COVID-19:  Cross country update (April 16, 2020)

16 avril 2020

( Disponible en anglais seulement )

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Additional Supports for Small Businesses

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new measures to support small businesses:

  • The expansion of the Canada Emergency Business Account to businesses that paid between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019, which increases the previous range of between $50,000 and $1 million.
  • Plans to introduce the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance for small businesses, which will seek to provide loans, including forgivable loans, to commercial property owners who in turn will lower or forgo the rent of small businesses for the months of April (retroactive), May and June.  Implementation of this program is still in the works and will require a partnership between the federal government and provincial and territorial governments.

Occupational Health and Safety Tip Sheets

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has developed a series of pandemic guidance tip sheets to help high-risk occupations and essential services and industries work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Available tip sheets include tips for construction, correctional services, daycares, healthcare, mining, retail, transportation, airlines and home delivery.  The tip sheets are free and can be accessed at: ccohs.ca/products/publications/covid19/.

First Nations Upcoming Elections

The Minister of Indigenous Services, Marc Miller, has recommended that First Nations with upcoming elections not proceed with elections at this time due to the current public health risks associated with large gatherings.  Accordingly, a temporary regulatory option, the First Nations Election Cancellation and Postponement Regulations, has been introduced that will allow First Nations leaders to continue exercising their roles and duties within their communities for up to six months, with a potential extension for an additional six months, as they focus on keeping their communities safe in the face of COVID-19.  However, the Minister has made it clear that the final decision to hold or postpone their elections lies with community leadership.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

Resources for Businesses

Businesses looking for information on resources available during the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to do so through the new B.C. Business COVID-19 Support Service.  This resource will be operated by Small Business BC (SBBC), a non-profit organization, and will provide information about supports available to businesses from the provincial and federal governments, industry and community partners.

Funding for the B.C. Business COVID-19 Support Service has been provided by the B.C. government ($250,000) and the Government of Canada through Western Economic Diversification Canada ($100,000).  This funding will be used to provide system and hardware updates and hire additional staff to help field inquiries.  The service will be in place from April 16 to June 30, 2020.

Beginning today, advisors are available Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Pacific time) and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1 833 254-4357. Inquiries can also be emailed to covid@smallbusinessbc.ca, or raised on the live-chat feature available on SBBC’s dedicated website: covid.smallbusinessbc.ca.  Support is available in multiple languages and a call-back feature will be in place to help manage high call volumes.

Miller Thomson is also tracking new supports as they become available: COVID-19: Cross-Canada support programs for employers and employees (current to April 16, 2020)

Commercial Property Tax Bills

The Province is providing relief for businesses by reducing most commercial property tax bills by an average of 25%.  Specifically:

  • The school property tax rate for commercial properties will be further reduced to achieve an average 25% reduction in the total property tax bill for most businesses, providing up to $700 million in relief. This enhances the 50% reduction to the provincial school property tax rate that was originally announced for classes 4, 5, and 6 as part of B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan.
  • Late payment penalties for commercial properties (classes 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) will be postponed to October 1, 2020 to give businesses and landlords more time to pay their reduced property tax, without penalty.

Supports for Local Governments

To support local governments facing temporary revenue shortfalls as a result of COVID-19, the Province has announced these measures:

  • authorizing local governments to borrow, interest-free, from their existing capital reserves to help pay for operating expenses, such as employee salaries;
  • delaying provincial school tax remittances until the end of the year; and
  • providing local governments greater flexibility to carry debt for an additional year.

Mental Health Supports for Post-Secondary Students

The BC government has launched Here2Talk, a new mental-health counselling and referral service for post-secondary students.  The service offers confidential, free single-session services by app, phone or online chat, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The government is providing $1.5 million per year for the service.

Chat sessions with a trained counsellor can be accessed by downloading the Here2Talk app or visiting: here2talk.ca.  Students can also speak to a counsellor by phone, toll-free at 1-877-857-3397 or direct 604-642-5212. Students calling from outside Canada can dial 1-604-642-5212 (international calling charges may apply).

For children and youth up to the age of 19, mental health supports are available on the Government of British Columbia’s website: Child & Youth Mental Health.

Vending Markets

The Provincial Health Officer has issued an order that confirms and supplements her previous oral order of March 27, 2020 that only food may be sold at episodic vending markets, such as farmers markets or community markets.  The order will remain in place until May 30 (subject to revision, cancellation or extension by the Provincial Health Officer) and contains additional safety measures, including physical distancing and signage requirements, amongst others.  Details can be found here: Vending Merchandise at Markets.

Personal Service Establishments

The Provincial Health Officer has issued an order that confirms and supplements her previous oral order of March 21, 2020 that personal service establishments must close.  The order requires the closure of all personal service establishments, including in-home establishments and mobile establishments and prohibits the provision of personal services to customers in any location, including the customer’s residence.  The order expires on May 30, 2020 and is subject to revision, cancellation or extension by the Provincial Health Officer.

Personal services include, but are not limited to, services related to hair, skin, nails and other parts of the body, body modification, floatation tanks, cosmetic laser services and electrolysis.  Personal services do not include health care services provided by a registrant of a college of a health profession designated under the Health Professions Act or personal care services, such as washing, dressing or feeding, which are provided to a person who is unable to provide for their own personal care needs.

Details can be found here: Personal Services.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is reaching Albertans as the government continues its procurement and distribution effort.  Alberta Health Services (AHS) is working to connect PPE to Alberta’s health-care workers and the Provincial Operators Centre is working to connect PPE to non-AHS facilities including, but not limited to, optometrist offices, funeral homes, pharmacies, disability service providers and social service and civil society groups.  Non-AHS facilities are encouraged to continue requesting PPE through the government’s one-stop email address at pessecc-logistics@gov.ab.ca.

Response Plan for Food Processing Plants

The Alberta and federal governments, with the input and assistance of industry and worker representatives, have developed an intergovernmental protocol in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 worker in food processing plants.   The goal of this response plan is to protect workers, while ensuring limited impact to our essential food supply during this pandemic.  The plan can be found here: Business Resumption Protocol Food Safety.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

Effective April 15, the Province’s declaration of a state of emergency has been extended for two weeks pursuant to Order in Council 162/2020, which further renews a previous extension order dated March 27.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

COVID-19 Related Leave

The Employment Standards Code has been amended to add a temporary job-protected leave for employees who are unable to work due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The amendments also temporarily suspend the requirement for an employee to provide a certificate from a health professional in respect of a leave provided for in the Code.

Mental Health

On April 16, Premier Brian Pallister announced that the Province’s digital cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) program to support the mental health of Manitobans and help address anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is now up and running.

The AbilitiCBT program is a free and confidential virtual-therapy platform, guided by professional therapists, that addresses mild to moderate anxiety symptoms related to the uniquely challenging aspects of pandemics.

The bilingual program can be accessed online by all Manitobans over the age of 16 and does not require a doctor’s referral. The program can be accessed at: manitoba.ca/covid19/bewell/virtualtherapy.html.

Public Health Orders

The Chief Provincial Public Health Officer has updated public health orders that take effect on April 17, and will be in effect until May 1. They mandate that anyone entering Manitoba from another country or province must self-isolate for 14 days.  In addition, travel to northern Manitoba (north of the 53rd parallel of latitude) is prohibited with some exceptions including:

  • residents of northern and remote communities may continue to move within the north;
  • delivery of goods and services; and
  • those who travel to the north for employment, medical treatment or to facilitate child-custody agreements.

Additional updates include:

  • a clarification that businesses not listed as critical may operate, and have customers attend to pick up ordered items, providing social distancing measures are in place;
  • a provision to allow farmers markets to operate, providing social distancing measures are in place;
  • hotels may operate, but must close common areas such as pools, hot tubs and game rooms;
  • campgrounds can provide accommodation to recreational vehicles that act as a primary residence;
  • garden centres and greenhouses can operate, providing social distancing measures are in place; and
  • appliance, electronic and furniture stores are excluded, and should not be open to the public, except where orders are placed remotely and orders are delivered or picked up with social distancing measures in place.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

Auto Insurance

The Province has amended a regulation under the Insurance Act to enable auto insurance companies to provide insurance premium rebates to drivers for up to 12 months after the declared emergency has ended.  The 12-month time period of this regulation would allow insurers to provide rebates to all policyholders, regardless of their annual policy renewal date.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

On April 16, the Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity, Jean Boulet, announced a measure to support all Quebec businesses in reviving their activities. The government will defer to September 1, 2020 the payment of annual registration fees to the Registraire des entreprises for the 391,000 businesses in Quebec. This measure is in line with Revenu Québec’s extension of the deadline to pay the balance due for the 2019 income tax return to September 1.  However, this does not exempt businesses and organizations from their obligation to complete the annual updating declaration on the date provided for in their file.

On April 15, the Quebec government adopted an Order to renew the state of public health emergency throughout the Quebec territory and extend the measures provided for by orders in council until April 24, 2020.

On April 15, the Quebec government announced an emergency financial assistance of $20 million for regional and national community organizations. Funding will be distributed to community organizations that provide priority services, particularly in the following sectors: food, accommodation, assisted and volunteer transportation, and physical and mental health. It was specified that particular attention would be given to organizations supporting vulnerable clienteles.

On April 15, the government adopted a ministerial order allowing the presidents of the following professional orders to issue a special authorization to temporarily practise the profession to students who meet certain predefined criteria:

  • The Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec;
  • The Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers auxiliaires du Québec;
  • The Ordre professionnel des inhalothérapeutes du Québec;
  • The Ordre professionnel des technologistes médicaux du Québec;
  • The Ordre des technologues en imagerie médicale, en radio-oncologie et en électrophysiologie médicale du Québec (only for the profession of medical imaging technologist in radiodiagnostics or the profession of medical imaging technologist in nuclear medicine); and
  • The Ordre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec (only for the profession of social worker).

The Ministerial Order in question also allows the presidents of a professional order in the healthcare field to grant a special authorization allowing the exclusive practice of the profession to persons who notably have not been members of the order for less than 5 years and who are under the age of 70. The president may, however, restrict the conditions under which persons may practise the professional activities.

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Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes :

Le 16 avril, le ministre du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale, M. Jean Boulet, a annoncé une mesure visant à supporter l’ensemble des entreprises du Québec dans la relance de leurs activités. Le gouvernement a ainsi reporté au 1er septembre 2020 le paiement des droits annuels d’immatriculation au Registraire des entreprises pour les 391 000 entreprises du Québec. Cette mesure s’arrime avec celle de Revenu Québec reportant aussi au 1er septembre la date limite pour payer tout solde dû relativement à la déclaration de revenus de 2019.

Ceci étant dit, cet allégement n’exempte pas les entreprises et organismes de leur obligation de compléter la mise à jour de leur immatriculation à la date prévue à leur dossier.

Le 15 avril, le gouvernement du Québec a adopté un décret pour renouveler l’état d’urgence sanitaire sur tout le territoire québécois et prolonger les mesures prévues par arrêtés ministériels jusqu’au 24 avril 2020.

Le 15 avril, le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé la mise en place d’une aide financière d’urgence de 20 M$ pour les organismes communautaires régionaux et nationaux. Le financement sera distribué aux organismes communautaires qui offrent des services prioritaires, notamment dans les secteurs de l’alimentation, l’hébergement, l’accompagnement-transport bénévole et de la santé physique et mentale. On a précisé qu’une attention particulière serait accordée aux organismes supportant des clientèles vulnérables.

Le 15 avril, le gouvernement a adopté un arrêté ministériel permettant aux présidents des ordres professionnels suivants de délivrer une autorisation spéciale pour exercer temporairement la profession aux étudiants qui correspondent à certains critères prédéfinis :

  • L’Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec;
  • L’Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers auxiliaires du Québec;
  • L’Ordre professionnel des inhalothérapeutes du Québec;
  • L’Ordre professionnel des technologistes médicaux du Québec;
  • L’Ordre des technologues en imagerie médicale, en radio-oncologie et en électrophysiologie médicale du Québec (seulement pour la profession de technologue en imagerie médicale dans le domaine du radiodiagnostic ou de celle de technologue en imagerie médicale dans le domaine de la médecine nucléaire);
  • L’Ordre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec (seulement pour la profession de travailleur social).

L’Arrêté ministériel en question permet également aux présidents d’un ordre professionnel en santé d’accorder une autorisation spéciale pour exercer la profession d’exercice exclusif aux personnes qui ne sont plus membres de l’ordre depuis moins de 5 ans et qui sont âgées de moins de 70 ans. Le président peut toutefois limiter les conditions selon lesquelles les personnes peuvent exercer la profession.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Effective April 16, the public health state of emergency has been extended until April 30.

 

New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

As previously announced, today the declaration of emergency under the Emergency Measures Act was formally extended until April 30.  Some parts of the emergency order have also been clarified to ensure that residents and business owners understand what they can and cannot do.  For example, the government clarified that restaurants offering take-out must ensure physical distancing of customers who are on the premises waiting for their food, and that property owners must take steps to prevent gatherings.

Gardening and agricultural retailers are permitted to reopen starting April 16.

Restaurants with a licence will be allowed to sell liquor off their menu for take-out or delivery.  However, owners will need to ensure they do not sell liquor to minors.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Tourism Industry

Effective April 16, the provincial government announced supports for PEI’s tourism industry.  Initiatives include new financing options, interest relief, and additional funding for marketing.  In total, up to $66 million in support will be provided to meet the immediate needs of the tourism industry.  A new $50 million tourism assistance loan facility will be provided through Finance PEI, with maximum financing of up to $1 million at 4% interest available for working capital.  Both the principal payments on the loan, as well as interest, will be deferred for the first 18 months.  Additionally, the province will provide interest relief on existing loans to tourism business for up to 18 months.  The government will commit $1 million toward expanded marketing, and the province is waiving the licensing, inspection and Tourism PEI advertising fees for the 2020 operating season.

State of Emergency

The provincial government has declared a state of emergency, which will take effect at 8:00 a.m. on April 17, and has also renewed the state of public health emergency.  Both declarations will remain in effect until the end of April.

Burning

All outdoor burning is prohibited on Prince Edward Island effective immediately. This includes recreational campfires unless the fire is contained in a fire pit with spark arrester screen or has a chimney with spark arrester.  Existing 2020 burning permits issued by the Department of Environment, Water and Climate Change and the Fire Marshal’s Office are also suspended until further notice and no new permits will be issued.

 

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

Effective April 15, the government has enacted the Residential Tenancies (COVID-19) Regulations, a new temporary regulation that offers tenants a mechanism to defer their rent if they have lost their job or have had a significant decline in their income during the COVID-19 health pandemic.  This new temporary regulation allows tenants who are experiencing financial hardship to advise their landlord in writing of the reasons they are unable to pay their rent, and how they plan to pay it in the future.  The Landlord would be able to request evidence to prove the tenant is no longer employed or is experiencing reduced income.  All rent would still be payable by the tenant when their circumstances change, or when the current pandemic circumstances ease and the temporary regulation is revoked.

In addition to non-payment of rent, the temporary regulation also suspends a landlord’s ability to evict a tenant for a number of other reasons outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act.  Landlords may still apply to a rental officer for an eviction order after giving a tenant 10 days’ notice of eviction for reasons such as the tenant having caused repeated unreasonable disturbance of other tenant’s use of the property, or having caused damage to the property and refusing orders to repair the damage, or if the safety of the landlord or other tenants has been seriously impaired by the tenant.

 

Nunavut

The Government of Nunavut announced the following measures:

Effective April 16, the government has extended the territory’s public health emergency until April 30.

 

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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