COVID-19: Cross country update (March 31, 2020)

31 mars 2020

( Disponible en anglais seulement )

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Critical Health Supplies

On March 20, 2020, the Government of Canada called on Canadian businesses and manufacturers to help deliver critical health supplies.  The government has now signed agreements with several Canadian companies to purchase and boost capacity to manufacture equipment and supplies including portable ventilators, surgical masks, testing kits, hand sanitizer, and protective apparel including masks and gowns.

In addition, $50 million has been made available in funding to develop and scale-up new, in-demand technologies, equipment, and medical products. This includes technologies and products to test and treat Canadians, such as novel virus detection tests, vaccines, therapeutics, and symptom management treatments. It also includes medical equipment to care for Canadians, such as ventilators, peripherals, personal protective equipment, and cleaning and sterilization chemicals and equipment.

Free National Film Board (NFB) of Canada Resources

Effective as of March 27, the NFB is offering free online learning resources:

  • Parents can access a special collection of acclaimed NFB films and learning resources at NFB.ca/education.
  • All teachers across Canada, from now until June 30, 2020, have FREE access to CAMPUS, the NFB’s online media portal.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

Industrial Camps

Guidance has been provided for industrial work camps to support their response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to keep workers safe.  The guidelines include:

  • prevention measures and control in camps;
  • plans on how to manage individuals with suspected COVID-19 infection;
  • outbreak protocols;
  • support for camp residents who are self-isolating;
  • enacting physical distancing; and
  • ensuring sufficient infection-control supplies.

Child Care for Essential Workers

A new process has been announced to match parents, who are working on the front lines of BC’s COVID-19 response and have children up to five years of age, with child care in their communities.  Beginning March 31, essential workers can fill out a new “parent” form to identify their need for urgent child care by calling 1-888-338-6622 and selecting Option 4, or going online to gov.bc.ca/essential-service-child-care.

Child care spaces will be prioritized for children whose parents work in public health and health services, social services, law enforcement, first responders and emergency response sectors.  Additional spaces will then be given to families working in other crucial roles, defined as essential service workers.  Temporary emergency funding will be given to support providers to ensure child care access is available for these workers.

The Ministry of Education is working with school districts and independent schools to ensure students whose parents work in essential areas have access to care before, during and after regular school hours.  Parents who need care for their children should contact their school district directly.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Isolation Rules

To align with new federal rules under the Quarantine Act, Albertans under mandatory self-isolation are now required to remain inside and can only go for walks on their own property for the duration of their self-isolation.  People who live in apartment buildings must stay inside and cannot use the elevators or stairwells to go outside.  This applies to everyone in mandatory self-isolation, even those who are feeling well.  Albertans are legally required to self-isolate for 14 days if they:

  • returned from travel outside of Canada after March 12 or
  • are a close contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19 (i.e., a person who provides care, lives with or has close physical contact, or comes into direct contact with infectious body fluids).

A person who becomes sick during this time must self-isolate for an additional ten days from the beginning of symptoms or from when they are feeling well, whichever takes longer.

Charities and Non-Profit Organizations

Eligibility criteria for emergency funding for charities and not-for-profit organizations impacted by COVID-19 is available at alberta.ca/emergency-funding-for-charities-and-not-for-profit-organizations.aspx.

New Bills

The government is proposing three pieces of legislation.  If passed, the first two will bring into force the public health enforcement activities and rental protections announced on March 27:

  • Bill 10, Public Health (Emergency Powers) Amendment Act, 2020 – this bill will provide law enforcement agencies full authority to enforce public health orders during a pandemic.
  • Bill 11, Tenancies Statutes (Emergency Provisions) Amendment Act, 2020 – this bill will ensure no one will be retroactively charged for residential rent increases or late fees while the state of public health emergency is in effect.

The third bill is proposed to support economic activity in the energy sector:

  • Bill 12, Liabilities Management Statutes Amendment Act, 2020 – if passed, this bill will enable government to clarify and enable expanded, delegated authority for the Orphan Well Association to maintain and manage orphan sites.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

To help support vulnerable Saskatchewan citizens, the government announced the Ministry of Social Services Pandemic Response, which will implement measures, such as:

  • Pandemic Emergency Shelter Support – a one-time additional funding of $171,000 will be used to relieve the extra cost pressure that emergency shelters are experiencing as they serve those in need during the pandemic.
  • Modified Service Delivery Model – the Cold Weather Strategy will be adapted to help respond to the pressures created by COVID-19.
  • Support for Children, Youth and Families – any youth that “ages out of care” during the COVID-19 pandemic will not be transitioned out of their current housing.  To help families receiving the Child Care Subsidy, any families who were receiving part-time benefits because their children were attending school will receive full-time benefits, retroactive to March 1, 2020.
  • New Saskatchewan Housing Benefit – the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation will begin accepting applications for the new Saskatchewan Housing Benefit (SHB) on April 1, 2020.  The SHB is a federal-provincial program delivered through the National Housing Strategy and is available to Saskatchewan renters who:
    • rent from a community housing provider, such as a non-profit housing provider or co-operative;
    • pay more than 50 per cent of household income on rent and utilities;
    • have incomes and assets below the program limits; and
    • are not receiving another government benefit to help with their housing/shelter costs.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

School Closures

In-school classes for students in kindergarten to Grade 12 will now be suspended indefinitely.  No student will be held back due to COVID-19, but students must actively engage in learning.  Teachers will teach remotely, assign work, conduct assessments and prepare final report cards.  All students on track to graduate will do so.

Easing of Road Restrictions

Normally, spring weight restrictions are enforced on Manitoba’s surfaced roads during the spring to protect roads from excessive damage by reducing the axle weights of heavy commercial vehicles during the period when roads are most at risk of weakening under spring rains and thawing.  These restrictions have been eased to ensure communities continue to have access to essential commodities during this crucial time, such as medical supplies, groceries, fuel, fertilizer, bulk milk, potable water for non-industrial use, emergency equipment and materials, and mail delivery on behalf of the Canada Post Corporation.  It also includes livestock and livestock feed in transit, and hay for feed in transit within Manitoba.  However, vehicles are not authorized to travel over a bridge or other structure in excess of posted weight restrictions.  Complete details on road restrictions can be found at gov.mb.ca/mit/srr/index.html.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

Emergency Declaration and Orders Extended

The Declaration of Emergency and associated emergency orders have been extended until April 13, 2020:

Closure of Outdoor Recreational Amenities

A new emergency order has been issued to close all outdoor recreational amenities, such as sports fields and playgrounds, effective March 30.  This new order closes all communal or shared, public or private, outdoor recreational amenities everywhere in Ontario including, but not limited to:

  • playgrounds,
  • sports fields,
  • basketball and tennis courts,
  • off-leash dog parks,
  • beaches,
  • skateboard and BMX parks,
  • picnic areas,
  • outdoor community gardens,
  • park shelters,
  • outdoor exercise equipment,
  • condo parks and gardens, and
  • other outdoor recreational amenities.

Green spaces in parks, trails, ravines and conservation areas that are not otherwise closed remain open for walkthrough access, but individuals must maintain the safe physical distance of at least two metres apart from others. Ontario’s provincial parks and conservation reserves remain closed.

Postsecondary Students

The government is temporarily deferring payments for Ontario Student Assistance Program loans.  Loan payments will be subject to a six-month interest-free moratorium until September 30, 2020.

The government is also making online learning supports, including year-end exams, available to postsecondary institutions.  Ontario has finalized an agreement with eCampusOntario to ensure students can complete the academic year.

The province is distributing $25 million in additional funding to publicly-assisted colleges, universities and Indigenous Institutes to help address each institution’s most pressing needs in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak such as deep cleaning, purchasing medical supplies or offering mental health supports.

School and Child Care Closures Extended

Public schools will remain closed to teachers until Friday, May 1, 2020, and to students until Monday, May 4, 2020.  The closure may be extended if necessary.

Private schools, licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs will also remain closed until April 13, according to the Declaration of Emergency, which only allows closures to be extended for one 14-day period at a time. Select centres designated to support frontline health care workers and first responders will remain open.

To ensure continuity of learning, the government is launching the second phase of Learn at Home which features a new set of expectations for the education community, including:

  • Reconnecting students with teachers and other school staff, including mental health workers;
  • Re-establishing teacher-led learning by grade groupings as follows:
    • Kindergarten – Grade 3: five hours of work per student/week (focus on literacy and math)
    • Grades 4 – 6: five hours of work per student/week (focus on literacy, math, science and social studies)
    • Grades 7 – 8: 10 hours of work per student/week (focus on math, literacy, science and social studies)
    • Grades 9 – 12: three hours of work per course per week for semestered students; 1.5 hours of work per course per week for non-semestered students (focus on achieving credits/completion/graduation)
  • Leveraging digital resources and identifying alternative forms of teacher-student connectivity, such as phone and mail;
  • Developing a program of training for educators to support them in virtual learning delivery;
  • Requiring final report cards for all students;
  • Prioritizing and supporting students on track to graduate; and,
  • Distributing laptops and/or devices from schools as needed, while observing public health direction.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

On March 30, the Government of Quebec and the SAAQ announced a deferral to September 1 of the payments of the amounts due to retain the right to drive for commercial vehicles and taxis. This measure applies to commercial vehicles and taxis whose due date for these sums is either March 31, 2020, or April 30, 2020. This 5-month payment deferral represents a savings for businesses amounting to approximately $165 million .

To benefit from this measure, you can ask your financial institution to stop your automatic bank withdrawals on behalf of the SAAQ. If this is impossible or if you have already paid the amounts due, you can benefit from the measure by completing the form available on the SAAQ website.

On March 30, the government announced that all businesses would be closed on Sundays for the month of April, with some exceptions. The ministerial order that followed specifies that grocery stores are part of the exception, but only for online and telephone orders.

In addition, the City of Montreal recently announced the deferral of the second instalment of municipal taxes to July 2, 2020, as a measure to support Montreal businesses in the context of this crisis.

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Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes:

Le 30 mars, le gouvernement du Québec et la SAAQ annoncent un report au 1er septembre du paiement des sommes exigibles pour conserver le droit de circuler pour les véhicules commerciaux et les taxis. Cette mesure s’applique aux véhicules commerciaux et aux taxis dont la date d’échéance de ces sommes est le 31 mars 2020 ou le 30 avril 2020. Ce report de paiement de 5 mois représente une économie aux entreprises qui s’élève à environ 165 M$.

Pour bénéficier de cette mesure, vous pouvez demander à votre institution financière l’arrêt de vos prélèvements bancaires automatiques au nom de la SAAQ. Si cela est impossible ou si vous avez déjà payé les sommes dues, vous devez remplir le formulaire disponible sur le site internet de la SAAQ.

Le 30 mars, le gouvernement a annoncé que les commerces prioritaires seraient, sauf exception, fermés pour tous les dimanches du mois d’avril. L’arrêté ministériel qui a suivi précise que l’exception s’étend aussi aux épiceries, mais uniquement pour les commandes en ligne et par téléphone.

De plus, la Ville de Montréal a récemment annoncé le report de l’échéance du 2e versement des taxes municipales au 2 juillet 2020, et ce, dans le but de soutenir les entreprises montréalaises dans ce contexte de crise.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Effective March 31, burials can continue with five people or fewer, and visitations are permitted with five or fewer people.

Effective March 30, the sale of in-store scratch and break-open lottery tickets is prohibited to promote social distancing.

 

New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

Effective March 31, the deadline to request a property assessment review has been extended by 30 days, until May 1.

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

Effective March 31, Cape Breton Regional Municipality is offering people whose income is affected by COVID-19 the option of putting off their property tax or water bill payments for 90 days. Municipal and privately owned campsites have been ordered closed.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Effective March 31, PEI residents can access PEI Sourced Solutions, an online portal intended to help Island residents and businesses meet the challenges of the pandemic, including the need for medical supplies, virtual care services, or to share ideas on how the province can help businesses and industries weather the impacts of COVID-19. The program can be accessed at princeedwardisland.ca/sourcedsolutions.

 

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

Effective March 31, the territorial government has announced additional funding to help businesses and communities affected by the pandemic. The government has introduced a one-time emergency allowance for income assistance recipients that will provide $500 to single recipients and $1000 to households with two or more people to ensure that they have appropriate cleaning supplies and are prepared for a 14-day period of self-isolation. For Income Assistance clients, “gifts and unearned income” will be excluded from the calculation of earned income until June 30, 2020.

$5 million of funding will be allocated toward the development and renovation of housing units across the NWT to ensure that individuals have somewhere safe to stay right away if they need to self-isolate.

Health and Social Services is waiving professional fees for medical professionals in the territory. Fees for food establishment permits will be waived. The government will waive interest charges on all late tax returns between March 15 and June 30 including fuel tax and payroll tax.

In support of the restaurant and hospitality industry, the Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission will offer to buy back any unopened alcohol stock, ensuring that businesses have access to the cash they need now.

 

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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