COVID-19:  Cross country update (May 6, 2020)

May 6, 2020

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Crack Down on Deceptive Marketing Claims

The Competition Bureau is warning all businesses against making false or misleading claims that their products and services can prevent, treat or cure COVID-19.  The Bureau is actively monitoring the marketplace and taking action to stop potentially deceptive claims. The Bureau has issued direct compliance warnings to a variety of businesses in Canada, including warnings against:

  • making claims that herbal remedies, bee-related products, vitamins, vegetables or other food and drink products can prevent COVID-19 infections; and
  • making claims—without first conducting the testing required by law—that certain UV and ozone air sterilization systems, as well as certain air filters or air purifiers, will effectively kill or filter out the virus.

Businesses could face financial penalties and jail time if their marketing practices do not comply with the law. For more information, see the Competition Bureau’s press release.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

BC’s Restart Plan

Today, Premier John Horgan announced BC’s Restart Plan. The Plan consists of four phases, gradually allowing for more social and economic activity, while closely monitoring health information to minimize the risk to the public. The Premier made it clear that these four phases will lead to a “new normal,” not “normal.”

There will be at least two to four weeks between phases and all phases will require the following:

1. Personal Hygiene:

  • Frequent handwashing;
  • Cough into your sleeve;
  • Wear a non-medical mask; and
  • No handshaking.

2. Stay Home if You Are Sick:

  • Routine daily screening;
  • Anyone with any symptoms must stay away from others; and
  • Returning travellers must self-isolate for 14 days.

3. Environmental Hygiene:

  • More frequent cleaning;
  • Enhance surface sanitation in high touch areas; and
  • Touch-less technology.

4. Safe Social Interactions:

  • Meet with small numbers of people;
  • Maintain distance between people;
  • Size of room – the bigger the better; and
  • Outdoor over indoor.

5. Physical Modifications:

  • Spacing with rooms or in transit;
  • Room design;
  • Plexiglass barriers; and
  • Movement of people within spaces.

BC’s Restart Plan involves these phases:

Phase One

The Premier indicated that British Columbia is currently in Phase One of the Plan. This phase involves:

  • Essential services operating;
  • Enhanced resources for hospitals and health care;
  • Child care for essential workers;
  • K-12:  online and some in-class learning; and
  • Construction, manufacturing, agriculture, silviculture operating by following safety guidelines.

Phase Two

Phase Two is expected to begin in mid-May and involves:

  • Small gatherings;
  • Elective surgeries resume;
  • Regulated health services like dentistry, chiropractic care, physiotherapy, and in-person counselling resume;
  • Provincial parks will reopen for day-use starting May 14;
  • Expanded in-person schooling for K-12 (voluntary);
  • Legislature resumes regular sittings; and
  • More non-essential businesses to reopen in keeping with safe operations plans and supported by WorkSafeBC.

Sectors that were ordered closed will be asked to work with WorkSafeBC to develop plans to reopen safely. WorkSafeBC is also developing industry-specific guidance to help employers bring workers and customers back safely. Any business restarting operations must ensure it is complying with the Provincial Health Officer’s orders and acting in accordance with occupational health and safety guidance provided by WorkSafeBC.

Phase Three

If transmission rates remain low or in decline, then the target date for the start of Phase Three is between June and September 2020. Phase Three involves:

  • More parks open, camping resumes;
  • Film and TV production resumes;
  • Movie theatres reopen;
  • Personal services, such as spas and non-medical massage, reopen; and
  • Hotel and resorts reopen.

Phase Four

Phase Four will allow for large gatherings of 50 or more, like concerts and conventions. However, Phase Four is conditional on at least one of: widespread vaccination, evidence of “community immunity” or broad successful treatments.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

School Update

A provincial education helpline is now available to parents where Alberta Education staff can answer questions and direct them to school authorities, if necessary.  Parents can reach the helpline by calling 780-422-6548 (toll-free by dialing 310-0000, followed by the 10-digit phone number) or by emailing studentsupport@gov.ab.ca.  Curriculum resources are also available on the LearnAlberta.ca website.

The province is working with school authorities and education system partners on developing a comprehensive re-entry plan for the 2020-21 school year starting in September.  They are considering three scenarios:

  • Normal school operations are able to resume;
  • Schools are partially re-opened, with some level of restrictions; or
  • Teacher-directed at-home learning continues.

The government has said that the re-entry plan will honour collective bargaining agreements, and will be informed by Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy and advice provided by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

For more information, see Student learning during COVID-19.

New Ministerial Orders

The Minister of Health has signed these new orders:

  • An order that allows for individual COVID-19 test results to be provided to police if an individual has deliberately put an officer at risk by coughing, sneezing or spitting on the officer.
  • An order to expand the number of health-care practitioners who are able to assist in contact tracing. Chiropractors, paramedics, respiratory therapists, physiotherapists, psychiatric nurses, LPNs, pharmacists and dental hygienists will now be allowed to perform contact tracing duties after completing training.

Utility Payment Deferral Program

The AB government has introduced Bill 14, Utility Payment Deferral Program Act.  If passed, this legislation will allow electricity and natural gas providers to apply for loans either from the Balancing Pool or from the Government of Alberta, ensuring they have the cash flow to support Albertans through the Utility Payment Deferral Program.

The Utility Payment Deferral Program allows those experiencing financial hardship as a direct result of COVID-19 to defer their utility payments until June 18.  Eligible residential, farm, and small commercial customers can do so by contacting their utility provider.

Bill 14 also lays out repayment criteria for those deferring payments through the program.  Repayment can occur through equal, monthly instalments – starting when the program ends on June 18 – or through a repayment plan agreed to by the retailer and customer.  All deferred payments must be paid back by June 18, 2021.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

Education

Today, Premier Brian Pallister announced that the province is increasing its support for students and post-secondary institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing more matching funding for the Manitoba Scholarship and Bursary Initiative (MSBI) for the 2020-21 academic year.  The province will match all funds raised by universities and colleges for the MSBI for the year, dollar for dollar, instead of with one dollar for every two dollars raised or donated privately.

The province is also committing $5 million to the MSBI program on top of the $10 million announced in Budget 2020, to maximize funds for students during the pandemic. With the matching 1:1 dollars, approximately $30 million will be provided to students this year through scholarships and bursaries.

Fishing Season Opening

Today, the Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen announced that the 2020-21 fishing season will open Saturday, May 9 in the Southern Division and Saturday, May 16 in the rest of the province.

Manitobans are advised that when outside, it is still important to practise social distancing according to current COVID-19 public health guidelines.  For more information, visit manitoba.ca/covid19.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

Electricity Rate Relief

By an emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the Ontario government is extending emergency electricity rate relief to customers who pay time-of-use electricity rates.  They will continue to be billed at the lowest price (i.e. the off-peak price) 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until May 31, 2020, representing a 24-day extension.

Emergency Orders Extended

On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Ontario government is also extending all emergency orders that have been put in place to-date under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act until May 19, 2020.  The emergency orders include:

Reopening Retail and Construction

Today, the Province announced that it is allowing the re-opening of retail stores as follows:

  • Retail stores: Those with a street entrance can begin offering curbside pickup and delivery, in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s Guidance Document for Essential Workplaces and occupational health and safety requirements, on Monday, May 11 at 12:01 a.m.
  • Garden centres and nurseries: These will be able to open for in-store payment and purchases, operating under the same guidelines as grocery stores and pharmacies, as early as Friday, May 8 at 12:01 a.m.
  • Hardware stores and safety supply stores: These will be permitted to open for in-store payment and purchases as of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, May 9.
  • Essential construction: This is being expanded to allow below-grade multi-unit residential construction projects like apartments and condominiums to begin and existing above-grade projects to continue.

Businesses must follow public health measures and should review the sector-specific health and safety guidelines released by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in partnership with Ontario’s health and safety associations.

Manufacturing of Essential Supplies

Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade announced today that the Province is providing Virox Technologies Inc. with $850,000 from the Ontario Together Fund to help the local manufacturer double its production of disinfectants, create 20 full- and part-time jobs and help retain 120 positions.

On March 21 Premier Doug Ford launched the Ontario Together web portal appealing to Ontario’s manufacturers, entrepreneurs and innovators to provide essential supplies and equipment to support front line workers in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.  All submissions received through the portal are being reviewed and prioritized to focus on solutions that can respond to where the need is greatest and can be implemented quickly.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

Mental Health Supports

On May 6, Minister of Health and Social Services, Danielle McCann, announced an additional funding of $31 million as part of a new action plan to ensure an optimal response to psychosocial and mental health-related needs in the context of the current crisis. The new proposed measures include:

  • Improvement of Info-Social 811 services;
  • Increased access to psychosocial and mental health services for anyone requesting it; and
  • An increase of social and psychological counseling services and the deployment of priority mental health services, including the enhancement of local services.

These measures are in addition to others already in place, namely:

  • The deployment of a special program to support bereaved families, including a helpline service, access to free individual consultation services, promotion of the Guide pour les personnes endeuillées en période de pandémie, as well as, accompaniment and support to clinical practice;
  • The deployment of the Aller mieux campaign and the dissemination of informative guides for the targeted population; and
  • Making contact with people being followed and those waiting for services.

App for Workplace Measures

On May 6, the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) launched a mobile application to share and communicate the measures to be implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. This awareness tool is aimed at both employers and workers and will be updated as economic activities resume.

Easing of Restrictions

On May 5, the government adopted an order lifting the suspension of all unsupervised outings for residents of private seniors’ residences that has been in force since March 23.

In addition, in his press briefing, Premier François Legault announced the further relaxation of certain confinement measures in the various living environments for seniors and people with disabilities.  First, from May 11, a significant caregiver will be able to provide support to a person in a Residential and Long-Term Care Center (CHSLD), in private seniors’ residences and in intermediate and family-type resources.  Second, as of May 5, the ban on visits to palliative care units was lifted in CHSLDs, private seniors’ residences and intermediate and family-type resources.  Thus, under certain conditions, visits are now permitted to people at the end-of-life, regardless of the imminence of end-of-life.

Public Transportation Sector

On May 5, the CNESST published a workplace sanitary standards guide for the public transportation sector, a daily checklist and a poster presenting preventive measures for the health of transportation workers.  To download the toolkit, please visit: Toolkit for the Public Transportation Sector.

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Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes :

Soutien pour la santé mentale

Le 6 mai, la ministre de la Santé et des Services sociaux, Danielle McCann, a annoncé un financement supplémentaire de 31M$  dans le cadre d’un nouveau plan d’action pour assurer une réponse optimale aux besoins psychosociaux et en lien avec la santé mentale dans le contexte de la crise sanitaire actuelle. Les nouvelles mesures proposées incluent :

  • La bonification des services Info-Social 811;
  • L’amélioration de l’accès aux services psychosociaux et en santé mentale pour toute personne en faisant la demande;
  • L’intensification des services de consultation sociale et psychologique et le déploiement des services prioritaires en santé mentale, dont le rehaussement des services de proximité.

Ces mesures s’ajoutent à d’autres déjà en cours, soit :

  • Le déploiement d’un programme spécial pour soutenir les familles endeuillées, incluant des services d’écoute téléphonique, l’accès à des services gratuits de consultation individuelle, la promotion du Guide pour les personnes endeuillées en période de pandémie ainsi que de l’accompagnement et du soutien à la pratique clinique;
  • Le déploiement de la campagne « Aller mieux » et la diffusion de guides informatifs pour la population ciblée;
  • La prise de contact auprès des personnes suivies et de celles en attente de services.

Application mobile pour les mesures préventives en milieu de travail

Le 6 mai, la Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) a lancé une application mobile sur les mesures à mettre en place pour éviter la propagation de la COVID-19 en milieu de travail. Cet outil de sensibilisation s’adresse tant aux employeurs qu’aux travailleurs et sera mis à jour au fur et à mesure de la reprise des activités économiques.

Assouplissement de certaines mesures de confinement

Le 5 mai, le gouvernement a adopté un arrêté qui lève la suspension de toutes sorties non supervisées à l’égard des résidents des résidences privées pour aînées (RPA) en vigueur depuis le 23 mars dernier.

De plus, dans son point de presse, le premier ministre François Legault a annoncé d’autres assouplissements de certaines mesures de confinement dans les différents milieux de vie pour aînés et pour personnes ayant une déficience. D’une part, à partir du 11 mai, une personne proche aidante significative pourra apporter du soutien à une personne en Centre d’hébergement et de soins de longue durée (CHSLD), en RPA et en ressource intermédiaire et de type familial.  D’autre part, à compter du 5 mai, l’interdiction des visites dans les unités de soins palliatifs est levée dans les CHSLD, les RPA et les ressources intermédiaires et de type familial. Ainsi, à certaines conditions, les visites sont dorénavant permises auprès des personnes en fin de vie, et ce, peu importe l’imminence de la fin de vie.

Secteur du transport collectif

Le 5 mai,  la CNESST a publié un guide de normes sanitaires en milieu de travail pour le secteur du transport collectif, une liste de vérification quotidienne et une affiche présentant les mesures de prévention pour la santé des travailleurs. Pour  télécharger la trousse d’outils, veuillez cliquer sur le lien suivant : Trousse d’outils pour le secteur du transport collectif

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

On May 6, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation announced additional supports for eligible businesses:

  • The current deferral of loan payments, under the Innovation and Business Investment Corporation’s Business Investment Fund, has been increased to six months.  This measure sees an additional three months added to the original three-month deferral action announced on March 18, 2020, which started with April payments.
  • The hiring eligibility for commercial Research and Development (R&D) projects will be temporarily increased.  Specifically, salary support for up to six positions may be considered for eligible commercial R&D projects.  The positions may include existing employees, new or a combination of both.  This temporary policy pertains to applications approved between April 1 and September 30, 2020.
  • Contribution levels have been temporarily increased for eligible project applications under R&D commercial and Business Development Support.  Eligible costs will now be covered up to 75%, up from 50%, for applications approved between April 1 and September 30, 2020.

The legislative amendments announced yesterday have now received Royal Assent. Additionally, the government passed legislation to permit the virtual witnessing of documents such as affidavits and wills; this measure will operate until the public health emergency ends.

Additionally, the government has increased the volume of vegetable transplants available under the Vegetable Transplant Program from 1.7 million in 2019 to 3 million in 2020 to assist eligible commercial vegetable producers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 5, the government issued a Special Measures Order to exempt individuals in certain circumstances from the current prohibition on travel into the province.  Certain individuals who enter the province are exempted from the prohibition of entering Newfoundland and Labrador, provided they make a formal request to the Chief Medical Officer of Health in accordance with the direction provided at gov.nl.ca/covid-19 and provided they comply with all other Special Measures and Exemption Orders.  Exempted individuals include those who:

  • have a significant injury, condition or illness and require the support of family members resident in Newfoundland and Labrador;
  • are visiting a family member in Newfoundland and Labrador who is critically or terminally ill;
  • need to provide care for a family member who is elderly or has a disability;
  • need to permanently relocate to the province;
  • are recently unemployed and who will be living with family members;
  • need to fulfill a short term work contract, education internship or placement;
  • are returning to the province after completion of a school term out of province; and
  • need to comply with a custody, access, or adoption order or agreement. (This includes a child/children arriving in the province, as well as individuals who are accompanying the child/children.)

 

New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

On May 6, the government issued a reminder that, under the state of emergency, non-essential travel is restricted and any person who comes to the province and is remaining here is required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.  Those travelling through the province on their way to another jurisdiction will be screened on arrival at a land border or airport and made aware of Public Health directives.  Those who pass screening will be told to proceed directly to their destination.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

On May 5, the government announced support for Islanders seeking work in the agriculture industry through the Agriculture Labour Support Initiative, which will allow individuals interested in working on a farm to register with WorkPEI and be connected with agricultural businesses who have registered their job openings.  Through the Farm Team Program, students returning to post-secondary studies in the fall will receive a $2,000 bursary and students returning to high school will receive a $1,000 bursary.  The bursary amounts were doubled over last year to encourage more students work in agriculture.

 

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

On May 6, the government announced that the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit and Canada Emergency Student Benefit will be exempted for Income Assistance clients; these benefits would normally be counted as unearned income and would affect a client’s income assistance benefit amount.

 

Nunavut

The Government of Nunavut announced the following measures:

On May 6, the government announced that it is reversing its decision to require residents to pay for mandatory 14-day isolation stays when returning to the territory.  The government will continue to cover these costs for as long as mandatory isolation for residents returning to the territory is in place.

 

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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