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

6 avril 2020

( Disponible en anglais seulement )

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Canadians can now apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and are asked to apply over four days depending on their birth month.  For those using direct deposit, payment can be expected within 3 to 5 business days from when they apply.  A toll-free line has been set up for those with questions or those who cannot apply online (1-833-966-2099).

The CERB is available from March 15, 2020, to October 3, 2020 and will provide $500 per week to Canadians who have stopped working because of COVID-19.

In today’s coronavirus update, Prime Minster Justin Trudeau indicated that further help is coming for those who do not qualify for CERB including those who are working reduced hours, down to 10 hours a week or less, those who are working but making less than they would with the benefit, and those university or college students who cannot find work this summer.

Homelessness and Gender-Based Violence

The Government of Canada is reconfirming its immediate investment of $207.5 million to support those experiencing homelessness and women fleeing gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • $157.5 million to address the needs of Canadians experiencing homelessness through the Reaching Home program;
  • $40 million to be given to Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE), up to $30 million of which will address immediate needs of shelters and sexual assault centres; and
  • $10 million to be provided to Indigenous Services Canada’s (ISC) existing network of 46 emergency shelters on reserve and in Yukon to support Indigenous women and children fleeing violence.

Global Efforts

$159.5 million (including the $50 million announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier in March) in funding will be allocated to support global efforts to address the COVID-19 outbreak as follows:

Ferries and Commercial Passenger Vessels

The Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau, announced the following new measures with mandatory requirements that will come into effect on April 6:

  • Until at least June 30, all commercial marine vessels with a capacity of more than 12 passengers are prohibited from engaging in non-essential activities, such as tourism or recreation.
  • Until October 31, any Canadian cruise ship is prevented from mooring, navigating, or transiting in Canadian Arctic waters (including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and the Labrador Coast).  If a foreign passenger vessel seeks to enter Arctic waters, it would need to give the Minister of Transport 60 days’ notice and be subject to any conditions the Minister determines necessary to ensure the protection of marine personnel and local communities.
  • Ferries and essential passenger vessel operators are required to:
    • Immediately reduce by 50% the maximum number of passengers that may be carried on board (conduct half-load voyages) to support the two-metre physical distancing rule; or
    • Implement alternative practices to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 (consistent with Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines) among passengers on board their vessels, such as keeping people in their vehicles, when feasible or enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures.

Transport Canada is also issuing guidelines to ferry operators respecting health and screening for all passengers before boarding to better protect their employees and passengers.

These measures apply to all of Canada’s coastal and inland waters (lakes, rivers and inlets), including the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, and Canada’s Arctic waters.

Penalties for violating these measures include administrative monetary penalties of up to $5,000 per day for an individual and $25,000 per day for a vessel or corporation, as well as criminal sanctions, which include up to $1 million in fines and/or up to 18 months’ imprisonment.

The new measures do not apply to:

  • essential passenger vessels such as ferries, water taxis, and medical-use vessels;
  • cargo vessels, barges, work boats, fishing vessels and other commercial vessels who operate to support resupply operations and the movement of goods through Canada’s supply chain;
  • Canadian commercial passenger vessels, without passengers, moving for repairs or repositioning;
  • Canadian commercial passenger vessels that are not in service; and
  • pleasure craft (e.g. non-commercial vessels).

US-Plated Vehicles

To help Canadian residents get home from the US, the government has temporarily changed the regulations for driving US-plated vehicles in Canada.  The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will facilitate entry for residents driving US-plated vehicles by permitting the temporary import of US vehicles without paying duties and taxes for up to 60 days from the date of importation in accordance with the Temporary Importation of Conveyances by Residents of Canada.

Following the mandatory 14-day isolation period, residents may use a temporarily imported US-plated vehicle in Canada for essential purposes such as obtaining groceries or medical supplies. This is only permitted if residents do not have access to a Canadian-registered vehicle.  Using the US-plated vehicle in Canada for non-essential purposes, such as touring or for other leisure activities, would result in the vehicle being subject to the payment of duties and taxes.  For more information, see CBSA’s Memorandum D2-4-1.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

Strategic Advisory Committee

To facilitate research efforts across the province, a new COVID-19 Strategic Research Advisory Committee, led by Dr. David Patrick and supported by former provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall and other notable public health experts, has been created.  Their research will focus on BC-specific epidemiology and public health countermeasures to address some of the challenges of long-term care homes, inner city populations, rural communities, Indigenous people, and healthcare workers.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Employment Standards Changes

To provide job protection for workers and flexibility for employers during the pandemic, the following changes to employment standards legislation take effect April 6 and will be in place as long as government determines it is needed and the public health emergency order remains:

  • Changes for employees – employees caring for children affected by school and daycare closures or ill or self-isolated family members due to COVID-19 will have access to unpaid job-protected leave. The 90-day employment requirement is waived and leave length is flexible and linked to guidance from the Chief Medical Officer, and a medical note is not required to take the leave. Regular personal and family responsibility leave rules continue to apply for all other circumstances.
  • Changes for employees and employers – increasing the maximum time for a temporary layoff from 60 days to 120 days to ensure temporarily laid off employees stay attached to a job longer. This change is retroactive for any temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 that occurred on or after March 17.
  • Changes for employers include:
    • Improving scheduling flexibility by removing the 24-hour written notice requirement for shift changes, and the two weeks’ notice for changes to work schedules for those under an averaging agreement.
    • Removing the requirement to provide the group termination notice to employees and unions when 50 or more employees are being terminated. Individual termination entitlements remain in effect and employers must still give group termination notice to the Minister as soon as is practical.
    • Streamlining the process for approvals related to modifying employment standards so employers and workers can respond quicker to changing conditions at the workplace due to the public health emergency.

Bits and Pieces Program

Anyone interested in supporting the COVID-19 response can contact the Bits and Pieces Program.  The program is named after the “bits and pieces program” established during the Second World War, which coordinated innovative production and procurement efforts from across the Canadian economy to support the war effort.

Supports for Shelters

To support responses to COVID-19, one-time emergency funding will be provided as follows:

  • $25 million to homeless-serving agencies;
  • $5 million to women’s emergency shelters; and
  • $30 million to charities, not-for-profits and civil society organizations.

Community and Social Services is also working on increasing public awareness about family violence during COVID-19, including preparing a list of supports.  The alberta.ca/COVID19 webpage includes information on family violence and mental health.

Standards for Healthcare Facilities

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has outlined orders on how to control suspected, probable and confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 and protect the residents and staff of healthcare facilities including licensed supportive living (including group homes and lodges), long-term care (nursing homes and auxiliary hospitals), and residential addiction treatment service providers licensed under the Mental Health Services Protection Act.

The new standards provide operators with direction, in varying levels of outbreak, on how to deploy staff and resources where most needed, implement isolation measures, and ensure staff have up-to-date training on care and personal protective equipment.

Relief for Forestry Industry

To help forest companies continue operating and to retain staff during the pandemic, the government is deferring timber dues for six months.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

The province has established isolation centres for those who may require some additional support as they self-isolate as of April 4.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

Employment

The government is launching a web portal, connecting workers with employers looking to fill positions in the agri-food sector. This tool is intended to facilitate matching people to essential jobs and training resources throughout the provincial food supply chain, including farming, food processing, transport and food retail.

Residential Services

The province is investing up to $40 million through the COVID-19 Residential Relief Fund to support organizations that provide residential services for children and youth, people with developmental disabilities and emergency shelters for women and families fleeing domestic violence.

This investment will cover costs such as additional staffing, residential respite for caregivers, personal protective equipment and supplies, and initiatives to support physical distancing and transportation to minimize client exposure.

Education

The province’s e-learning plan for Ontario students, introduced by Education Minister Stephen Lecce, was launched on April 6. The plan incorporates online learning as well as telephone calls and mail-out packages, where required. The plan requires final report cards for all students and prioritizes keeping them on track to graduate.

Family Support

On April 6, Premier Doug Ford, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, announced the Support for Families initiative, which offers a one-time payment of $200 per child 0 to 12 years of age, and $250 for those 0 to 21 years of age with special needs, to support parents while Ontario schools and child care centres remain closed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Property Tax Relief

On April 6, the government announced it is deferring $15 million in property taxes for people and businesses in parts of Northern Ontario located outside of municipal boundaries. Taxpayers in unincorporated areas in Ontario will have 90 extra days to pay each of the four 2020 Provincial Land Tax installments without incurring interest or penalties.

Frontline Worker Protection

On April 6, Ontario issued an emergency order that will allow police, firefighters and paramedics to obtain COVID-19 positive status information about individuals with whom they are coming into contact, limited to an individual’s name, address, date of birth, and whether the individual has had a positive COVID-19 test result. Once the declaration of emergency is lifted, this data will be made inaccessible to first responders.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

On April 6, Jean Boulet, the Minister of Labor, Employment and Social Solidarity, announced the allocation of a budget of $100 million for the new Programme actions concertées pour le maintien en emploi (PACME). This program is effective immediately and will end on September 30, 2020.

Through this program, companies will be able to receive subsidies to cover the costs of training activities and work organization. Eligible training includes digital skills relating to teleworking, organizational communication, etc. 100% of eligible expenses incurred will be reimbursed. The wages of workers in training will also be reimbursed under certain conditions.

On April 6, the City of Montreal, in collaboration with certain partners, set up a local delivery system to support Montreal merchants and help them meet customer demand. For more information, please visit their website.

In addition, the City of Montreal has started to offer free guidance to Montreal businesses who wish to integrate or improve their digital practices. Interested businesses must complete a form available on their website by April 17 at the latest.

On April 5, the Quebec government presented its new initiative to stimulate the local economy: Le Panier Bleu. It is a non-transactional digital platform that lists under the same banner all Quebec retailers and their products.

On April 5, the government announced the extension of the closure of non-essential businesses until May 4.

On April 4, the government amended, by ministerial order, certain working conditions applicable to workers of the health and social services network.

On April 4, by ministerial decree, the government authorized the national director of public health and any director of public health to issue isolation orders, without a court order, to persons who do not consent to voluntary isolation in specific circumstances.

Beginning April 4, the government restricted travel and non-essential access to two new territories: Charlevoix and Rouyn-Noranda. Specific indications for the city of Gatineau and the regional county municipality of Les Collines-de-l’Outaouais are also added.

On April 3, the Agglomeration of Montreal extended the state of emergency on the island for a period of 5 days.

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Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes:

Le 6 avril, le ministre du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale, M. Jean Boulet, a annoncé l’octroi d’un budget de 100M$ pour le nouveau Programme actions concertées pour le maintien en emploi (PACME). Ce programme entre en vigueur dès maintenant et prendra fin le 30 septembre 2020.

Grâce à ce programme, les entreprises pourront recevoir des subventions pour couvrir les coûts engendrés par des activités de formation et l’organisation du travail. Les formations admissibles peuvent notamment porter sur les compétences numériques relatives au télétravail, la communication organisationnelle, etc. 100% des dépenses admissibles engagées seront remboursées. Le salaire des travailleurs en formation sera également remboursé selon certaines modalités.

Le 6 avril, la Ville de Montréal en collaboration avec certains partenaires a mis en place un système de livraison locale pour soutenir les commerçants montréalais et les aider à répondre à la demande de leur clientèle. Pour plus d’informations, veuillez consulter leur site internet.

Par ailleurs, la Ville de Montréal a commencé à offrir un accompagnement gratuit aux commerçants montréalais qui souhaitent intégrer ou améliorer leurs pratiques de commerce en ligne. Les entreprises intéressées doivent remplir un formulaire disponible sur leur site internet au plus tard le 17 avril.

Le 5 avril, le gouvernement du Québec a présenté sa nouvelle initiative pour stimuler l’économie locale : Le Panier Bleu. Il s’agit d’une plateforme numérique non transactionnelle visant à répertorier sous la même bannière tous les détaillants québécois et leurs produits.

Le 5 avril, le gouvernement a annoncé la prolongation de la fermeture des entreprises et commerces non essentiels jusqu’au 4 mai prochain.

Le 4 avril, le gouvernement a modifié, par arrêté ministériel, certaines conditions de travail applicables aux employés dans le réseau de la santé et des services sociaux.

Le 4 avril, par arrêté ministériel, le gouvernement a autorisé le directeur national de santé publique et tout directeur de santé publique à donner des ordres d’isolement aux personnes qui ne consentent pas à s’isoler volontairement dans des circonstances précises, et ce, sans une ordonnance de la cour.

À compter du 4 avril, le gouvernement a restreint les déplacements et l’accès jugés non essentiels à deux nouveaux territoires : Charlevoix et Rouyn-Noranda. Des indications spécifiques à la ville de Gatineau et de la municipalité régionale de comté de Les Collines-de-l’Outaouais sont également ajoutées.

Le 3 avril, l’Agglomération de Montréal a prolongé l’état d’urgence sur l’île pour une durée de 5 jours.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Good Friday Openings

Effective April 6, an amendment has been made to the Shops’ Closing Regulations to allow select stores to open for business on Good Friday (April 10), providing customers more time to shop in advance of the holiday weekend. As a result of the amendment, stores that are not already exempt from closure under the Regulations, and which are deemed by order of the Chief Medical Officer of Health as services essential to the life, health or personal safety of individuals and animals, will be provided the option to open for business on Good Friday. These include retail shops that provide the following services:

  • food,
  • pharmaceutical products, medicine and medical devices,
  • personal hygiene products,
  • cleaning products,
  • baby and child products,
  • gas stations,
  • computer and cellphone service and repair,
  • electronic and office supplies,
  • hardware supplies, and
  • pet and animal supplies.

These stores are not required to open on Good Friday, but will have the option to do so if they wish.  This is intended to ease high customer volumes.  Employers cannot require employees to work on the holiday, but an employer and employee may agree that a public holiday will be a working day for the employee.  The government has indicated that if an employee does work, they are entitled to double pay pursuant to s. 17 of the Labour Standards Act.

Respiratory Therapists

Effective April 3, the government established a mechanism for the emergency registration of respiratory therapists if the individual provides proof that he or she is licensed or registered to practice respiratory therapy elsewhere in Canada or was previously licensed to practice respiratory therapy in Newfoundland and Labrador; that individual must also provide proof that his or her licence has not been revoked for disciplinary or other measures.

 

New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

Effective April 6, the government has created a pandemic task force to help combat COVID-19, which will be vested with decision-making authority about the pandemic response for all aspects of the healthcare system.

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

Effective April 6, travel has been removed as a requirement to be tested for COVID-19 now that community spread is present in the province.  The government has directed long-term care homes to follow measures to further prevent the introduction of the virus into these homes and to reduce its spread if introduced to the facility.  The directive includes a number of provisions, including cleaning, monitoring of residents and staff, testing, and reporting. The directive and the measures were provided to the sector today and are effective immediately.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Effective April 4, during a public health emergency, a pharmacist may give a continued care prescription for a monitored drug (other than methadone or suboxone, unless the pharmacist has a special authorization for same).

Effective April 3, gatherings of more than five people are prohibited. This prohibition does not apply to healthcare/social services facilities, essential businesses, or individuals who live in the same household.

Effective March 31, the government provided more detailed guidance on who must self-isolate:

  • close contacts of confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19;
  • persons diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • persons who are symptomatic and awaiting test results; and
  • persons who have travelled outside of Canada on or after March 8.

The above restrictions apply even if a negative test result is received.

Health care workers diagnosed with COVID-19 must self-isolate until they receive two negative test results and are cleared by a public health official.  If symptomatic but not diagnosed, they must self-isolate until a negative test result is received.

“Self-isolate” is specifically defined and requires individuals to remain in their residence or on the grounds of their residence except to seek medical care or in extraordinary circumstances. If leaving for such a reason, individuals must keep a two-metre distance from others at all times, other than during health care treatment.

As previously announced, non-essential services must not provide services to the public at a location that is accessible to the public. The government has provided a definition of “non-essential services” and it includes the following categories of businesses:

  • Organized outdoor and indoor events (festivals, sporting, concerts, etc.);
  • Recreational facilities/indoors (arenas, pools/wellness recreational centres, youth centres, gyms and fitness facilities, yoga and pilates studios, bowling alleys, etc.);
  • Casinos, horse-racing, Bingos, Chase the Ace and other community fundraising activities;
  • Malls and retail stores (with the exception of those businesses identified as Essential Services);
  • Community centres;
  • Libraries;
  • Tour operators;
  • Bottle depots;
  • Museums and art galleries;
  • Bars and clubs;
  • Theatres and movie theatres;
  • Restaurant dining rooms and buffet style service;
  • Personal service establishments (barber, hair salons, massage, nail and other salons, spas, tattoo and piercing studios);
  • Regulated health professionals, unless the services to be provided are to address essential health care or an emergency health care situation.  Virtual care for non-emergency/elective care services is permitted, if professionals are authorized to provide this care within their scope of practice and as established by their governing college; and
  • Unregulated health services providers, with the exception of those that are providing direct support to regulated health services providers in essential health care or an emergency health care situation.

Delivery, pickup, virtual or phone services are permitted.  Businesses that are permitted to operate must take every reasonable step to ensure minimal interaction of people within two metres of each other, and take every reasonable step to prevent employees who are required to self-isolate from entering workplaces.

 

Yukon

The Government of the Yukon announced the following measures:

Effective April 6, the Yukon government will provide free cell phones with four months of voice and internet access to women who are experiencing violence or are at risk of violence.

 

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

Effective April 6, the Corporate Registries office will be open for limited services excluding in-person service.

 

Miller Thomson is closely monitoring the situation around the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that we provide our clients with the appropriate support in this rapidly changing environment. For additional information, please see our COVID-19 resources page.

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