COVID-19: Cross country update (April 12, 2020)

12 avril 2020

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

The bill that creates the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, No. 2, received Royal Assent on April 11, bringing the CEWS into law.  Key points are:

  • The CEWS applies at a rate of 75% of the first $58,700 earned by employees – representing a benefit of up to $847 per week, per employee.
  • The program will be in place for a 12-week period, from March 15 to June 6, 2020.
  • Employers of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy are eligible, with certain exceptions including public sector entities.
  • An eligible employer’s entitlement to this wage subsidy will be based on the salary or wages actually paid to employees.
  • All employers are expected to at least make best efforts to bring employees’ wages to their pre-crisis levels.
  • Employers are eligible for the CEWS if their revenues for March have been reduced by 15% or if their revenues have been reduced by 30% in April and May.
  • To provide certainty for employers, once an employer is found eligible for a specific period, they would automatically qualify for the next period of the program.  For example, an employer with a revenue drop of more than 15% in March would qualify for the first and second periods of the program, covering remuneration paid between March 15 and May 9. Similarly, an employer with a revenue drop of 30% in April would qualify for the second and third periods of the program, covering remuneration paid between May 10 to June 6.
  • To measure revenue loss, employers can compare their revenue of March, April and May 2020 to that of the same month of 2019 or, in order to provide added flexibility, to an average of their revenue earned in January and February 2020.
  • To recognize the challenges in measuring revenues of non-profit organizations and registered charities, they may choose whether or not to include government assistance in revenues for the purpose of applying the revenue decline test. Once chosen, the same approach would have to be maintained by the organization throughout the program period.
  • Employers may choose whether to measure revenues on either the basis of accrual accounting (as they are earned) or cash accounting (as they are received). Once chosen, the same accounting method would have to be used by the employer throughout the program period.
  • The CEWS provides an additional amount to compensate employers for their contributions to the Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance, Quebec Pension Plan and Quebec Parental Insurance Plan paid in respect of eligible employees who are on leave with pay due to COVID-19.
  • Employers will be required to repay amounts paid under the CEWS if they do not meet the eligibility requirements.
  • If an employer engages in transactions that artificially reduce the employer’s revenue in order to qualify for the subsidy they will face a penalty of 25% of the CEWS they received.
  • Under existing provisions of the Income Tax Act, persons making, or participating in making, a false or deceptive statement could be prosecuted with a summary or indictable offence. Anyone found guilty could be sentenced to prison for up to five years.
  • Details about the application process are expected to be available soon.

For more information see Additional Details on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, No. 2.

COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group

The government is establishing the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group, which will provide advice on the real-time lived experiences of persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis on disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps and on strategies, measures and steps to be taken.  The government is committed to ensuring that it considers, respects and incorporates the interests and needs of persons with disabilities into its decision-making and pandemic response.

Long Term Care Homes

To help protect long term care homes, the Government of Canada has issued:  “Infection Prevention and Control for COVID-19:  Interim Guidance for Long Term Care Homes.”

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

Long-Term Care Facilities

Using orders under the Public Health Act and the Emergency Program Act, a process has been implemented to make it possible for workers to provide services at a single long-term care facility.  This includes the development of a new labour agreement that ensures all workers – at health authority, non-profit and private facilities – receive an equitable wage and work-hours scheduling stability so they can work at a single site without disrupting services for residents.

Employers of Travellers

Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, has issued a new Travellers and Employers Order to support provincial measures surrounding self-isolation for returning travellers.  Pursuant to this order, employers who provide housing to a worker who is a traveller must:

  1. unless the worker is an exempted person, ensure that the worker self-isolates for 14 days after entering Canada;
  2. develop a COVID-19 infection control protocol for each worksite for which they are responsible to prevent the risk of transmission of infection amongst workers;
  3. provide for a rapid medical response if a worker develops symptoms of illness while at work; and
  4. maintain high levels of workplace and worker hygiene.

Showcase BC

The BC government is partnering with Creative BC to support musicians impacted by COVID-19 by launching Showcase BC, a new online hub which will bring a variety of live performances, entertainment and content to British Columbians.  To help BC musicians take part, this new program will provide one-time micro-grants of $500 to emerging artists and $2,000 to established artists for livestreaming, song writing and professional development.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Food Banks

$5 million will be provided to food banks and community organizations to help their food supply efforts.

Continuing Care Facilities

Effective next week, to protect residents and staff at continuing care facilities, care workers will be required to wear masks at all times when providing direct patient care or working in patient care areas.  As well, workers in long term care and supportive living sites will only be allowed to work at one site in an effort to reduce the spread between locations.  The Alberta government is considering financial supports for health care aids and facility operators to minimize the impacts of this change.

Temporary Changes to Legislation and Regulations

Service Alberta is making temporary changes to several acts and regulations that will allow flexibility for businesses, public bodies, non-profits and other groups to remain compliant with legislation. Under the authority of the Public Health Act, Service Alberta has issued a Ministerial Order that will temporarily suspend or modify provisions related to timelines, location and distance, as well as utility payments and access to information requests.  A few key examples are:

  • Suspending requirements for holding AGMs;
  • Suspending annual return filing timelines;
  • Extending the time given to submit registration documents for deaths, births, and stillbirths;
  • Extending the 30-day window a business has to fulfill a direct sales contract, and the 15-day window to provide a refund, under the Consumer Protection Act;
  • Suspending provisions that require access to physical documents at offices, or at AGMs;
  • Suspending in-person meeting requirements like AGMs; and
  • Amending the Freedom of Information & Protection of Privacy Act to extend various timelines for response.

These provisions will remain in effect for the duration of Alberta’s State of Public Health Emergency.  More information is available online.

Charitable Donation Matching Program

Starting April 15, the Alberta government will match donations up to $2 million for designated Alberta-based charities and non-profits with COVID-19 fundraising campaigns.  Organizations include:

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

Small Business Support

On April 9, the Province announced the launch of the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment (SSBEP), a $50 million program that will provide financial support to small and medium-sized businesses that have had to temporarily close or significantly curtail operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SSBEP provides a one-time grant for small and medium-sized enterprises directly affected by government public health orders related to COVID-19.  Grants will be paid based on 15 per cent of a business’ monthly sales revenue, to a maximum of $5,000.

To be eligible for the SSBEP, a business must:

  • have been fully operational on February 29, 2020;
  • have ceased or curtailed operations as a result of the COVID-19 public health order;
  • have fewer than 500 employees; and
  • commit to reopen business operations following the cancellation of the COVID-19 public health order.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

Manufacture of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

On April 11, Health Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen announced that the government is looking to the local business community to produce a new Manitoba-designed mask to enhance the supply of PPE for front-line healthcare workers.

A team of medical experts at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre have developed a new type of mask that is reusable and as effective as other, commercially produced N95 masks.

The province is seeking submissions from local manufacturers who will be able to develop an accelerated process to scale the manufacture of these masks and begin production as soon as possible.  The Manitoba government is willing to sign purchase orders totalling up to $15 million to pre-order these masks.  A portion of these funds may be available in advance to supplement start-up costs.

The competition rules and specifications have been made available on: manitoba.ca/covid19supplies.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

Pandemic Threat Response Platform

In consultation with the Ontario Privacy Commissioner, the province is developing a new health data platform called the Pandemic Threat Response (PANTHR). This new platform will hold secure health data that will allow researchers to better support health system planning and responsiveness, including the immediate need to analyze the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Ontario will appoint a PANTHR special advisor and form a roundtable to provide recommendations about the data and policies to support and help overcome barriers while developing this platform.

The information gathered in the secure platform will allow researchers to help with:

  • Increasing detection of COVID-19;
  • Discovering risk factors for vulnerable populations;
  • Predicting when and where outbreaks may happen;
  • Evaluating how preventative and treatment measures are working; and
  • Identifying where to allocate equipment and other resources.

PANTHR will also contain clinical data from special registry collections, such as the Critical Care Information System, which reports on critical care capacity in the province, and clinical data extracted from public health, hospital, laboratory and diagnostic imaging information systems.

Essential Supplies and Equipment

As of April 11, the Ontario Together web portal had received over 14,000 submissions offering to provide supplies such as hand sanitizer, gowns, coveralls, masks and face shields, testing equipment and ventilators. More than 7,500 emergency supply submissions have generated nearly $90 million in purchases of critical equipment and supplies. The Province launched the portal on March 21, appealing to Ontario’s manufacturers, entrepreneurs and innovators to provide essential supplies and equipment to support front-line workers in their fight against the pandemic.

All submissions received through the portal are being reviewed and prioritized to focus on the quick implementation of pandemic response solutions.

Emergency Orders Extended

The government has extended all emergency orders that have been put in place to-date under s.7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act until April 23, 2020, including the closure of outdoor amenities in parks and recreational areas, non-essential workplaces, public places and bars and restaurants, along with restrictions on social gatherings and the prohibition of price gouging.

In addition, new measures have been introduced to (i) address surge capacity in retirement homes, (ii) restrict recreational camping on Crown land, and (iii) allow the repurposing of existing buildings and temporary structures.

Child Care

On April 10, the government issued an emergency order, effective immediately, that temporarily prevents child care centres from collecting payments from parents where care is not being provided, while also ensuring that their child care spaces are protected. Child care centres, with the exception of those accommodating health care and other front-line workers, were ordered closed to help prevent the spread of the virus and keep children and child care staff safe.

Enhanced COVID-19 Testing

On April 10, the government announced it is significantly expanding and enhancing testing across the Province by proactively testing several priority groups, including:

  • Hospital inpatients;
  • Residents of long-term care and retirement homes;
  • Health care workers, caregivers, care providers, paramedics, and first responders, including police and firefighters;
  • Remote, isolated, rural and Indigenous communities;
  • Other congregate living centres, including homeless shelters, prisons and group homes;
  • Specific vulnerable populations, including patients undergoing chemotherapy or hemodialysis and requiring transplants, as well as pregnant persons, newborns and cross-border workers; and
  • Other essential workers, as defined by provincial orders.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

On April 10, the government authorized, by ministerial decree, that all the personnel of school boards or colleges may be redeployed to perform other duties or functions within the health and social services network despite any provision of collective agreements or other agreements in force. The ministerial decree sets out the various conditions and modalities for the redeployed education sector personnel.

On April 10, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Danielle McCann, and the Minister responsible for Seniors and Informal Caregivers, Marguerite Blais, presented additional protection measures that will be adopted in living environments accommodating seniors and vulnerable people. The actions promised by the government include:

  • Staff reassignment, supplementation and reorganization;
  • Increase in the number of COVID-19 screening tests for the clientele and staff;
  • Cessation, until further notice, of the transfer and admission of new users;
  • Distribution of protective equipment to all employees and stakeholders; and
  • Increased support and training of staff in infection prevention and control through the integration of a team of epidemiology experts for the various living environments affected.

On April 10, the government requested the cancellation of public events for the period up to August 31, 2020, including festivals, sporting and cultural events. On April 11, the government clarified that this measure is aimed at events that bring together a large number of people.  It does not cover the regular activities of Quebec sports federations where compliance with the sanitary rules is possible.

Starting April 10, the government has allowed nurses to certify the death of a person of full age, draw up the attestation of death and fill out the certificate of death, unless the nurse cannot establish the probable cause of death or unless the death appears to have occurred as a result of negligence or in obscure or violent circumstances.

On April 10, the government also adjusted, in a ministerial decree, the working conditions in public and private funded establishments for the personnel reassigned in order to ensure continuation of care and services in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 9, the government announced the extension to July 31, 2020, of reporting and remitting the tax on lodging for the first quarter of 2020, originally scheduled for April 30. Thus, the return for the first two quarters must be filed and remitted no later than July 31. This measure was adopted to increase the liquidity of tourist accommodation establishments.  For more information, see the information bulletin published by the Ministère des Finances, which is available at the following link: https://avispublication.finances.gouv.qc.ca/pls/abonpub/f?p=119:2:13678909629891:2020:

On April 9, the government announced that $500,000 will be provided to Tel-jeunes so that it can effectively respond to the increasing demand for the free and confidential services offered to children and parents. This financial assistance will allow Tel-jeunes to maintain its basic services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, add manpower and adapt certain services for the parents.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Effective April 11, the government amended the Real Property Tax Act regulations to provide for the following:

  • Deferring provincial property tax and fee payments until December 31, 2020;
  • Extending property assessment appeal deadlines for assessment year 2020 to December 31, 2020;
  • Providing interest relief for tax year 2020, including all past due amounts;
  • Suspending tax sale processes for the remainder of 2020; and
  • Delaying mailing of provincial tax bills for 2020 until June.

 

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

Effective April 11, all indoor gatherings (defined as a group of people of any size who do not live in the same household who are not able to maintain physical distance indoors) are banned.  This restriction applies to activities like parties, funerals, meetings, feasts, church services, and team sports.  Gatherings of up to 10 people are permitted outdoors as long as physical distance can be maintained for the duration of the activities.  The government has also formally mandated that the following businesses must close:

  • Tour operators;
  • Bottle depots;
  • Gyms and fitness centres;
  • Museums and art galleries;
  • Bars and night clubs;
  • Theatres and movie theatres;
  • Dine-in portions of restaurants; and
  • Personal service establishments where physical distancing is not possible.

Effective April 10, the government introduced measures which apply to mines and oil and gas projects.  Every worker must practice 14 days of social distancing before returning to the worksite and must report any symptoms.  This includes southern transient workers and local employees.  Every worker must comply with all procedures and processes set up by their company to comply with the order.  Companies must establish and ensure compliance with social distancing protocols for all employees at the worksite when they are not working or eating meals.  Companies are ordered to use the absolute minimum amount of workers to continue operations.  Mandatory health screening must be done before travelling to site and before work starts every day.  Companies must complete a workplace risk assessment before they travel to the worksite.  Companies must end the practice of buffet-style catering, establish high-quality disinfection and social distancing for common areas, and put up signs in front of all areas which are closed.

The opening of Northwest Territories parks has been postponed indefinitely.

 

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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