The past few days have seen multiple announcements from governments across Canada. To help make things easier for employers, below are the key government announcements made on March 21 and 22, 2020 that touch on workplace issues. These changes will undoubtedly affect many of your businesses.
Our overview of previous government announcements, employment analyses and other COVID-19 information is available here.
The Federal Government
The Government of Canada has clarified a few elements of the US-Canada border travel restrictions, including:
- travel by healthy people who have to cross the border to go to work or for essential services, such as medical care, will continue; and
- exemptions to self-isolation for fourteen (14) days will be provided to healthy workers who provide essential services. This includes workers in the trade and transportation sector who are important for the movement of goods and people across the border, such as truck drivers and crew on any aircraft, train or marine vessel crossing the border. It also includes healthy people who have to cross the border to go to work, including health care providers and critical infrastructure workers.
The Government of Canada also announced new measures to help bring Canadians home from abroad. All Canadians abroad are strongly encouraged to register with Global Affairs Canada so that they can be provided with information on how to return home, as soon as it becomes available.
Finally, in his daily briefing on Sunday, March 22, 2020, the Prime Minister announced that the House of Commons will be recalled on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 12:00 pm EDT in order to pass emergency legislation to implement Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. More details on this Plan can be found in our earlier bulletin. A limited number of Members of Parliament will be recalled to ensure social distancing.
On March 20, 2020, the government announced a number of measures to provide short and long-term financial relief to the energy industry. Specifically the government committed to:
- funding the industry portion of the Alberta Energy Regulator levy for a period of six (6) months, which will provide $113 million in relief to the industry;
- extending the term of mineral agreements expiring in 2020 by one year, which will give industry additional time to raise capital and plan future activities; and
- extending a $100 million loan to the Orphan Well Association to bolster the Association's immediate reclamation efforts, well decommissioning efforts and environmental assessments, which is intended to create up to 500 direct and indirect jobs.
The government also announced a new advisory council on economic recovery to advise the Premier on issues surrounding Alberta's economic recovery from the double hit of COVID-19 and the collapse of oil prices. Members of the council will include former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, economist Jack Mintz, WestJet co-founder Clive Beddoe, ATCO CEO Nancy Southern, and ARC Financial Founder Mac Van Wielingen, among other key industry leaders in Alberta.
The government launched a COVID-19 virtual self-assessment online tool, which may be accessed here, to assist with the overflow of inquiries to Alberta Health Services.
On March 21, 2020, the provincial health officer verbally ordered that all "personal service establishments," such as hair salons, nail salons, massage, tattoo parlours and spas, close immediately.
The provincial health officer published (PDF) a written order regarding premises where food and beverage is prepared and served. Pursuant to the order, food service establishments in British Columbia may only provide take and delivery services. Customers may remain on the premises for the time it takes to purchase and collect the order. Establishments must also ensure that there is sufficient space available to maintain a distance of 2 meters from one another. No more than 50 people may be situated on the premises at one time.
Holders of "liquor primary" business licenses which do not serve meals (i.e. serve appetizers and snacks only) must close, with some exceptions such as retail licensees (see Table 1 of the written order(PDF)).
No major governmental updates as of 5:00 pm EDT on March 22, 2020.
The government launched a COVID-19 virtual self-assessment online tool, which may be accessed here, to assist with the overflow of inquiries to Public Health.
Newfoundland and Labrador
As previously reported, the Newfoundland and Labrador Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a Special Measures Order (Amending Order) on March 20, 2020, under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act. Under the Amending Order(PDF), all individuals arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador from outside the province must self-isolate for 14 days, including those individuals arriving from other provinces and territories in Canada.
On March 21, 2020, the Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a Special Measures Order (Exemption Order). The Exemption Order (PDF) exempts asymptomatic workers who are essential to the movement of goods and people from the requirement to self-isolate for fourteen (14) days when arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador from another province or territory in Canada.
The Exemption Order provides as follows:
- asymptomatic workers in the trade, transportation, mining, hydro-electric and oil and gas sectors, including truck drivers and crew on any plane, helicopter, train or marine vessel, including fish harvesting vessels, arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador from another province or territory in Canada are exempted from the requirement to self-isolate for fourteen (14) days only while these workers are travelling to and from their home and place of work in the province. When not working, these workers must otherwise self-isolate while in the province;
- asymptomatic workers essential to the critical maintenance of the province's infrastructure in the trade, transportation, fishing and aquaculture, hydro-electric, mining and oil and gas sectors are exempted from the requirement to self-isolate for fourteen (14) days only while these workers are not travelling to and from their home and place of work in the province. While not working, these workers must otherwise self-isolate while in the province.
- asymptomatic workers who reside in the province but who work in another province or territory in Canada, including Alberta, are exempted from the requirement to self-isolate for fourteen (14) days only while these workers are travelling to and from their home and place of work. When in the province, these workers must otherwise self-isolate;
- workers travelling to and from the province to oil installations off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador are not considered to have left the province by travelling offshore. As a result, these workers are not subject to the requirement to self-isolate for fourteen (14) days as long as they remain asymptomatic; and
- due to the level of social and economic integration between towns and communities on the Newfoundland and Labrador border with Quebec, including the towns of Fermont and Blanc-Sablon, asymptomatic individuals who cross the border for work or health care reasons are exempted from the requirement to self-isolate for fourteen (14) days when arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador from Quebec.
All workers and individuals subject to the Exemption Order are to practice appropriate social distancing, closely self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, and self-isolate should symptoms develop.
On March 22, 2020, the province declared(PDF) a public state of emergency pursuant to the Emergency Management Act. The state of emergency will remain in effect, if not renewed or terminated at an earlier date, until April 5, 2020 at 12:00 pm ADT.
The state of emergency allows the provincial government to control or prohibit assembly, control or prohibit travel to and from areas, and the authority to coordinate commerce activity and emergency responders. The province made (PDF) several immediate orders as a result of the state of emergency,
Effective 6:00 am ADT on Monday, March 23, 2020, all individuals travelling into Nova Scotia will be ordered to self-isolate, even if only travelling into the province from within Canada. All individuals travelling into Nova Scotia will be checked upon entry, whether they arrive by ferry, air, or via the land border with New Brunswick. At 12:00 pm ADT on March 22, 2020, all provincial and municipal parks and beaches were ordered closed.
Exceptions to this order will be made for those individuals providing essential services, including those in:
- health care;
- child protective services; and
- law enforcement.
Further, police forces in Nova Scotia now have the authority to enforce orders under the Health Protection Act, including self-isolation and social distancing orders. Police can issue summary offense tickets with fines to individuals found to be in violation of an order to self-isolate, and individuals and businesses not practicing or enforcing social distancing. The fines are as follows:
- for individuals - $1,000 per day, per fine; and
- for businesses - $7,500 for the first offence, with increased costs on a daily basis.
Fines can be issued on multiple days if there is a failure to comply.
Finally, group gatherings of more than 5 people are now prohibited.
Prince Edward Island
On March 21, 2020, the province's Chief Public Health Officer urged anyone travelling to P.E.I., even from within Canada, to self-isolate for fourteen (14) days. New screening measures are being put in place at all entry points into the province with some exceptions for essential workers (e.g. health care workers, truck drivers, airline crews, essential frontline workers in the public or private sector, workers in critical sectors).
The government released a new infectious disease emergency leave regulation identifying COVID-19, among others, as a designated infectious disease as of January 25, 2020. As a result, employees in Ontario are now retroactively entitled to a leave of absence under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 because of one or more of the following reasons related to COVID-19:
(i) the employee is under individual medical investigation, supervision or treatment related to COVID-19,
(ii) the employee is acting in accordance with an order under section 22 or 35 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act that relates to COVID-19,
(iii) the employee is in quarantine or isolation or is subject to a control measure (which may include, but is not limited to, self-isolation), and the quarantine, isolation or control measure was implemented as a result of information or directions related to COVID-19 issued to the public, in whole or in part, or to one or more individuals, by a public health official, a qualified health practitioner, Telehealth Ontario, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Canada, a municipal council or a board of health, whether through print, electronic, broadcast or other means,
(iv) the employee is under a direction given by his or her employer in response to a concern of the employer that the employee may expose other individuals in the workplace to COVID-19,
(v) the employee is providing care or support to a Specified Individual listed below because of a matter related to COVID-19 that concerns that individual, including, but not limited to, school or day care closures,
(vi) the employee is directly affected by travel restrictions related to COVID-19 and, under the circumstances, cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to Ontario,
(vii) or such other reasons as the government might later prescribe.
For the purposes of the leave entitlements, a "Specified Individual" for an employee is:
- The employee's spouse.
- A parent, step-parent or foster parent of the employee or the employee's spouse.
- A child, step-child or foster child of the employee or the employee's spouse.
- A child who is under legal guardianship of the employee or the employee's spouse.
- A brother, step-brother, sister or step-sister of the employee.
- A grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or the employee's spouse.
- A brother-in-law, step-brother-in-law, sister-in-law or step-sister-in-law of the employee.
- A son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the employee or the employee's spouse.
- An uncle or aunt of the employee or the employee's spouse.
- A nephew or niece of the employee or the employee's spouse.
- The spouse of the employee's grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece.
- A person who considers the employee to be like a family member, provided the prescribed conditions, if any, are met.
- Any individual prescribed as a family member for the purposes of this section.
On March 21, 2020, the government issued an order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that supersedes hospital collective agreements and permits hospitals to engage in redeployment, staffing, and scheduling as needed to deal with COVID-19. According to a government news release, "[under] this temporary order hospitals will be able to respond to, prevent and alleviate an outbreak of COVID-19 by carrying out measures such as:
- Redeploying staff within different locations in (or between) facilities of the hospital;
- Redeploying staff to work in COVID-19 assessment centres;
- Changing the assignment of work, including assigning non-bargaining unit employees or contractors to perform bargaining unit work;
- Changing the scheduling of work or shift assignments;
- Deferring or cancelling vacations, absences or other leaves, regardless of whether such vacations, absences or leaves are established by statute, regulation, agreement or otherwise;
- Employing extra part-time or temporary staff or contractors, including for the purpose of performing bargaining unit work;
- Using volunteers to perform work, including to perform bargaining work; and
- Providing appropriate training or education as needed to staff and volunteers to achieve the purposes of a redeployment plan."
Over the weekend, the government extended new prohibitions (PDF - only available in French) against all indoor and outdoor gatherings, with exceptions being made for workplaces where work is required, among other exceptions.
From midnight on March 22, 2020, until May 1, 2020, shopping centres must close, with the exception of drugstores, grocery stores and the SAQ. Restaurant dining rooms will be closed for the same period. Counter service (take out service) will remain open and available. Hair salons and beauty salons will be closed for the same period.
The government announced that the closure of schools and daycare centres has been extended until May 1, 2020.
On March 21, 2020, the government clarified that in the case of any discrepancy between an emergency order issued by the province and one issued by a municipal government, the provincial order prevails. This should ensure consistency of COVID-19 standards and restrictions across Saskatchewan.
Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon
As the Government of the Northwest Territories ("GNWT") reported (PDF) its first case of COVID-19 on March 21, 2020, it announced that it was preparing to order (1) strict travel restrictions with limited exceptions, and (2) mandatory self-isolation to occur only in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River and Fort Smith.
On March 22, 2020, the government confirmed that the Chief Public Health Officer had made an order effective March 21, 2020. Pursuant to the order, all travel (by air, land and port) through all points of entry into the territory is now prohibited, with the limited following exceptions:
- Northwest Territories residents;
- import/export workers — including those providing important supply chain transportation services for food, equipment, fuel, or other goods into the territory, movers and carriers, and workers that support the supply chain industry;
- flight crews;
- medical travel patients from Kitikmeot;
- persons who support essential services — including health-care professionals, law enforcement, and those who support services that if interrupted could endanger residents' life, health or safety;
- workers involved in the construction of GNWT capital infrastructure projects;
- southern resident transient workers in the mineral and petroleum resources industry; and
- persons who cross the Northwest Territories border while participating in traditional harvesting or on the land activities and who do not enter any communities as part of this.
The order also provides that all residents returning from outside the territory, whether from Canada or abroad, must self-isolate in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River or Fort Smith only. However, those who have returned to the territory within fourteen (14) days prior to the order are required to immediately self-isolate where they are and to contact the GNWT to obtain specific directions.
The order is made under the Northwest Territories Public Health Act(PDF), using the additional powers granted to the Chief Public Health Officer during a Public Health Emergency. The GNWT advises that the Chief Public Health Officer may require any Peace Officer to actively enforce the order, and that disobeying it is punishable by law and may include a fine upon summary conviction of up to $10,000 and six months' imprisonment.
Also, the GNWT announced an initial economic relief package valued at $13.2 million which is intended to work in concert with the Government of Canada COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. The economic relief package provides the following immediate measures:
- Fee Reduction: provides relief to northern supply chain businesses through a removal of fees until the end of June 2020 for Deh Cho Bridge tolls, truck permits, and airport landing fees;
- Business Development and Investment Corporation ("BDIC") – Working Capital Loans: offers low-interest loans to businesses to help offset up to one month of COVID-19 impacts. This will also be available to new BDIC clients;
- BDIC – Defer Loan Payments: allows for the deferral of any BDIC loan payments for a period of up to three cumulative months, between April 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020, with no penalty or additional interest charges;
- Advance Portion of Net Fiscal Benefit Transfer to Indigenous Governments: provides advance payments for the 2020 GNWT net fiscal benefit from resource revenues to certain indigenous governments;
- Contribution Carryovers: allows non-government organizations, indigenous governments, and community governments with unused contribution amounts in 2019-20 to use these funds in 2020-21;
- Payment Terms for Vendors: allows small businesses and individuals to access cash flow more quickly by shortening the payment terms on GNWT invoices so that they are paid out as soon as possible;
- Workers' Safety and Compensation Employer Fees: extension of the due date for Employer Assessment Payments from April 1 to May 1, 2020;
- GNWT Collections Policy: provides small businesses and individuals with access to greater cash flow during this crisis, by pausing most collections efforts, including (i) outside collection agency activity, (ii) GNWT set-offs on GNWT payments, and (iii) GNWT set-offs on Canada Revenue Agency tax refunds;
- Income Assistance: increases funding available for the territory's income assistance program;
- Student Financial Assistance: defers the payment of student loans to September 30, 2020, including not charging interest for this period; and
- NTPC Load Limiters/Collections Policy: support residents by removing load limiters, ceasing disconnections, and pausing collection efforts.
For more information with respect to the economic relief package announcement, see the Minister of Finance's speech here, and the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, and Infrastructure's speech here. For more information related to the resources for businesses under the economic relief package, see the Northwest Territories BDIC's website here.
In Yukon and Nunavut, there were no major employment-related announcements from the governments on March 21 and 22, 2020, as of March 22, 2020 at 5:00 pm EDT.