beginning on March 1, 2020 and ending on the date that is six weeks after the day that the emergency declared by Order in Council 518/2020 (Ontario Regulation 50/20) on March 17, 2020 pursuant to section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act is terminated or disallowed.

However, this new provision does not apply in cases where:

  • an employee was laid off for a period longer than the period of a temporary lay-off (as originally defined above) before May 29, 2020; or
  • the employer lays the employee off for 35 weeks or more in any period of 52 weeks.

Constructive Dismissal

Ontario’s new regulation, O. Reg. 228/20: Infectious Disease Emergency Leave, also makes it clear that for employment standards purposes, the following does not constitute constructive dismissal if it occurs during the COVID-19 Period:

  • A temporary reduction or elimination of an employee’s hours of work by the employer for reasons related to the designated infectious disease; or
  • A temporary reduction in an employee’s wages by the employer for reasons related to the designated infectious disease.

However, this does not apply if, before May 29, 2020, the employer constructively dismissed the employee and the employee resigned from his or her employment in response to that within a reasonable period.

Amendment to Infectious Disease Emergency Leave

Finally, Ontario’s new regulation, O. Reg. 228/20: Infectious Disease Emergency Leave, prescribes a new reason for entitlement to Infectious Disease Emergency Leave.  The new regulation states that an employee is entitled to a leave of absence without pay if the employee will not be performing the duties of his or her position because the employee’s hours of work are temporarily reduced or eliminated by the employer for reasons related to the designated infectious disease.  This new provision is deemed to have started on March 1, 2020 and applies during the COVID-19 Period.

Support for Small Business Tenants and Landlords

On May 29, 2020, the Ontario government announced that all commercial landlords in Ontario can now apply for rental assistance to help their small business tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ontario government, in partnership with the federal government, has launched the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses. The province is committing $241 million to the program, which will provide more than $900 million in support for small business across Ontario. To find out how much rent support you may be eligible for and for more information, visit COVID-19: Rent assistance for small businesses.

The CECRA for small businesses, administered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), provides forgivable loans to eligible commercial landlords to help cover 50% of commercial rent for tenants for the months of April, May and June 2020. The tenant will be responsible for covering up to 25% of rent, so that up to 75% of the rent is covered. To learn more and apply, visit the CMHC’s webpage on COVID–19: CECRA for small businesses.

COVID-19 Testing Expanded Across the Province

Today, the next phase of the province’s COVID-19 testing plan, Protecting Ontarians Through Enhanced Testing, was released.  The new phase includes three branches of testing:

  1. Assessment Centre Testing: expanding who gets tested to include asymptomatic individuals concerned about exposure and continued routine symptomatic testing at assessment centres.
  2. Targeted Campaigns: detecting and containing cases by expanding asymptomatic surveillance for vulnerable populations, including in long-term care homes and other shared living spaces like shelters and group homes, as well as targeted testing of workplaces in priority sectors which work with priority populations and where it may be difficult to physical distance.
  3. Outbreak Management: testing to ensure rapid and agile response capacity for outbreak management, including in specific neighborhoods and regions or at hospitals, institutions and workplaces.

To help enable increased access to routine symptomatic testing, people will no longer need a referral to go to any of the more than 130 assessment centres across Ontario. The province will also expand proactive surveillance testing to detect outbreaks and more actively monitor any spread among the most vulnerable populations in hospitals, long-term care homes, group homes, shelters, emergency child care centres, correctional facilities and other shared living spaces. This will include testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic residents and frontline staff in long-term care and retirement homes, as well as those working with priority populations, including first responders, essential workers and other workplaces as the economy gradually reopens.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

Resumption of Personal and Beauty Care in Montreal and Joliette

On May 29, the Québec government announced the resumption of personal and beauty care in the Metropolitan Community of Montreal and the Regional County Municipality of Joliette as of June 15. This resumption includes hairdressing salons, barber shops, beauty centres, manicure and pedicure salons, hair removal services and skin care (tattooing, piercing, etc.).

CNESST Support

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 personal and beauty care sector in their management of occupational health and safety. More specifically, a guide to health standards, a poster and a daily checklist are now available on the CNESST website.

Resumption of Court of Appeal Activities

Since May 25, the Court of Appeal has resumed, on a regular basis, the hearing of appeals and motions presentable before a panel. Hearings are mostly conducted by technological means.

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Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes :

Reprise des soins personnels et esthétiques dans la CMM et la MRC de Joliette

Le 29 mai, le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé la reprise des soins personnels et esthétiques dans la Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) et dans la MRC de Joliette à compter du 15 juin. Par cette reprise, on inclut les salons de coiffure, barbiers, centres d’esthétique, salons de manucure et pédicure, services d’épilation et les soins de la peau (tatouage, perçage, etc.).

Support de la CNESST

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 acteurs du secteur des soins personnels et de l’esthétique dans leur prise en charge de la santé et la sécurité du travail. Plus spécifiquement, il s’agit d’un guide virtuel 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.

Reprise des activités de la Cour d’appel

Depuis le 25 mai, la Cour d’appel  a repris sur une base régulière les auditions des pourvois et des requêtes présentables devant une formation. Les auditions se font majoritairement par moyens technologiques.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Student Aid Program

The Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour announced enhancements to the Provincial Student Loans Program for the 2020-21 academic year.

These provincial enhancements align with recent changes to the federal Canada Student Loans Program and help mitigate the impacts that the COVID-19 public health emergency is having on students. They include:

  • Increasing the weekly loan limit to $100 per week of study from $40, bringing the combined provincial loan and grant weekly limit to $200; and
  • Exempting student and spousal contributions when assessing applications for provincial student aid.

Applications are not yet available. All updates will be posted on the Provincial Student Aid website.

Child Care Services

Today, the government announced an update on child care services. The Compensation Grant Program for regulated child care services and the Essential Worker Child Care Program will continue until June 26 at which time they will conclude. The programs were established in March to reduce immediate impacts on regulated child care services, employees and families, and to enable essential workers to provide critical services during the initial stages of the pandemic.

Air Canada Flight 8018

The Department of Health and Community Services is asking people who traveled on Air Canada Flight 8018 departing Montreal for St. John’s on Friday, May 22 at 6:25 p.m. to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and call 811 for testing.

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

Public Gatherings

On May 29, Premier McNeil announced that the gathering limit is 10 and is effective immediately. Physical distancing of two metres or six feet is still required, except among members of the same household or family household bubble. The limit is the same indoors and outdoors, with an exception for outdoor weddings and funeral services which can have 15 people.

The gathering limit applies to things like social gatherings, arts and culture activities like theatre performances and dance recitals, faith gatherings, and sports and physical activity. It also applies to businesses whose main function is gatherings, such as theatres, concerts, festivals and sporting activities, and to businesses that are too small to ensure physical distancing.

Reopening Plan

The government announced more steps toward reopening the province, including:

  • Starting June 5, private campgrounds can open for all types of campers, but they can only operate at 50% capacity and they must ensure public health protocols are followed including adequate distance between campsites;
  • Provincial campgrounds will open to Nova Scotians on June 15, with the reservation line opening June 8, but they must operate at a reduced capacity to ensure a minimum of 20 feet between individual campsites;
  • Pools can start maintenance work to prepare for reopening, likely in time for summer; and
  • Sleepover camps are not permitted this year.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Reopening Plan

Islanders will be able to access more public services and spaces on Monday, June 1 when further COVID-19 public health measures are relaxed as the province moves into Phase 3 of the Renew PEI, Together plan.

Some services and spaces re-opening or expanding as part of Phase 3 include:

  • provincial parks for day use;
  • provincial libraries; and,
  • PEI liquor stores (expanding hours of operation).

A full list of government sites and services the public can now access is available on the Renew PEI, Together website.

 

Yukon

The Government of the Yukon announced the following measures:

Parks and Campgrounds

Territorial parks and campgrounds will open for the 2020 season on June 4 at 9 a.m.  Facilities including outhouses, boat launches, playgrounds and picnic shelters will be open. Yukoners are encouraged to be as self-contained as possible and to take the following precautions:

  • Pre-purchase your camping permit online or at a vendor;
  • Pack everything you need before leaving town to limit stops in the communities;
  • Only buy supplies in the community if stores are welcoming business;
  • Bring extra water, soap, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper;
  • Only camp with members of your “combined household bubble,” maximum one bubble per site;
  • Clean your picnic table and other common use areas before and after use;
  • Use your RV’s toilet, if you have one; and
  • Follow all park and campground rules and the 6 steps to staying safe.

All orders and recommendations issued by Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health apply in territorial parks and campgrounds. Non-residents who are required by law to travel through Yukon within 24 hours cannot stay or stop in government-run campgrounds. As well, those required to self-isolate may not do so in territorial parks or campgrounds.

 

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

Driver and Vehicle Services

The Government of Northwest Territories’ Driver and Vehicle Services has extended expiration dates on Northwest Territories (NWT) driver’s licences, general identification cards and motor vehicle certificates of registration.

Any NWT driver’s licence or general identification card that expires during the period of March 31, 2020, to July 31, 2020, will remain valid until August 1, 2020, as will private motor vehicle certificates of registration.

Motor vehicle certificates of registration for construction vehicles, dealer inventory vehicles, government vehicles, rental vehicles, school buses, and society vehicles that expired on March 31, 2020, will remain valid until August 1, 2020.

 

Nunavut

The Government of Nunavut announced the following measures:

Territorial Parks

Territorial parks in Nunavut will reopen on June 1, 2020. All park buildings will remain closed, and the parks will be available for outdoor activities only. The Nunavut limits on outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people also apply in territorial parks.

Nunavut Essential Workers Wage Premium

The Government of Nunavut (GN) is launching the Nunavut Essential Workers Wage Premium. The GN will fund eligible employers to pay their lower-wage workers more for the hours they work.

Essential employees who earn $20 or less per hour will be able to receive an extra $5 per hour. Employees who earn between $20 and $25 per hour will receive enough to bring their wages up to $25 per hour. Funding will be available for employers to support this higher pay for up to 16 weeks.

To start, the GN will be providing this program to employers who provide health and social services to vulnerable Nunavummiut, including shelters, group homes, food banks, boarding homes, and similar organizations. The program will also be opened to licensed daycare facilities.

The GN will consider expanding eligibility to employers in other sectors over time, depending on program take-up and funding availability.

The GN’s Department of Finance will administer the program with funding from the Government of Canada. They will begin accepting applications from employers on Monday, June 1.

Childcare Facilities

The Department of Education has developed guidelines for child-care facility reopening, including information on enhanced cleaning and hygiene, and physical distancing during drop-off and pick-up. The guidelines can be found on the Department of Education’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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