During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is closely monitoring updates and recommendations from government and public health officials. We understand that these are uncertain and challenging times for everyone. Closures and emergency measures are impacting all of our day-to-day activities and no community or sector is immune.
We are listening and seeking input from our members. We are in regular contact with our national, provincial and commodity partners in the agriculture and food sector, monitoring impact and communicating with provincial and federal governments on priority issues.
All OFA staff are now working from home offices following the implementation of a mandatory work from home strategy, and employees will be available during regular business hours (Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) to serve members at 1-800-668-3276. If you’re looking to contact your local Member Service Representative or another OFA staff member, visit ofa.on.ca/about-ofa.
To help our OFA members and community stay connected with up-to-date information related to the agri-food sector and COVID-19, we have compiled key information and resources on government announcements, industry updates, financial services, support programs, mental health etc.
Where can I find up-to-date, local information on COVID-19?
How will the ongoing COVID-19 situation impact my farm business?
This is a rapidly evolving situation and a new one for all of us. Disruptions in the supply chain could occur. We encourage you to call ahead to your regular input suppliers to be sure that they have the products and services you need. Confirm the current situation and expectations with both ends of your supply chain, including transportation, crop inputs, feed supply, equipment parts, and markets.
Farm and HR Management Resources – Farmers, Employers, Producers, Processors, Product Marketing etc.
Where can I find specific resources for my farm business?
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19 and its impacts on the Canadian agricultural industry. The webpage contains an informative Q and A section that will help to ensure producers and processors can continue to operate effectively and keep supply lines open. Click here for more information.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) has assembled an extensive list of resources that you can find here.
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council (CAHRC) has excellent resources for how to manage the risks of COVID-19 on the farm and farms with employees. The webpage has the latest recommendations, employee management tips, tools, posters, policies, and links to authorities. These resources will help you respond to the pandemic and limit the impact and spread of COVID-19 within your business. Click here for more information.
OFA-CAHRC Webinar: Managing Farm Employees in a Pandemic
On March 30, OFA partnered with the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) to host a webinar focused on human resource (HR) management during this pandemic. The webinar included information about HR management requirements, as well as tools and templates that are available in the AgriHR Toolkit that can support managing employees during this time and into the future.
Click here to watch a recorded version of the webinar and access resources shared during the webinar.
AgriHR Toolkit, developed by CAHRC
The AgriHR Toolkit, developed by CAHRC, offers employer assistance every step of the way with guides, templates, resources, and the critical questions that you need to ask and answer about your business.
OFA members receive a free annual membership to the AgriHR Toolkit ($99 value).
Log-in to the website below and use the following discount code during checkout.
Website for toolkit: https://hrtoolkit.cahrc-ccrha.ca/
Guide for Direct Sales to Consumers During COVID-19 and Beyond
During these unprecedented times, OFA recognizes that it is not ‘business as usual’. OFA has developed a Guide for Direct Sales to Consumers during COVID-19 and Beyond to provide some support and guidance to help you continue to sell and market your agricultural products. The Guide provides ideas for alternative market channels available to you, general health and safety protocols when selling direct, how to set up your operation, keep your workforce safe, and market your operation using social media and other online tools.
Click here to access the Guide.
Guide to Operating your Essential Farm Business during COVID-19
There are many ways to manage risk and improve the safety and well-being of your farm business workplace, while doing your part to reduce the risk to public health and supply chain disruptions.
This Guide for farms and farm businesses is split into three parts: Facilitating Business Interactions on the Farm, Responding to Exposure to COVID-19, and Managing Risk during Business Operations. OFA recognizes that these new protocols and procedures can be overwhelming. Please review the document as needed and implement these procedures based on your farm and your situation.
Click here to access the Guide.
Where can I find more information on seasonal agricultural workers?
Update on Essential Seasonal Agricultural Workers – Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA)
April 2, 2020
The following updates from OFVGA and FARMS provide clarity around worker isolation, pay, and an update on arrivals.
Please be aware that Ontario’s Ministry of Health released its own guidance regarding temporary foreign workers, which can be found here. The guidance follows the federal guidance, and has been sent by the Ministry of Health to all local health units. Employers should make themselves familiar with the document, and any other requirements placed by their local health units.
1. Worker Isolation Obligations for Employers:
It is important that all growers are aware of their obligations as employers during the 14-day self-isolation period under the COVID-19 circumstances.
To clarify your obligations please carefully read the following:
The 14-day isolation period for workers upon arrival is absolutely essential. At the time of this update, we have been advised by the federal government that workers shall not work during this isolation period. We don’t expect this to change, but if it does, we will advise employers of any changes.
- The SAWP Employment Contract stipulates that the worker is to receive payment for a minimum AVERAGE of 40 hours per week OVER THE TERM OF EMPLOYMENT. This means that when the worker’s term of employment is complete, the employer must make sure they have been paid an average of 40 hours per week from the start date of employment to the end date. This calculation needs to include the 14 day isolation period.
- This is what is meant by “going by the SAWP contract”.
- Other TFW Program obligations: Workers employed under the Ag Stream Low Skill and Low Wage programs must be paid a minimum of 30 hours per week during the 14 day self-isolation period.
2. FARMS Flight Arrival Information:
MEXICO – Approval was received early yesterday from the Mexican Government officials that farm workers will be travelling, as soon as measures are in place to complete the process of contacting workers. CanAg Travel will be advising employers directly as flights are finalized.
JAMAICA – The first flight arrived yesterday with subsequent flights scheduled for Friday and Sunday of this week. FARMS apologizes for short notices about flight arrivals given to employers.
Issues backgrounder on Essential Seasonal Agricultural Workers – OFVGA
Ontario farmers are struggling to get skilled international essential labour to help plant, grow and harvest crops for the 2020 season. This is an issue affecting Ontario’s food security.
About 8,000 seasonal and other temporary workers are working in Ontario right now, primarily in greenhouses. Approximately 4,600 more workers were scheduled to arrive by mid-April until travel restrictions were put in place on March 18, 2020. An additional 8,800 workers are expected by mid-June. Spring work includes pruning fruit trees and planting crops. If these skilled essential workers are not in Ontario at the beginning of the season to help with spring work, there will not be a crop to harvest later in the season.
Click here to read the full OFVGA document on the importance of Seasonal Agricultural Workers to Ontario.
For more information, visit www.ofvga.org/covid-19.
Guidance for Employers of Temporary Foreign and Seasonal Agricultural Workers regarding COVID-19
Federal requirements for employers of temporary foreign workers, including seasonal agricultural workers, during the current COVID-19 pandemic have been released. The document was circulated by the Western Agricultural Labour Initiative (WALI) on March 28, 2020.
As the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau noted in a recent press conference, employers who do not follow these requirements could lose their rights to apply for Temporary Foreign Workers or Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program workers in the coming years.
In addition to federal requirements, employers must also follow provincial/territorial public health requirements.
Click here to view the document outlining Guidance for Employers of Temporary Foreign Workers.
Essential Worker (seasonal and domestic) – Template Letter
OFA understands that farms and agri-businesses have many questions and concerns about being considered ‘Essential Workplaces’ as per the guidelines released by the Government of Ontario. To prove your status as a farm business owner, your first option can be the OFA member card. If you have any concerns about other workers on the farm being asked to prove their involvement in the operation at this time, OFA has developed a template letter that can be modified to suit your business and printed for others to use when travelling off the farm for work-related reasons or for travelling from field to field. The letter incorporates language related to the seasonal worker’s completion of the required 14-day self-isolation protocol upon arrival to Canada.
The template letter is available in English and French for both essential seasonal workers and essential domestic workers.
For a complete list of all essential work categories, visit www.ontario.ca/page/list-essential-workplaces#section-3.
Where can I find more information about government financial assistance and support?
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, both the Canadian government and the Ontario government have announced financial assistance measures for individuals and businesses, including farm businesses. Below is a summary of existing programs and new financial assistance measures that may be relevant to Ontario farm businesses.
Please note this summary is provided for information purposes only and program details may have been amended since this summary was drafted. Therefore, we recommend you rely on official program guidelines instead of this summary when applying.
Canada’s $5 billion increase to Farm Credit Canada’s lending capacity
Overview: Farm Credit Canada (FCC) received an enhancement to its capital base that will allow for an additional $5 billion in lending capacity. Focus will be on assisting the industry in addressing cash flow challenges so that businesses can remain focused on business-critical functions.
Who is eligible: Farmers, agri-businesses, and food processors.
Website for more details: https://www.fcc-fac.ca/en/covid-19.html
How to apply: Customers facing financial pressure are encouraged to contact their FCC relationship manager or the FCC Customer Service Centre at 1-888-332-3301 to discuss their individual situation and options.
Canada’s Advance Payment Program
Overview: The federal government announced up to $173 million in loan repayment deferrals under the Advance Payments Program (APP) to help farmers with an APP loan due by April 30.
Who is eligible: Farmers with APP loans.
Website for more details: https://www.agcreditcorp.ca/what_advance_payments_program_app
How to apply: APP borrowers in Ontario should contact the Agricultural Credit Corporation
Canada’s Income Tax Payment Deferral
Overview: All businesses can defer, until August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after March 18 and before September 2020. This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.
Who is eligible: All businesses owing income taxes.
Website for more details: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/campaigns/covid-19-update/covid-19-filing-payment-dates.html
How to apply: Check the above website for extended filing dates.
Canada’s Work-Sharing program
Overview: Work-Sharing is an adjustment program designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business activity that is beyond the control of the employer. The measure provides income support to employees eligible for Employment Insurance benefits who work a temporarily reduced work week while their employer recovers. Effective March 15, 2020 to March 14, 2021, and not limited to one specific sector or industry, the Canadian government is introducing temporary special measures, including the extension of the maximum possible duration of an agreement from 38 weeks to 76 weeks.
Who is eligible: The measure provides income support to employees eligible for Employment Insurance benefits who work a temporarily reduced work week.
Website for more details: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/work-sharing.html
How to apply: Ontario employers should email their completed applications (available on the website noted above) to ESDC.ON.WS-TP.ON.EDSC@servicecanada.gc.ca
Canada’s Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)
Overview: The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) is a temporary wage subsidy for employers. It will cover up to 75% of an employee’s salary on the first $58,700 earned – amounting to up to $847 a week. Funds will be retroactive to March 15. If able, employers can pay employees the remaining 25% of salaries. For employers that are eligible for both the CEWS and the 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy (noted below) for a period, any benefit from the 10 per cent wage subsidy for remuneration paid in a specific period would generally reduce the amount available to be claimed under the CEWS in that same period.
Who is eligible: All employers whose revenues decrease by at least 30% due to the impact from COVID-19 control measures.
Website for more details: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/04/the-canada-emergency-wage-subsidy.html
How to apply: Eligible employers may soon be able to apply for the CEWS through the CRA’s My Business Account portal as well as a web-based application. Employers must keep records demonstrating their reduction in arm’s-length revenues and remuneration paid to employees.
Canada’s 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers
Overview: Organizations that do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (noted above) may qualify for the previously announced wage subsidy of 10 per cent of remuneration paid from March 18 to before June 20, 2020. The Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers is a three-month measure that will allow eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deductions required to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The subsidy is equal to 10% of the remuneration you pay from March 18, 2020 to June 19, 2020, up to $1,375 for each eligible employee and to a maximum of $25,000 total per employer.
Who is eligible: Eligible employers are individuals, partnerships, non-profit organizations, charities, or Canadian-controlled private corporation (including a cooperative corporation), who are eligible for the small business deduction: and have an existing business number and payroll program account with the CRA on March 18, 2020; and pay salary, wages, bonuses, or other remuneration to an eligible employee.
How to apply: You do not need to apply for the subsidy. However, the subsidy must be calculated manually, either by you or whoever is responsible for making your payroll remittances. The CRA will not automatically calculate the allowable subsidy. Once you have calculated your subsidy, you can reduce your current payroll remittance of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax that you send to the CRA by the amount of the subsidy.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
Overview: To support workers and help businesses keep their employees, the government has proposed legislation to establish the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This benefit would provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB would replace the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit. The CRA will be administering the program along with Service Canada, which handles Employment Insurance (EI).
Who is eligible: The CERB would cover Canadians who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or at home because of school and daycare closures. The CERB would apply to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self-employed individuals who cease working for reasons related to COVID-19 for at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week period in which they apply for the payment, and for those who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). Only Canadians who have seen their income reduced to zero qualify for CERB. Workers who have seen a significant reduction in income but are still bringing in some money do not qualify. There will be no need to submit a medical certificate to receive CERB.
How to apply: Online access will start accepting applications on April 6. Application website and FAQ: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html
Canada’s Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP)
Overview: The BCAP will support access to financing for Canadian businesses in all sectors and regions. Although no limit exists for a single business, the BDC, EDC and participating financial institutions will continue to employ internal risk management practices for granting credit. Through BCAP, Business Development Canada and Export Development Canada will provide more than $65 billion in loans and other forms of credit support and enhancement at market rates to businesses with viable business models.
Who is eligible: All credit-worthy businesses with viable business models whose activities fall within the mandate of either BDC and/or EDC are eligible to benefit from BCAP.
How to apply: Contact your financial institution.
Canada Emergency Business Account
Overview: As part of the BCAP (noted above), Canada has announced the Canada Emergency Business Account. It is an interest-free loan of $40,000 for qualifying businesses. Up to $10,000 of that amount will be eligible for complete forgiveness if $30,000 is fully repaid on or before December 31, 2022.
Who is eligible: Businesses and not-for-profits are eligible to apply for this loan if they have an annual payroll of between $50,000 and $1 million.
Website for more details: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan/covid19-businesses.html
How to apply: Contact your financial institution.
Canada’s Deferral of HST Remittance and Customs Duty Payments
Overview: Businesses, including self-employed individuals, can defer until June 30, 2020 their remittances of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), as well as customs duties owing on their imports. The deferral will apply to GST/HST remittances for the February, March and April 2020 reporting periods for monthly filers; the January 1, 2020 through March 31, 2020 reporting period for quarterly filers; and for annual filers, the amounts collected and owing for their previous fiscal year and instalments of GST/HST in respect of the filer’s current fiscal year. For GST and customs duty payments for imported goods, deferral will include amounts owing for March, April and May.
Who is eligible: Business who must remit HST and Customs Duties. Note that GST/HST rebates that are late filed may be considered for processing. They will be reviewed on a case by case basis when operations resume.
How to apply: New deadlines apply automatically.
Ontario’s suspension of electricity time-of-use rates for 45 days
Overview: Starting on March 24, 2020, residential and small business customers on time-of-use (TOU) pricing will pay 10.1 ¢/kWh no matter what time of day the electricity is consumed.
Who is eligible: Residential, farm and small business customers on time-of-use pricing.
Website for more details: https://ofa.on.ca/resources/ontario-energy-board-covid-19-update-regarding-time-of-use-pricing/
How to apply: Pricing applies automatically – no customer action is required.
Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Ins. Board’s Financial Relief Package
Overview: As part of the Ontario government’s $1.9 billion in relief for employers, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will defer premium payments for six months for all businesses in the province. Additionally, the WSIB will cease interest accrual on all outstanding premium payments. They will not charge penalties during this six-month deferral period. There will be no negative consequences for businesses who defer premium reporting and payments. The WSIB will continue to fully cover workers at eligible workplaces.
Who is eligible: All employers covered by the WSIB’s workplace insurance are automatically eligible for the provisions of the relief package and can defer premium reporting and payments until August 31, 2020. They will not be required to opt in to receive this benefit.
Website for more details: https://www.wsib.ca/en/financialrelief
How to apply: WSIB will automatically enroll all WSIB’s insured workplaces. Employers are not required to apply.
Ontario’s Risk Management Program (RMP) (including SDRM)
Overview: Ontario’s Risk Management Program (RMP) provides financial assistance when market commodity prices fall below established support levels for eligible livestock and grains and oilseeds commodities. As part of the RMP program, Self-Directed Risk Management (SDRM) accounts enable eligible horticultural producers to receive Ontario government contributions when producer deposits are made, up to the maximum indicated on the deposit notice. The SDRM deposit maximum is based on eligible Allowable Net Sales.
Who is eligible: Livestock, grains & oilseed, edible horticulture producers of eligible commodities can participate in the RMP program. Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria outlined in the program guidelines. The program guidelines are available from Agricorp.
Website for more details: https://www.agricorp.com/en-ca/Programs/RMP/Pages/Overview.aspx
How to apply: Contact Agricorp at 1-888-247-4999
Canada/Ontario’s Agri-Invest Program
Overview: The Agri-Invest program allows farmers to make an annual deposit into an account based on their Allowable Net Sales (ANS) and then receive matching government contributions up to a maximum government contribution of $10,000 per year. Participants can withdrawal funds from their account at any time after the matching funds have been received.
Who is eligible: Farmers reporting farming income for tax purposes are eligible. However, a yearly minimum ANS of $25,000 is required to trigger the minimum matchable deposit of $250. Also, sales of supply-managed commodities are excluded from the Allowable Net Sales calculation.
Website for more details: https://www.agricorp.com/en-ca/Programs/AgriInvest/Pages/Overview.aspx
How to apply: To participate, farming individuals must submit a T1163 income tax form to Canada Revenue Agency. Corporations must submit a Statement A to Agricorp.
Canada/Ontario’s Agri-Stability Program
Overview: The Agri-Stability Program is a whole-farm, margin-based program available to eligible farmers regardless of the commodities they produce. Under the Agri-Stability Program, a farm operation’s current year margin (eligible income minus eligible expenses) is compared to the farm operation’s reference margin. A government payment is made to the farmer when the farm’s margin in the current year (program year margin) is lower by an amount that exceeds 30% of the farm’s reference margin.
Who is eligible: Farmers reporting farming income for tax purposes are eligible as long as they have completed a production cycle and have completed at least six consecutive months of farming activity in the program year.
Website for more details: https://www.agricorp.com/en-ca/Programs/AgriStability/Pages/Overview.aspx
How to apply: Contact Agricorp at 1-888-247-4999. Participants can apply for an Interim payment.
Canada/Ontario’s Production Insurance Program
Overview: Production Insurance coverage provides financial compensation for production losses caused by eligible perils. Some of these eligible perils include drought, flood, wind, frost, excessive rain, heat, snow, uncontrolled disease, insect infestations and wildlife.
Who is eligible: Farmers producing an insurable agricultural commodity.
Website for more details: https://www.agricorp.com/en-ca/Programs/ProductionInsurance/Pages/Default.aspx
How to apply: Contact Agricorp at 1-888-247-4999 to apply.
Ontario’s Food Donation Tax Credit for Farmers
Overview: Provides farmers with a tax credit worth 25% of the fair market value of the agricultural products donated to eligible community food programs
Who is eligible: In order to get the credit:
- You are an Ontario resident at the end of the year
- You (or your spouse or common-law partner) carry on the business of farming in Ontario
- You have donated agricultural products to an eligible community food program in Ontario on or after January 1, 2014
- Corporations that carry on the business of farming in Ontario may also claim the credit on their 2014 corporation income tax return
Website for more details: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/info-taxcredit.htm
How to apply: Claim this credit on your personal income tax and benefit return or on your corporation income tax return.
Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement and is available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine, to allow them time to restore their health and return to work. Canadians quarantined can apply for EI sickness benefits.
The one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits will be waived for new claimants who are quarantined so they can be paid for the first week of their claim
For more information, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness.html.
Canadian Chartered Banks
Canada’s six largest banks announced plans to provide financial relief to Canadians impacted by the economic consequences of COVID-19. Effective immediately, Bank of Montreal, CIBC, National Bank of Canada, RBC Royal Bank, Scotiabank and TD Bank made a commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case‑by‑case basis to provide flexible solutions to help manage financial challenges due to COVID-19.
Click here for more information.
Mental Health Resources
Where can I find mental health resources?
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.
If you or anyone close to you requires support at this time, please check the resources available on the OFA website at: ofa.on.ca/issues/mental-health. OFA has also developed a list of resources to help farmers with managing stress during the COVID-19 pandemic: ofa.on.ca/resources/managing-farm-stress-during-covid-19.
This is a challenging time for everyone, including Ontario’s hardworking farmers. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has a Mental Health Kit for Farmers that is available at: . omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/
Ontario’s current health environment is changing rapidly and has forced our industry to be fluid and flexible. As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we will monitor its progress closely and provide updates when necessary. These are unprecedented times around the world. We recognize that the uncertainty can be unsettling. We encourage people to be respectful of social distancing, and thankfully we have technology to help us stay connected. Please take the time to reach out to your friends, family and neighbours, especially those who may be particularly isolated or vulnerable.
Government Relations Updates – provided by Enterprise Canada
Provincial Update: April 2
Increased Mental Health Support
Premier Doug Ford announced that Ontario is providing emergency funding of up to $12 million to immediately expand online and virtual mental health support for Ontarians. This extends to front line workers as well.
- Bounce back: A guided self-help program using workbooks with phone coaching support.
- Help Phone: 24/7 virtual support service offering professional counselling as well as information and referrals in both official languages.
- Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): Online CBT courses, support by therapists, in French and English
- CBT for frontline health care workers: Online CBT for frontline health care workers experiencing burnout, anxiety or PTSD.
Additionally, Premier Ford announced that the government is launching the Mental Health Wellness Program by investing $2.6 million to hire new psychologists and mental health workers to provide OPP personnel with support. To read the entire announcement, please click here.
Premier Ford has asked that medical experts provide a full briefing to the public tomorrow, warning that the figures will provide a stark assessment of where the province has been, where we are now, and where we might be going.
The Premier stated that the release will be “a real wake up call… a real sobering discussion” and will provide Ontarians with the same information that he has and is using to make decisions.
He said figures could not be released until now as people were still returning to Ontario from other countries and the Chief Medical Officer needed to have them here to provide an accurate assessment.
This update will walk the public through various scenarios on how COVID-19 can spread and its potential impact on the province.
When asked about limited access to protective equipment for healthcare workers and the need to build a stronger supply chain of medical products in Ontario, Premier Ford commented that “We won’t rely on the rest of the world to provide PPE (personal protective equipment). We can never be put in this position again where we rely on the rest of the world.”
Across the provinces
With nearly 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases across Canada, provinces and territories are continuing to roll out new measures for economic assistance while trying to limit the spread of the disease. Here are the latest updates of how each jurisdiction is dealing with the crisis.
British Columbia – BC has announced new relief measures for electricity bills. Residential customers who can’t work because of the pandemic are receiving a credit for their bills valued at 3 times their average monthly bill. Small businesses forced to shut down are having their power bills waived by BC Hydro from April through June. Major industries can defer their bills for three months.
Alberta – Alberta released a comprehensive list of essential services. With that list in place, the province is expanding child care services for anyone who works in an essential service. (Until now, childcare spaces were limited to frontline health care and critical infrastructure workers).
Saskatchewan – To address extra cost pressure emergency shelters are experiencing, Saskatchewan unveiled a one-time additional funding of $171,000
Manitoba – Manitoba is boosting its frontline health care by allowing former nurses to practice again, through changes allowing the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba to waive or modify registration requirements. Meanwhile, all non-critical businesses have been ordered to close between April 1 and April 14, save for critical exemptions detailed in the new public health order.
Ontario – Ontario has launched its new one-time $50 million Ontario Together Fund, to support businesses in retooling existing machinery to make essential medical supplies such as masks, swabs and testing equipment.
Québec – Almost all Québec businesses will be closed this coming Sunday, including grocery stores. The only exemptions will be gas stations, pharmacies, convenience stores and takeout restaurants. Premier François Legault stated earlier this week that Sunday closures will allow employees (particularly grocery workers) a day of rest.
New Brunswick – Relatively good news came out of New Brunswick, including confirmation that their personal protective equipment supply is meeting demand. After being temporarily closed, select Service New Brunswick locations reopened yesterday to handle essential requests, albeit with precautions in place including limiting how many people can be inside at a time.
Nova Scotia – Nova Scotia unveiled a new COVID-19 Employer Assessment online tool to clarify for businesses and non-profits if they can stay open, and how to best comply with public health orders.
Prince Edward Island – PEI today announced that eviction orders will not be enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Newfoundland and Labrador – The province is facing steep fiscal troubles with the COVID-19 pandemic compounding other escalating economic troubles. Premier Dwight Ball released a letter he’d recently sent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for help, as the province would have been unable to borrow.
Yukon – The Government of Yukon announced a new Temporary Support for Events Funding Program to help businesses recover costs from major events cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Northwest Territories – The NWT government this week announced a series of measures to support businesses and individuals, including waiving professional fees for medical professionals, waiving interest charges on all late tax returns between March 15 and June 30 (including payroll tax), and support for the hospitality and restaurant industries by offering to buy back any unopened alcohol stock.
Nunavut – Nunavut remains without any confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 cases and intends to keep it that way. The latest measure includes barring all visitors from long-term care facilities and Elders’ Homes.
Federal Update: April 2
Today, the Prime Minister’s briefing was dominated with questions regarding the government’s release of its modelling and predictions of the impact COVID-19 will have on Canada.
Prime Minister Trudeau acknowledged the anxiety Canadians are feeling about the lack of analysis being released by the government and promised that he will release scenarios on how COVID-19 can impact Canada in the coming days.
When asked why the projections have not been released yet, he said that the government continues to “crunch the numbers” and will be able to provide realistic models soon.
The Prime Minister pleaded with Canadians to follow public health guidelines, saying that these models will be heavily influenced by the behaviour of each and every Canadian.
First Ministers Meeting
Trudeau announced that he will be chairing a First Ministers meeting with the Premiers tonight to discuss the continued shipments of much-needed supplies and ensure that there is alignment in the data being used for models and predictions.
Update on Personal Protective Equipment
Wednesday night, the government received a shipment of one million masks, which are currently being inspected in a Hamilton warehouse. This shipment is in addition to the 10 million masks already received that are currently being distributed to the provinces and territories. The Prime Minister thanked Bauer Hockey, which has retooled production to create hundreds of thousands of face masks.
Trudeau was asked about the rumours of Personal Protective Equipment being diverted to the United States. He has asked his Ministers to follow up on this issue.
Additional Lockdown Measures
When asked if he would implement a mandatory stay at home policy under the Federal Emergencies Act, he said it would only be done if and when the provinces have exhausted all of their options. Trudeau added that “We are not quite there yet”.
Health Canada Launches New COVID-19 App
Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced today on social media that Health Canada has released a new app to provide up-to-date news on COVID-19. This app includes a self-assessment tool and information on financial supports that are available.
The app can be downloaded here: https://ca.thrive.health/.
Provincial Update: April 1
Premier Doug Ford was joined by Vic Fedeli (Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade) and Christine Elliott (Deputy Premier and Minister of Health) to provide provincial updates on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Ford announced that the Ontario government will invest $50 million in the Ontario Together Fund to assist factories in retooling their production lines to make the supplies needed. Additionally, Ford announced that the government has placed an order with O2 Technologies for 10,000 Ontario made ventilators.
The Surge is Coming
Premier Ford reinforced how important our actions over the next few weeks will be in pushing back the oncoming surge of COVID-19 patients. Ford noted that “Thousands of lives are at stake,” and the further we can push back the surge, the more prepared our health-care system will be.
A number of reporters asked why the government hasn’t released best- and worst-case scenarios on the potential deaths associated with COVID-19. Premier Ford answered that the government does not have the data yet to make accurate predictions. He added that for the time being we must prepare for anything. Minister Elliott stated that in the next day or so, the testing backlog will be cleared, and the government will have a better idea of when the province’s health-care system can expect the surge.
Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act
Last night, the Solicitor General advised the public that under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the public will now be required to identify themselves to law enforcement when asked, and they could be charged with breaking an emergency order during the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to the release, failing to correctly identify oneself carries a fine of $750. A fine of $1,000 is possible for anyone obstructing any person in exercising a power if a provincial offences officer issues a ticket.
In addition to fines given for failure to identify, there are severe penalties for those who fail to comply with emergency orders. Punishments include up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000 for an individual, $500,000 for a director of a corporation, or $10,000,000 for a corporation itself.
Health Protection and Promotion Act
Earlier today, the Chief Medical Officer for Ontario released a memo to municipalities strongly urging all local medical officers of health to use their authority under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act. Enacting this would further empower medical officers of health to ensure cases and contacts of COVID-19 are isolated.
Federal Update: April 1
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided more details regarding Canada’s economic stimulus plan to aid Canadians and Canadian businesses.
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWG)
Trudeau remained tight-lipped regarding the details surrounding the CEWG, noting that a press conference will be held later this afternoon by Bill Morneau (Finance Minister), Mary Ng (Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade), and Navdeep Bains (Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry). More CEWG details will follow this afternoon’s announcement.
Trudeau took a moment to address business owners directly, emphasizing that, “this money is for workers” and promised stiff and severe penalties for those trying to take advantage of the program. Employers who sign up for the subsidy will need to provide evidence that proves they are doing everything they can to pay the remaining 25 percent of their employees’ salaries.
Team Canada Effort
Trudeau called the federal government’s measures to-date the “largest economic program in Canadian history” and, as a result, he has asked the House Leader and the Deputy Minister to reach out to other parties to bring back Parliament. The government’s decision to recall Parliament was likely triggered by the expansion of the CEWG program, which increased from covering 10% to 75% of salary coverage.
Canada’s Emergency Wage Subsidy
This afternoon, Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, provided an update on Canada’s Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). Details regarding the administration of these funds is still being worked out by the Federal government. Morneau noted that applications will be taken through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website, and the specific portal for CEWS will “soon be launched.”
At this point, it appears that eligible businesses will apply through the portal to claim up to 75% of each employee’s pay. A condition of this funding will be that the business will have to attest that it is doing everything possible to pay the remaining 25% of the employee’s salary. Once approved, the funds will be available in approximately six weeks. Businesses will have to show that they have paid their employees before receiving money from CEWS.
The program will be in place for three months – March, April and May, and is retroactive to March 15. Businesses will need to re-apply monthly.
Morneau announced that the cost of the CEWS will be $71 billion and that it is– “the largest economic program in Canadian history.” The subsidy aims to enable businesses to keep staff on the payroll during the COVID-19 crisis, and Morneau’s message to Canadian businesses is to “get ready to rehire people.”
To qualify for the CEWS program, a business will have to demonstrate a decline in gross revenue of 30% or more and will use the same month from the previous business year as the reference point.
All private businesses, large and small, are eligible, as are nonprofits and charities. Public sector organizations are not eligible.
The subsidy will apply to the first $58,700 earned per employee (up to $847 per week per employee).
Morneau reiterated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s warning that there will be severe consequences for “bad actors” filing fraudulent claims.
Organizations that do not qualify for the CEWS may still be eligible for the Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers, which covers 10% of remuneration paid from March 18 to June 20, with a maximum subsidy of up to $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.
Nonprofits and Charities
The federal government will work with non-profit organizations and charities who are impacted by a loss of revenue to ensure the definition of revenue is applicable to their circumstances.
The Department of Finance also notes that they are considering additional support for nonprofits and charities, specifically those involved in the front-line response to COVID-19.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit
Morneau also outlined the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for individuals out of work because of COVID-19. The CERB extends to contract workers and those still employed but earning no income.
Launching April 6, through a CRA portal, the CERB will provide up to $2,000 monthly for up to four months. Specific details regarding the application process have not yet been announced.
As previously mentioned, Morneau confirmed that the CEWS will cost $71 billion, and the CERB will cost $24 billion with a combined total of $105 billion.
Federal Update: March 31
Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided more details regarding the work Minister Navdeep Bains has done to mobilize Canadian industries to aid in the fight against COVID-19.
Made in Canada solutions
Trudeau voiced thanks to more than 3,000 companies who have already connected with Health Canada and noted that Thornhill Medical, Medicom and Spartan Bioscience are companies that have signed on to manufacture medical equipment, respirators, surgical masks and diagnostic materials.
He referenced that Letters of Intent have been signed by Precision Biomonitoring, Irving Oil, Calco, Stanfields and Fluid Energy Group. Updates on what these companies will be providing will be released in the coming days.
The Prime Minister mentioned a number of other companies that have donated equipment. He highlighted the Alibaba company- a Chinese e-retailer giant. Alibaba has sent Canada 500,000 surgical masks and 10,000 testing kits. Additionally, he referenced Bombardier, 3M, Medtronic and Toys R Us who are confirmed to be working with the government to provide resources.
More money for protective equipment
Trudeau announced that the government is allocating $2 billion to the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE), including bulk purchases for the provinces and territories. PPE includes items such as face shields, masks, swabs and test kits.
In a non-COVID related announcement, Trudeau announced that he has appointed Ralph Goodale as Special Advisor to investigate the downing of Iranian flight 752.
Provincial Update: March 31
Today, Premier Doug Ford and the Ontario government provided an educational update for Ontario’s students.
Schools to remain closed until at least May 4th
Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, announced that schools and childcare centres will remain closed until May 4th to protect the health and safety of students and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Public schools will remain closed to teachers until Friday, May 1st, 2020, and closed to students until Monday, May 4, 2020, when it is hoped classes will resume. However, this decision will be dependent on public health recommendations and will be reevaluated closer to the date and extended, if necessary.
Private schools, licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs in compliance with the Declaration of Emergency, will remain closed until April 13. If the Declaration of Emergency is extended for another two-week increment these facilities will remain closed. Select centres designated to support frontline health-care workers and first responders will remain open.
Mental health of students
Minister Lecce recognized the toll COVID-19 has had on the mental health and well-being of students. He noted that the government is actively working with Kids Help Phone to provide support for kids in need. For more information please click here https://kidshelpphone.ca/get-involved/programs-resources/resources-caring-adults/supporting-the-young-people-in-your-life-during-covid-19 . Lecce added that the government is working to “unleash the full support of mental health professionals” so they can connect with kids in a secure manner. More details on these mental health programs are expected to be announced in the coming days.
The Minister of Colleges and Universities, Ross Romano, announced three new initiatives that are effective immediately to support post-secondary institutions and their students:
- A six-month deferral of all OSAP loan repayments and a freeze on the accrual of interest is in place.
- An injection of $25M into all 45 colleges and universities in Ontario to assist them in addressing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 crisis.
- The retention of a third-party vendor that will maintain the integrity of examinations and gradings to ensure the reputation of degrees is protected during this period.
All outdoor recreational amenities now closed
Late last night, the Ontario government issued a new emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to close all outdoor recreational amenities, such as sports fields and playgrounds, effective immediately.
Federal Update: March 30
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided more details on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy that was initially announced last Friday. The 10% wage supplement has been increased substantially. Eligibility for this wage subsidy is not based on the number of employees and is available to any company, large or small, as well as non-profits and charities whose revenues decrease by 30% or more as a result of COVID-19. The government will cover up to 75% of an employee’s salary on the first $58,700 earned – amounting to up to $847 a week – as “a bridge to better times.” Funds will be retroactive to March 15.
The Prime Minister encouraged businesses that have the means to pay the remaining 25% of salaries to do so. He also cautioned those who might consider taking advantage of this subsidy or making fraudulent claims warning that “there will be serious consequences” for anyone trying to cheat the system.
Trudeau said the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Small Business will provide further details at a press conference tomorrow.
Canadian Armed Forces
The Prime Minister reiterated that the federal government has not received requests from the provinces or territories for the Canadian Armed Forces to respond and provide aid. Trudeau stated that if this were to change, the army is ready to respond to the call immediately. A press conference scheduled for this afternoon will provide more details on a potential military response.
Federal Update: March 26
Quarantine Act for Returning Travellers
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he is invoking the Quarantine Act, which mandates that all returning Canadian travellers must self-isolate for 14 days. Trudeau emphasized that a stiff penalty or even prison time is on the table for those who do not comply.
The Prime Minister joined other G20 leaders on a video conference this morning to discuss the need for a coordinated approach to flatten the global curve of COVID-19. The conversation focused on expanding manufacturing, securing supply chains and working together to protect the global economy. Trudeau stated “COVID-19 is a global crisis and demands a global response.”
COVID-19 Emergency Response Act
Prime Minister Trudeau confirmed that the federal government’s Emergency Act received royal assent and came into effect yesterday evening. The $107 billion aid package, which includes the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, is in the process of being launched online and Canadians will receive financial aid within 14 days of applying.
Other News: Alberta’s New Enforcement Measure
Yesterday, Alberta became the latest province to introduce monetary penalties for those ignoring public health guidance on social distancing. Premier Jason Kenney announced that fines are $1,000 per occurrence with the courts having the ability to issue fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and $500,000 for subsequent offences. Both community peace officers and police have the ability to issue tickets under the new regulatory change. The new enforcement measure will apply to;
- Anyone who travels abroad and does not self-isolate for 14 days. Anyone who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms regardless of their travel (including cough, runny nose, and sore throat).
- Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
- Anyone non-essential visiting a long-term care facility. Anyone violating the public health order against gatherings over 50 people.
Provincial Update: March 30
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, opened today’s news conference by strongly encouraging individuals over 70 years of age to self-isolate. His recommendation of self-isolation also extends to individuals who have compromised immune systems and/or underlying medical conditions. Additionally, Dr. Williams strongly suggested that all Ontarians stay home except to:
- Access health care services
- Shop for groceries
- Pick-up medication at the pharmacy
- Walk pets when required
- Support the vulnerable
For more information, please visit: https://news.ontario.ca/mohltc/en/2020/03/statement-from-the-chief-medical-officer-of-health.html
Plea for Time
Today, Premier Doug Ford, assured Ontarians that the province is in the process of securing “massive, massive amounts” of medical supplies and protective equipment. However, he cautioned that production of these supplies will take some time, and that a surge in COVID-19 patients could seriously challenge the supply lines. The Premier reiterated the need for all Ontarians to stay home and to maintain social distancing when they do leave home for essentials. Ford expressed dismay at the “packed streets” he saw during warm weather this past weekend. He warned that the government is prepared to take harsher action if they do not see a slowdown in the spread of COVID-19 in the coming days.
The Premier acknowledged that the current lockdown will be extended for at least another two-week increment, and that any further steps will be a result of advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the COVID-19 Command Table.
Protecting Ontario Seniors
A key focus of today’s briefing was keeping Ontario’s seniors safe. This concern follows the news of a rising number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in a long-term care home in Bobcaygeon, Ontario. [The story was originally reported by the Globe and Mail]
The Premier announced a funding increase to $10 million, to help community organizations coordinate subsidized deliveries of meals, medicines and other necessities to seniors, and that the government is also working with grocers and pharmacists to prioritize seniors’ delivery orders and establish seniors-only shopping hours.
He reiterated that the Ontario Action Plan pledged $243 million in funding for long-term care homes and promised to put an “iron ring” around seniors in these facilities.
Provincial Update: March 24
Reduced Hydro Rates
Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Energy, Greg Rickford, announced that hydro rates will be held at the low-peak usage rates (10.1 cents per kilowatt hour), 24 hours a day. This rate applies to families, small businesses and farms paying time-of-use (TOU) rates. This rate change is effective immediately and will last for at least 45 days, with the option to extend. Minister Rickford noted that this $160 million investment equates to monthly savings of $20 for households, $150 for small businesses and over $300 for farms.
Additional Protection for Long-Term Care Homes
The Ontario government is implementing stricter measures to protect long-term care homes from COVID-19. Mandated as of this morning, residents of long-term care homes will no longer be able to leave their facilities to visit friends or family. Residents will be allowed outside as long as they remain on the facility’sies property and maintain a safe distance from all visitors.
The mandatory shutdown of non-essential businesses takes effect tonight at 11:59 p.m. and will last for 14 days, with the option to extend if necessary. Last night the provincial government released a list of businesses that are deemed essential and can continue operations. For more information, visit www.ontario.ca/page/list-essential-workplaces.
The provincial government listed construction sites as part of essential businesses that can continue operations. Premier Doug Ford announced today that he has put the construction “industry “on notice,” warning that sites must abide by public health guidelines or they will be shut down. Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer has issued a notice outlining precautions job sites must take. Premier Ford added that Ministry of Labour inspectors are present at numerous job sites and will not hesitate to shut down sites that do not comply with all public health orders.
Federal Update: March 20
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced additional measures in response to the COVID-19 situation. The focus of today’s update was on migration between Canada and the U.S., getting Canadians home from abroad, and the actions the industry is taking to help in the fight against COVID-19.
- Restrictions banning non-essential travel for tourism and recreation between Canada and the U.S. come into effect at midnight tonight.
- Canada and the U.S have reached an agreement to return irregular migrants who are attempting to cross the border at any point.
- Discussions are underway with Canadian airlines to help Canadians come home, with the first flight from Morocco scheduled for this weekend.
Working with industry
The Canadian government will help manufacturers re-purpose their machinery to help aid in the fight against COVID-19. This includes:
- Assistance to manufacturers of ventilators, masks and other equipment to “massively increase” production;
- Assistance to other manufacturers, including automakers, to shift production to medical equipment
- Streamlining the procurement process.
The Prime Minister requested that business owners reach out to the government to find out how they can assist the government in responding to this pandemic.
Update on working with industry and innovation
Following the Prime Minister’s remarks, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains provided more details on the plan to support industry.
To increase domestic capacity, the federal government is immediately accelerating the deployment of funds to the following programs:
- Strategic Innovation Fund
- National Research Council
- Innovation Superclusters Initiative
Later today a portal will go live on the Department of Innovation, Science and Industry’s website that will enable companies to notify the government that they are working on or ready to support the government’s efforts. Early information is available by following this link https://www.canada.ca/en/services/business/maintaingrowimprovebusiness/manufacturers-needed.html.
Provincial Update: March 20
Online education program announced
Premier Doug Ford announced that the Learn At Home online educational portal is being launched today to ensure students have access to math and literacy resources to mitigate the impact of the province-wide school closure. This program is for kindergarten to grade 12 students and is available in both English and French. Additionally, certified tutors will be available through TVO to assist students.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce assured that no student will have their high school graduation compromised due to COVID-19. Minister Lecce also noted that if schools remain closed past April 5, a second phase of Learn at Home will be launched to mitigate the impacts on students. All EQAO tests have been cancelled for this spring.
Premier Ford also provided an update on the measures Ontario has implemented to combat the virus, noting that 3,000 tests have been performed in the last 24 hours and 38 testing centres are now live across the province. The Ontario Cabinet is meeting later this afternoon and Ford suggested his government will be making an announcement regarding a support program that will provide child care resources for front-line healthcare workers and first responders.
Federal Update: March 19
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced this morning at his regular COVID-19 press conference that measures to restrict non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are anticipated to come into effect between Friday night and Saturday morning. The Prime Minister assured Canadians that these closures will not impact trade.
The Prime Minister thanked the efforts of health-care workers across Canada and noted that blood donations are needed. Potential donors are encouraged to visit www.blood.ca for more information.
The Prime Minister stated the federal government is working closely with health and manufacturing companies to increase the supply of health products and protective equipment.
No new policy initiatives were announced.
As of 9:00 a.m. today on March 19, 2020, Canada has 621 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 9 deaths. All Canadian provinces have a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Provincial Update: March 19
Most recent release sent after Doug Ford’s news conference March 19, 2020:
Premier Doug Ford announced at noon that the government will be taking additional measures in response to the COVID-19 situation. These measures include:
- Waiving noise bylaws to enable retailers to accept deliveries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Suspending all eviction orders until further notice
- Suspending all renewals for driver’s licenses, license plate stickers and health cards
Additionally, it is likely that the province will waive the three-month waiting period for OHIP eligibility for those returning to Canada from abroad. Deputy Premier Christine Elliott alluded to this when responding to a question. Minister Elliott is also looking into methods to ensure that new Ontarians have access to the healthcare they need.
The Premier was asked a question regarding social distancing and whether he would be imposing sanctions on those not cooperating. The Premier responded by noting that if a bar or restaurant remains open there are enforcement options available, but the public has been cooperating thus far and therefore there is no need for additional measures in Ontario.
The Premier also voiced that it is the responsibility of every individual returning from abroad not to return to work and to self-isolate for 14 days.