COVID-19:  Cross country update (September 11 – 17)

September 17, 2020

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Extension to CERB

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act provides for income support payments to workers who cease working for reasons related to COVID-19.  The total number of weeks for which an income support payment may be paid to a worker under the Act has been increased from 24 to 28 weeks.

Leave Related to COVID-19 Extended for Federal Private Sector

The COVID-19 Emergency Response Act amended the Canada Labour Code (Code) to create a temporary new leave to allow employees in the federally regulated private sector to take unpaid job-protected leave if they are unable or unavailable to work for reasons related to COVID-19.  The Code sets the maximum length of leave at 16 weeks, or another number of weeks prescribed by regulation. Initially, regulations set the leave at a maximum of 24 weeks.  The regulations have now been revised to set the maximum leave at 28 weeks.  This change was meant to ensure the length of the leave corresponds to the length of time that employees can receive income support payments under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which was also increased to 28 weeks.

Increase in Length of the Employment Insurance Emergency Response Benefit

The Minister of Employment and Social Development has issued an Interim Order increasing the maximum number of weeks for which the Employment Insurance Emergency Response Benefit (EI ERB) may be paid to a claimant from 24 to 28 weeks.

Open Call for Applications for the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative

The Government of Canada announced an open call to non-governmental not-for-profit organizations who will work with municipalities, Indigenous communities and not-for-profit community partners to identify and fund local projects through the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative. The initiative will provide up to $31 million over the next two years to respond to ongoing needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The goal of the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative is to support projects that help communities adapt to COVID-19 under three main themes: creating safe and vibrant public spaces, improving mobility options, and digital solutions.

Organizations will have until October 16, 2020 to submit their applications. For more information concerning eligibility and how to apply, see the Government of Canada’s news release.

Employment Insurance Benefits

The Minister of Employment and Social Development has issued an Interim Order containing measures that provide authorities to facilitate access to employment insurance (EI) benefits for claimants seeking to establish claims on or after September 27, 2020. These measures include a one-time hours credit of 480 hours for those establishing a claim for special benefits, and of 300 hours for those establishing a claim for EI regular benefits. An extension of the qualifying period by 28 weeks will be provided for those who have claimed the EI Emergency Response Benefit or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. All claimants establishing a claim on or after September 27, 2020, will have their waiting period waived. The waiver of the waiting period will apply until October 25, 2020.

Employment Insurance Premium Rate and Maximum Insurance Earnings

On September 14, the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC) set the 2021 Employment Insurance (EI) premium rate at $1.58 per $100 of insurable earnings for employees and $2.21 for employers who pay 1.4 times the employee rate, which is unchanged from the 2020 premium rate.

As a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada used its authority under the Employment Insurance Act to temporarily limit the change in the premium rate to zero in order to freeze the EI premium rate for 2021 and 2022 at the 2020 level.

The CEIC also announced that the Maximum Insurable Earnings for 2021 will increase to $56,300 from $54,200 in 2020.  The maximum annual EI contribution for a worker will increase by $33.18 to $889.54 (up $46.46 for employers to $1,245.36 per employee).

The premium rate in 2021 for residents of Quebec covered under the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) will be $1.18 per $100 of insurable earnings, while their employers will pay $1.65 per $100 of insurable earnings. The maximum annual contribution for a worker in Quebec will increase by $13.94 to $664.34 (up $19.52 for employers to $930.08 per employee).

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

Stronger BC for Everyone:  BC’s Economic Recovery Plan

On September 17, Premier John Horgan and Carole James, Minister of Finance, released Stronger BC for Everyone: BC’s Economic Recovery Plan.

The plan outlines the next steps in B.C.’s recovery plan to help people, businesses and communities recover and come out of COVID-19 stronger and better prepared.  The key steps are:

  • making health care better by hiring 7,000 new front-line health-care workers;
  • creating jobs and opportunities by investing in targeted and short-term training in the skills people need to get work in high-demand fields;
  • supporting strong communities by investing over $400 million to revitalize community infrastructure and support local governments to provide the valuable services people depend on; and
  • helping businesses grow and rehire with a 15% refundable tax credit based on eligible new payroll. It will also introduce a small- and medium-sized business recovery grant to support approximately 15,000 hard-hit businesses. Tourism operators will be eligible for a special top-up. The plan will also provide a temporary 100% PST rebate on select machinery and equipment.

The plan is based on public consultations between the B.C. Government and nearly 50,000 British Columbians.  For more information, see this news release.

State of Emergency Extended

The state of emergency throughout B.C. has been extended to the end of the day on September 29, 2020, which allows the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support B.C.’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

New Motion Picture Fund

The Government of British Columbia announced that as part of the COVID-19 Action Plan relief funding, the Province is investing $2 million to launch the new Domestic Motion Picture Fund to support B.C. creators and producers in relation to the development and production of motion picture projects. The fund is intended to help local production companies attract investment and leverage federal funding.  For more information, see the Government of British Columbia’s news release.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Asymptomatic Testing

Voluntary asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended for Albertans who have no symptoms and no suspected exposure to COVID-19.  This shift is to reduce wait times, speed up access to results and support Albertans during the upcoming influenza season.

Albertans with symptoms or who are a close contact of a confirmed case or linked to an outbreak will continue to be tested.  Asymptomatic testing will also continue to be offered for priority groups including school teachers and staff, residents and staff in congregate settings, health-care workers, Albertans experiencing homelessness and travellers who require testing prior to departure.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

Public Health Order

On September 10, the Chief Medical Health Officer signed an updated Public Health Order, which contains restrictions on private and public gatherings, mandatory self-isolation rules, mandatory health screening for staff of specified health facilities, restrictions on the movement of staff between care-homes, and closure of businesses that are not a critical public service or allowable business service.  For a list of critical public services and allowable business services, see the Saskatchewan Government’s website.

State of Emergency Extended

Effective September 16, 2020, the state of emergency pursuant to The Emergency Planning Act has been extended for a further two weeks to address the COVID-19 public health emergency.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

Back to Work Wage Subsidy Program Expanded

The Back to Work in Manitoba Wage Subsidy Program has been expanded by two months until December 31, 2020.  Through the program, private-sector and non-profit employers can receive up to $100,000 to subsidize 20 employees (up to $5,000 per employee) hired since July 16. The Manitoba Government also announced that employers are now able to rehire students previously hired through the Manitoba Summer Student Recovery Jobs Program, Canada Summer Job Program and Green Team Program.

The wage subsidy application deadline is now December 1, 2020.  Employers will be required to provide proof of payment of wages by February 1, 2021. For more information, and to apply, visit the Manitoba Government’s website.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

Support for Renters and Small Businesses

The Ontario Government has proposed the Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act, 2020 to freeze rental increases for residential properties in 2021, as well as support small businesses by extending the temporary ban on commercial evictions. In addition, the proposed legislation will make legislative changes to introduce one single register of electors for both municipal and provincial elections.

The proposed extension of the temporary ban on evictions of small business tenants would shield small businesses from being locked out of their locations or having assets seized. The extension would apply to businesses that qualify for federal/provincial rent assistance under the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance, if their landlord chose not to apply to the program.

The amendments would apply to evictions occurring on or after September 1, 2020.  Landlords who evicted tenants or seized tenant assets between September 1, 2020 and the date the proposed amendments come into force would be required to allow the tenant access to the commercial space and return any unsold items.

For more details, see this news release.

Lower Social Gathering Limits Adopted

As of September 18, 2020 effective at 12:01am, unmonitored social gatherings and organized public gatherings in Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto will have new limits reduced from 50 to 10 individuals indoors and from 100 to 25 individuals outdoors. Indoor and outdoor events will not be permitted to be merged together and gatherings of 35 indoor and outdoor combined will not be allowed. Unmonitored social gatherings and organized public events include functions such as parties, dinners, gatherings or wedding receptions held in backyards, parks, private residences, and recreational areas.

These new rules do not apply to “monitored” social gatherings or organized public events which include events held in staffed businesses and facilities such as bars, restaurants, banquet halls, convention centres, gyms, cinemas, recreational sporting or performing arts events. The existing rules for these businesses remain in effect.

Additionally, the Ontario Government is proposing amendments to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act which would, if passed, create:

  • a new offence for hosting or organizing a gathering in a residential premise that exceeds the limits;
  • a minimum fine of $10,000 for organizers of prohibited gatherings;
  • authority for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to prescribe additional types of premises for the new offence; and
  • authority for a police officer, special constable, or First Nations constable to order temporary closure of any premise where there is a reasonable ground to believe a prohibited gathering is taking place.

Tracking COVID-19 Cases in Schools and Child Care Centres

On September 11, the Ontario Government launched a webpage to report COVID-19 cases in schools and child care centres.  The page will be updated every weekday with the most up-to-date COVID-19 information available.

New COVID-19 Screening Tool for Students and Staff

A new voluntary screening tool has been launched to help parents, students and staff with the daily assessment of COVID-19 symptoms and risk factors that is required before attending school.  Users respond to clinician-informed symptom and risk questions and the tool will then inform users whether it is safe to attend school that day.

Fall Legislative Agenda

On September 14, the Ontario Government identified its priorities for the upcoming legislative session as follows:

  • investing in Ontario’s health care system to ensure the province is prepared for a potential second wave of COVID-19 and for any future public health challenges;
  • building Ontario’s production capacity for personal protective equipment, ventilators and other medical gear;
  • protecting families and those most vulnerable and helping them get back on their feet as the province reopens;
  • helping young people and workers receive the skills training they need to join the modern workforce and contribute to the recovery of the province;
  • accelerating the construction of critical highway, transit and broadband infrastructure projects to create jobs and boost the local economies of communities across Ontario;
  • providing relief to Mainstreet Ontario and small business owners so they can recover from the impact of COVID-19 faster; and
  • expanding manufacturing by creating the conditions to bring investment and jobs to the province and Ontario-made products to consumers around the world.

2021 Canada Summer Games in Niagara Region Postponed

Lisa MacLeod, the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, announced the postponement of the 2021 Canada Summer Games in Niagara to ensure the health and safety of participants, the Niagara community and visitors.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

Suspension of Karaoke Activities

As of September 11, karaoke activities held in public places, such as bars, rented halls or community halls must be suspended because of the risk of spreading COVID-19.

The Quebec Government is also strongly discouraging karaoke activities organized in private places that bring together people who do not live at the same address.

Register of Customers

As of September 11, all bar owners are required to keep a register of customers who enter their establishment. This practice is meant to facilitate contact tracing in case of contamination.

Special Projects, Concentrations and Extracurricular Activities Resume for Students

The Quebec Government is announcing, in collaboration with public health authorities, the return of special programs and extracurricular activities in school service centers.  Specifically, as of September 14, the offer of extracurricular activities, concentrations and specific projects, including the Sports-studies, Arts-studies and interschool sports programs, can be deployed safely within schools.

For more information, see the Quebec Government’s news release.

State of Emergency Renewed in Montreal

On September 14, the state of emergency with regard to the territory of the agglomeration of Montreal was renewed for a period of 5 days pursuant to the Civil Protection Act.

Four More Regions Move to “Yellow” Zone

Due to the epidemiological situation and the increase in confirmed cases, the following regions have been moved to the “yellow” zone:

  • Bas-Saint-Laurent;
  • Chaudière-Appalaches;
  • Montreal; and
  • Montérégie.

These regions join those already in the “yellow” zone, specifically, Capitale-Nationale, Laval, Estrie and Outaouais.

The “yellow” zone is the early warning level when transmissions begin to increase.  Basic measures are reinforced and more actions are deployed to promote and encourage their respect, such as more police interventions, more inspections and tighter control of traffic in certain places to facilitate physical distancing.

Alert levels are revised every week by the public health authorities and are based on three main criteria, namely, the epidemiological situation, transmission control and the capacity of the health care system.

For more information on the alert levels, visit the Quebec Government’s website.

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Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes :

Suspension des activités de karaoké

À partir du 11 septembre, les activités de karaoké organisées dans les lieux publics incluant les bars, les salles louées et les salles communautaires sont suspendues. Cette mesure de prévention vise à limiter les risques de transmission communautaire de la COVID-19.

Le gouvernement décourage également fortement les activités de karaoké organisées dans des lieux privés qui rassemblent des personnes ne vivant pas à la même adresse.

Registre de la clientèle des bars

Depuis le 11 septembre, tous les propriétaires de bars sont tenus de tenir un registre des clients qui entrent dans leur établissement. Cette mesure a pour objectif de faciliter l’identification d’individus à contacter advenant un cas de contamination.

Projets particuliers, concentrations et activités parascolaires pour les étudiants

Le gouvernement a annoncé, en collaboration avec les autorités de santé publique, la reprise des programmes particuliers et des activités parascolaires dans les centres de services scolaires. Concrètement, à partir du 14 septembre, l’offre d’activités parascolaires, de concentrations et de projets particuliers, incluant les programmes Sports-études, Arts-études et le sport interscolaire, reprendra en toute sécurité au sein des écoles.

Pour plus d’informations, consultez le communiqué de presse du gouvernement du Québec.

État d’urgence renouvelé à Montréal

Le 14 septembre, l’état d’urgence sur le territoire de l’agglomération de Montréal a été renouvelé pour une période de 5 jours en vertu de la Loi sur la sécurité civile.

Quatre régions additionnelles passent à la zone «jaune»

En raison de la situation épidémiologique et de l’augmentation récente des cas confirmés, les régions suivantes ont été reclassées au niveau « préalerte » ou «jaune»:

  • Bas-Saint-Laurent;
  • Chaudière-Appalaches;
  • Montréal; et
  • Montérégie.

Ces régions rejoignent celles déjà dans la zone «jaune», soit la Capitale-Nationale, Laval, l’Estrie et l’Outaouais.

La zone « jaune » ou « préalerte » s’impose lorsque les transmissions commencent à augmenter. Les mesures de base sont renforcées et davantage d’actions du gouvernement sont déployées pour favoriser leur respect (ex. : plus d’interventions policières, plus d’inspections et un contrôle plus strict de la circulation à certains endroits pour faciliter la distanciation physique).

Les niveaux d’alerte sont révisés chaque semaine par les autorités de la santé publique. Leur évaluation repose sur trois critères principaux, à savoir la situation épidémiologique, le contrôle de la transmission et la capacité du système de santé.

Pour plus d’informations sur les niveaux d’alerte, visitez le site Web du gouvernement du Québec.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Public Health Emergency Extended

Pursuant to the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act, the Public Health Emergency has been extended for a period of 14 days effective September 14, 2020.

Rotational Workers Reminded About Free COVID-19 Testing

Rotational workers who work part of the year outside of Atlantic Canada in another province or territory can call 811 when arriving back to the province and arrange for COVID-19 testing on day five of their 14-day self-isolation period.  Testing is free and covered under MCP.  Once an asymptomatic rotational worker has completed seven days of self-isolation and has received a negative test result for COVID-19, they will no longer be required to self-isolate. However, these individuals will still be required to avoid large crowds and mass gatherings, and must wear a non-medical mask when interacting with other people outside of their household.

Those who do not want to take a COVID-19 test will be required to complete the 14 day self-isolation period.  Self-isolation information for rotational workers can be found on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s website.

Resumption of Consultations on the Workers Compensation System

On Monday, September 14, 2020, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced that public consultations concerning the province’s workers’ compensation system would resume, following a delay earlier this year due to COVID-19. The Statutory Review Committee will be holding consultation sessions from September 28, 2020, to October 15, 2020. In-person sessions will be held in St. John’s, while video and teleconference will be available province-wide.

Those wishing to present at one of the sessions are asked to RSVP by September 30 by emailing info@2019srwcs.ca or by phoning 709-729-6381. Written submissions are also accepted until October 9, 2020. Any RSVPs received prior to the suspension of consultations will be contacted to schedule a private in-person session should they still wish to present to the Committee. Written submissions received for the prior deadline of April 30, 2020 do not need to be sent again.

For more information visit engageNL

 

New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

Travel Restrictions for Quebec Border Community

On September 17, the New Brunswick Government announced that residents of the Témiscouata Municipal Regional County in Quebec, along the northwestern New Brunswick border, will not be permitted to enter the province for day trips effective immediately due to the rise of COVID-19 cases in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec.  Exceptions exist for those who cross the border for essential reasons such as for medical appointments, approved work and shared child custody.  Unless exempt, individuals who travel to or from Témiscouata are once again required to self-isolate for 14 days when entering New Brunswick.

State of Emergency Extended

Effective September 17, the state of emergency has been renewed under the Emergency Measures Act for a further period of 14 days.

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

Easing of Self-Isolation Requirements for Out-of-Province Rotational Workers

On September 11, 2020, the Government of Nova Scotia announced the loosening of some self-isolation requirements for out-of-province rotational workers, which includes individuals who have set schedules of alternating between living in Nova Scotia and working outside of the province. The changes do not include those individuals working outside of Canada.

Effective immediately, rotational workers are allowed to perform, whether alone or with household members, the following activities:

  • interacting with people who live in their household with no physical distance (unless the rotational worker becomes unwell);
  • spending time outside on their own property;
  • going for a drive;
  • going for a walk, run, hike, bike or ATV ride for exercise and recreation off their property (if they encounter people from outside their household, they must wear a mask and maintain a distance of two metres);
  • visiting a park, beach or other outdoor public space (if they encounter people from outside their household, they must wear a mask and maintain a distance of two metres);
  • spending time at their cabin or vacation home (or a rental location) within the province, following the same rules as if at home;
  • dropping off and picking up household members at school, work or recreational activities without getting out of the vehicle;
  • no-contact pick-up of groceries or other items purchased online without getting out of the vehicle;
  • attending a drive-in theatre without getting out of the vehicle; and
  • going through a drive-thru, for example at a restaurant or bank.

Effective Monday, September 14, 2020, rotational worker are also allowed to attend necessary (urgent and routine) medical appointments. This includes appointments with physicians and nurse practitioners, dentists, optometrists and other regulated health professionals where in-person treatment is required.

The following activities continue to be restricted:

  • entering public places (e.g. schools, grocery stores, shopping malls, banks, religious institutions, restaurants/bars);
  • attending indoor and outdoor gatherings;
  • visiting people from outside their household;
  • allowing people from outside their household to visit them on their property or in their home; and
  • volunteering or working in any capacity that requires them to be in contact with people outside their household.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Extended Hours for Access PEI Charlottetown

To deal with the backlog created by COVID-19, the Access PEI Charlottetown office will be open on Saturdays mornings from 9 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. from September 12 to October 31 to provide services currently in high demand, including driver’s license renewals and exchanges, vehicle renewals and transfers, and Class 5 and Class 7 appointment bookings.

 

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

Public Health Emergency Extended

The Public Health Emergency has been extended through September 29, 2020, in order to allow for a continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rapid Testing Expansion

On September 16, 2020, the Government of Northwest Territories announced that it has increased the number of in-territory rapid tests used for COVID-19, and procured additional equipment to expand this capacity further in the coming weeks. Beginning immediately, the territory now can process up to 240 COVID-19 tests per week using the BioFire test platform.

Additional swabs beyond the capacity of 240 tests per week will continue to be sent to Alberta for analysis, with high priority cases being prioritized for local testing.  Four additional rapid testing units are expected to arrive for installation by the end of this week, with the expectation that the territory should be able to process 500 rapid, in-territory tests per week with further expansions in the future.

Support for Harvesters and the Traditional Economy

On September 17, 2020, the Government of Northwest Territories announced programs to support harvesters and families going out on the land this fall with $330,000 in 2020-2021 for:

  • funding to assist families in need to go out on the land;
  • a regional harvesting, training and mentorship funding program; and
  • a pilot program for trapper mentorship.

These new funding programs will begin accepting applications mid-October. Details and application deadlines will be announced in the coming weeks.

In addition, under the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program, the GNWT has enhanced current grubstake payments this year for eligible trappers in light of COVID-19. A second category of eligibility has been created to make additional funding available to more trappers this year.  Changes are effective September 15, 2020 and payments will be made directly to trapper’s accounts.

For more information, see this news release.

 

Nunavut

The Government of Nunavut announced the following measures:

Deadline for Essential Workers Wage Premium

Eligible Nunavut employers are reminded to apply for the Nunavut Essential Workers Wage Premium (NEWWP). Employees earning less than $25 per hour in base wages may be eligible for a premium up to $5 per hour.  The deadline to apply is September 30, 2020. Applications received after this date will not be processed.  For more information and to apply, visit the Nunavut Government’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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