COVID-19

Atlantic Canada Response to COVID-19 – Updated May 13/20

Atlantic Canada, like elsewhere in the country continue to take additional measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

NOVA SCOTIA

State of Emergency

Nova Scotia has declared a provincial state of emergency until noon on May 17, 2020.

As a  result of the state of emergency:

  • Any workplace or business that is not deemed essential can only remain open so long as social distancing can be maintained;
  • Workplaces must be cleaned and disinfected a minimum of twice daily and employees must follow proper hygiene;
  • Fines will be issued for individuals and businesses who do not practice social distancing or self-isolation. Individuals are subject to $1,000 fines while businesses are subject to $7,500 fines. Multiple fines can be given each day and police can also enforce other offences such as charging higher prices for fair market price goods and services;
  • Anyone entering Nova Scotia will be stopped, questioned and must self-isolate for 14 days;
  • Nova Scotians should not leave the Province unless essential, with the exception of healthy workers in trades and transportation sectors who move goods and people and health people going to work such as health care workers and those travelling for essential health services;
  • Doctors and pharmacists can provide virtual care via phone and video conferencing;
  • Employers cannot require a doctor’s note if an employee must be off work due to COVID-19;
  • No tenant can be evicted because their income has been impacted by COVID-19 for 3 months; and
  • Offshore workers, fishers and temporary foreign workers entering Nova Scotia must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival;
  • Front-line workers in public and private long-term care home, residential care facility and home-care agencies must wear masks; and
  • Gatherings are limited to 5 people or less.

The following essential service sectors are exempt from the 5 person or less gathering rule:

  • health;
  • food, agri-food and fisheries;
  • transportation, including trucking, rail and transit;
  • construction and manufacturing;
  • IT, telecommunications and critical infrastructure; and
  • public services, such as police, fire and ambulances.

Individual business in these sectors must still maintain social distancing and other public health protocols. The Government of Nova Scotia has created an online tool to assist businesses and non-profits clarify if they may remain open and how they can comply with public health orders and safety requirements.

On May 1, 2020 the Government of Nova Scotia lifted some public health restrictions. The province will be taking gradual approach to lifting restrictions based on public health information. For more information regarding Nova Scotia’s initial steps, see our article “Most Provinces Announce Strategies to Reopen Economy”, here.

Closures

A number of closures and restrictions are in place:

  • All public schools are closed for the remainder of the school year;
  • All licensed childcare providers are closed until at least June 5, 2020;
  • Casinos are closed;
  • All provincially operated museums and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia are closed;
  • All beaches are closed;
  • Restaurants are restricted to take-out and delivery only and are permitted to include alcohol purchases with takeout and delivery orders as long as the alcohol cost is not more than three (3) times the value of the food;
  • Drinking establishments, craft taprooms, and winery and distillery tasting rooms are closed;
  • Private liquor stores, craft breweries, wineries and distilleries are permitted to sell product from their storefronts;
  • All personal service and fitness establishments such as salons and gyms are closed;
  • Dental offices are closed except for emergency dental procedures;
  • Non-regulated health professional operations are closed; and
  • Regulated health professional operations are closed except for emergency or urgent cases and must adhere to cleaning and social distancing protocols in waiting areas and other non-clinical areas.

Support Programs

The Government of Nova Scotia has put in place various support programs and measures for businesses and individuals:

  • For businesses, the Government will defer payments until June 30, 2020 for all government loans, defer payments until June 30, 2020 for small business renewal fees and have made changes to the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program to defer principal and interest payments until June 30, 2020, and businesses which might not qualify for a loan, government will guarantee the first $100,000. Small businesses who do business with government will be paid within 5 business days instead of 30;
  • Retail and commercial landlords who defer lease payments for the 3 months for businesses that had to close directly due to the public health order will be able to claim losses of up to $5,000 per month if the renting business does not continue operating and must not change locks or seize property of businesses who cannot pay rent if the business closed directly because of COVID-19;
  • A $20 million Small Business Impact Grant will be available to eligible small businesses and social enterprises. Eligible small businesses and social enterprises will receive a grant in the amount of 15% of their revenue from sales either from April 2019 or February 2020, up to a maximum of $5,000. The grant is a flexible, one-time, upfront grant that can be used for any purpose necessary;
  • The COVID-19 Small Business Credit and Support Program will provide a temporary stream for access to credit and cash grants for small businesses with a payroll less than $20,000 in the previous fiscal year and have experienced a decline in revenues from sales of at least 15% in March or at least 30% in April, May or June;
  • Municipalities will be eligible for a $380 million loan program;
  • For workers, a $20 million Worker Emergency Bridge Fund will be available to laid-off workers and self-employed individuals who do not qualify for Employment Insurance. The Government of Nova Scotia will provide a one-time payment of $1,000 to bridge the gap between layoffs and closures and the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit;
  • iPads will be provided to long-term care homes, phones and calling plans will be provided to vulnerable individuals;
  • Additional support will be provided to vulnerable individuals through additional funding to prepared meal delivery services, the Unite Way, shelters and soup kitchens, as well as Senior’s Safety Programs and Community Links; and
  • The Essential Health Care Workers Program, a partnership program with the federal government, will provide a bonus of up to $2,000 after a 4-month period beginning March 13, 2020 to eligible health care employees, including full-time, part-time, casual workers as well as cleaning staff who work during the pandemic, including those placed on isolation, quarantine or COVID-19 sick leave.
NEW BRUNSWICK

State of Emergency

New Brunswick has declared a provincial state of emergency until May 28, 2020.

As a  result of the state of emergency:

  • All travellers are being screened at the border and interprovincial travellers are required to self-isolate for 14 days;
  • All unnecessary travel into New Brunswick is prohibited and peace officers will be turning away visitors when they attempt to enter if travel is unnecessary;
  • Owners and managers of all workplaces are being directed to reduce to critical functions and take every reasonable step required to prevent people who exhibit symptoms or who have travelled internationally in the previous 14 days from entering the workplace;
  • Employers are advised to take precautionary measures to reduce exposure, including practicing good workplace hygiene and allowing workers to work remotely if possible;
  • Owners and occupiers of land are responsible for taking all reasonable steps to prevent social or recreational gatherings;
  • Two-household bubbles are permitted with households being able to spend time with one other household, if both households agree;
  • Patients nearing end of their lives will be permitted to designate 2 visitors to provide comfort and support, with only one visitor permitted at a time;
  • Temporary foreign workers are prohibited from entering New Brunswick;
  • Everyone is prohibited from knowingly approaching within two (2) metres of another person, except members of their household or as needed for work; and
  • Failing to obey the emergency order could result in fines ranging from $292.50 to $10,200.

The Government of New Brunswick has issued guidelines regarding what businesses may remain open and practice social distancing.

On April 24, 2020 the Government of New Brunswick began to implement its recovery plan and has provided a guidance document for the public and businesses. For more information regarding New Brunswick’s plan, see our article “Most Provinces Announce Strategies to Reopen Economy”, here.

Support Programs

Various support programs and measures have been put in place for businesses and individuals.

For businesses:

  • The Government of New Brunswick will, on a case-by-case basis, defer loan and interest repayments for existing business loans for up to 6 months;
  • Small business owners impacted by COVID-19 can apply for working capital loans up to $100,000 through the NB Small Business Emergency Working Capital Program;
  • Opportunities New Brunswick is making working capital loans in excess of $100,000 up to a maximum of $1 million available to employers responding to challenges associated with COVID-19;
  • Funding is available to small to medium sized non-profits in the form of a grant of $500 to $10,000 through the Community investment Fund COVID-19 Relief;
  • Penalties for late payment business property taxes may be waived on a case-by-case basis
  • WorkSafeNB is deferring the collection of assessment premiums for 3 months with zero interest and has also implemented an online tool to assist workplaces evaluate and monitor their activities and responses to COVID-19;
  • A pandemic task force has been established and is vested with decision-making authority about the pandemic response for all aspects of the health-care system;
  • Childcare operators will be provided with $20 per month for each licensed care space until the end of June to assist with cleaning practices;
  • The Department of Post-secondary Education, Training and Labour is creating critical sector adjustment committees to work with companies to mitigate the impact of closures; and
  • A job matching platform has been launched to connect employers with workers for positions that, in the past, have been filled by temporary foreign workers

For workers:

  • The Government of New Brunswick will provide a one-time income benefit to workers or self-employed individuals in New Brunswick who have lost their job due to the state of emergency. The one-time payment of $900 will be administered via the Red Cross. To be eligible for this benefit, a person must:
    • have lost their job;
    • have been laid off or be self-employed and have lost all revenue, on or after march 15, 2020 due to the state of emergency in New Brunswick;
    • have earned a minimum of $5,000 (gross) in the last 12 months or in the last calendar year;
    • have lost their primary source of income;
    • have applied or plan to apply for support from the federal government;
    • have no other income; and
    • be 18 years or older;
  • Emergency Bridging Fund for Vulnerable Post-Secondary Students has been established to provide eligible students with a one-time payment of $750. Funds will be distributed by post-secondary institutions;
  • Eligible artists, cultural businesses and organizations who have had their exhibition, project, showcase or performance cancelled due to the pandemic can receive up to $2,000 for an artist presentation on social media;
  • Amendments to the Employment Standards Act which provide employees with  job-protected emergency leave have received royal assent. A copy of Bill 40, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act can be found here. COVID-19 Emergency Leave  Regulation – Employment Standards Act outlining the job-protected emergency leave is now in place. The Regulation provides an unpaid job-protected leave, retroactive to March 12, 2020 to:
    • employees under individual medical investigation, supervision, or treatment related to COVID-19;
    • employees who are in quarantine or isolation or subject to a control measure as a result of information or directions related to COVID-19 issued or provided to the public or by a medical officer of health, medical practitioners, nurse practitioner, nurse, Tele-Care, Government of New Brunswick, Government of Canada or a department, agency thereof, or a local government;
    • employees 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;
    • employees providing care or support to an individual with whom the employee shares a close family relationship because of a matter related to COVID-19 that concerns that individual, including school or early learning and childcare facility closures; and
    • employees who are directly affected by travel restrictions related to COVID-19 and under the circumstances cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to New Brunswick.
  • Employees intending to take an emergency leave must notify the employer in writing as soon as possible of the intention to take leave, the anticipated commencement date and anticipated duration as well as the purpose for which the leave is taken;
  • Employer must not request any certificate or other proof of entitlement to leave;
  • Leave ends either on a date agreed upon by the employer and employee; the date on which the purpose of the leave no longer exists; or the date on which the Regulation is repealed, but must be extended if the employee notifies the employer that the purpose for taking the leave still exists or that another purpose now exists.
  • Vacation can be interrupted or delayed to take the leave and all documentation and materials received by the employer in relation to the leave is confidential and must not be disclosed  unless the employee consents, the disclosure is made to an individual who needs the record for the performance of their duties or the disclosure is authorized by law; and
  • A copy of the Regulation can be found here.
NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR

Public Health Emergency

Newfoundland & Labrador has declared a public health emergency for the province until May 16, 2020.

As a  result of the public health emergency:

  • Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited;
  • Two-household bubbles are permitted with households being able to spend time with one other household;
  • Individuals who do not comply with governmental orders could face a fine of $500 – $2,500 or jail time and businesses could be fined $5,000 – $50,000; and
  • Tenants cannot be evicted if they have lost income due to COVID-19 and are not able to pay rent.

On April 30, 2020 the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador announced its plan for living with COVID-19. A Foundation for Living with COVID-19 includes 5 alert levels with gradual relaxation of public health restrictions determined by the Chief Medical Officer of Health. The province is currently in Alert Level 5. For more information regarding Newfoundland & Labrador’s plan, see our article “Most Provinces Announce Strategies to Reopen Economy”, here

Support Programs

Newfoundland & Labrador has implemented support programs and measures for businesses and individuals:

  • For businesses, the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador will provide compensation to private sector employers to ensure continuation of pay for employees affected by the 14-day self-isolation requirements and provincial public sector employees affected will continue to be paid as usual;
  • $120 million in funding will be provided to community-based organizations to help groups respond to pressures arising from COVID-19;
  • Certain tax return filing deadlines have been extended and requests may be made to seek a remission of interest and penalties for businesses which may not be able to comply with tax obligations;
  • Government of Newfoundland & Labrador will provide eligible private sector employers and individuals who are self-employed with up to $500 per week for each employee (up to a combined maximum of $1,000 per week when receiving both federal and provincial funding) who were required to self-isolate for 14 days due to COVID-19 travel restrictions;
  • Effective May 1, 2020, liquor licensing fees for the 2020-2021 fiscal year have been waived; warehousing service fees for microbrewers with annual production of 1,000 hectolitres or less who use Newfoundland & Labrador Liquor Corporation’s distribution network have been waived; a 5% discount on pricing of certain products will be implemented; and an increase in product commission discounts for certain breweries, wineries, distilleries, and cideries has been approved;
  • Deferral of loan payments under the Innovation and Business Investment Corporation’s Business Investment Fund for eligible businesses for 6 months;
  • Salary support for up to 6 positions may be considered for eligible commercial Research and Development projects;
  • Eligible costs will be covered up to 75% for eligible project applications under Research and Development Commercial Business and Development Support for certain applications;
  • Residential, commercial and general service customers including businesses and other organizations whose electricity is based on Holyrod fuel costs with a one-time credit on their bills;
  • For customers who require flexible electricity bill payments, interest on overdue accounts for residential and general services customers will be waived for a period of 15 months beginning June 1, 2020;
  • Amendments have been made to the Credit Union Regulations, 2009 to allow credit unions to avail themselves of the Canada Emergency Business Account program;
  • Amendments to the Labour Standards Act have been made to provide for an unpaid leave of absence for employees who are unable to work for the following reasons:
    • Employer directs the employee not to work due to COVID-19; Employee has returned from travel and must self-isolate;
    • Employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19;
    • Employee is acting in accordance with a public health directive;
    • Employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19;
    • Employee is directly affected by travel restrictions and cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to the province; or
  • Employers may require employees to provide evidence reasonable in the circumstances at a time that is reasonable in the circumstances of entitlement to the leave but must not require employees to provide a certificate from a medical or nurse practitioner. Amendments to the Labour Standards Act are retroactive to March 14, 2020. Full text of the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Act can be found here; and

Amendments to the Shops’ Closing Regulations have been made to allow select stores that are not exempt, but are deemed as services essential to the life, health or personal safety of individuals and animals the option to open for business on Good Friday if they wish.  Employees will not be required to work but those who do will be entitled to double pay for hours worked in accordance with section 17 of the Labour Standards Act. A copy of the amended regulation can be found here.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Public Health Emergency

Prince Edward Island has declared a public health emergency until May 17, 2020 and a provincial state of emergency until May 31, 2020.

As a result of the public health emergency:

  • Domestic travellers returning to Prince Edward Island are required to self-isolate and screening protocols are in place at borders.  Exceptions will be made for essential workers. Everyone crossing the Confederation Bridge will be stopped to determine if travel to Prince Edward Island is considered essential and non-Islanders travelling unnecessarily for personal reasons will be asked to turn around;
  • Fines may be imposed on anyone who does not comply with self-isolation measures:
    • $1,000 for first offence;
    • $2,000 for second offence; and
    • $10,000. for a third or subsequent offence;
  • Those self-isolating must remain on their own property when outside and those living in apartment buildings must stay on building property while outside;
  • No new construction permits are being issued at this time.  Emergency construction repair services will continue.
  • Members of the same household may gather indoors with up to 5 other people from different households; and
  • Members of the same household may gather outdoors with up to 10 other individuals from different households.

Prince Edward Island has also issued guidelines regarding essential and non-essential services.

On April 28, 2020 the Government of Prince Edward Island announced its plan to ease public heath restrictions. Renew PEI, Together is a 4-phase plan beginning May 1, 2020 with gradual lifting of restrictions on outdoor gatherings and activities, outdoor construction and services, non-urgent health care and  health care providers, progressing to relaxation of restrictions on indoor gatherings, recreational activities, retail and indoor dining services . For more information regarding Prince Edward Island’s plan, see our article “Most Provinces Announce Strategies to Reopen Economy”, here.

Support Programs

The Government of Prince Edward Island has implemented various support programs and measures for businesses and individuals.

For businesses:

  • Scheduled loan payments for clients of Finance PEI, Island Investment Development Inc. and PEI Century Fund have been deferred for 3 months;
  • The Commercial Lease Rent Deferral Program has been established and provides eligible landlords who defer rent payments from commercial tenants for 3 months with financial assistance of up to $50,000 per landlord and $15,000 per tenant if the deferred rent can’t be recovered;
  • The Emergency Working Capital Financing has been put in place for small businesses through a capital loan of up to $100,000;
  • The Emergency Relief – Worker Assistance Program has been set up to provide registered private sector businesses with workers who have experienced a reduction of at least 8 hours per week during the two-week period of March 16-29, 2020 with a maximum of $250 per week for each worker that experienced the reduction;
  • The Business Adaptation Advice Program has been implemented to cover the entire cost up to $2,500, for businesses and entrepreneurs to hire a professional to provide advice and support on how to adapt or recover from the impacts of the pandemic.  Professional services may include human resources, financial planning, IT and marketing;
  • The Province has partnered with Holland College to provide free online learning in marketing, human resources, social media, project management and other fields;
  • Community organizations will be provided with gift cards that can be used at Loblaws stores through the Community Champions Initiative;
  • An online portal to assist residents and businesses with the impacts of COVID-19, including the need for medical supplies, virtual care services and idea sharing, called PEI Sourced Solutions is being launched;
  • The deadline for the Jobs for Youth Program has been extended to April 30, 2020 to allow employers to apply for wage subsidies;
  • The Team Seafood Program encouraging youth to participate in fishing and aquaculture will support 250 new placements;
  • Private sector wage subsidies through the Employment Development Agency have been increased from 50% to 75% of wages;
  • COVID-19 Agricultural Labour Support Initiative will connect those interested with working on a farm with agricultural businesses with job openings;
  • Prince Edward Island Fish Emergency Loan Program will provide loans of up to $25,000 at 4% interest over a 5-year term to Island harvesters with the principle deferred for the first 18 months;
  • Interest Relief Program will provide eligible fish harvesters with up to 12 months of interest relief and service debt costs on a maximum of $250 million at an average interest rate of 5%;
  • COVID-19 Workspace Adaptation Assistance Fund will provide small businesses with up to $2,000 to purchase and install protective measures;
  • The Post-Secondary Employment Program will support 320 new positions;
  • $50,000,000 in tourism assistance loan facility through Finance PEI has been announced with maximum financing of up to $1,000,000.00 at 4% interest available for working capital with principal and interest payments deferred for 18 months;
  • Interest relief for existing loans to tourism business for up to 18 months;
  • $1,000,000.00 for expanded marketing for the tourism industry;
  • Waiver of licensing, inspection and Tourism PEI advertising fees for the 2020 operating season;
  • Non-profits that have received funding from Tourism PEI and/or ACOA for events that have been cancelled as a result of COVID-19 will be fully compensated for all eligible expenses;
  • The COVID-19 Strategic Fund for Agriculture which provides $750,000.00 to help commodities and small processes adapt to the pandemic has been announced, as well as enhancements to the Farm Team Student Bursary to address labour challenges; and
  • Truckers are eligible to rent rooms from Rodd Royalty Inn and Suites for a reduced rate of $20.00 per night.

For workers:

  • The Emergency Contingency Fund provides workers, including self-employed workers and small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including Emergency Income Relief of up to $500 per week for self-employed individuals;
  • The Employee Gift Card Program has been established to provide $100 Sobeys gift cards to employees living and working on Prince Edward Island who have been laid off as a result of COVID-19. Employers can apply to obtain the gift cards if they have issued lay-off notices to 1 or more employees due to COVID-19 between March 13 and 31, 2020;
  • A $1 million Temporary Rental Assistance Benefit is available and will provide $1,000 per household to help cover the cost of rent for a three-month period for those renting who have seen an unexpected loss of income due to COVID-19. Individuals will be eligible for this benefit if they are currently receiving or applying for Employment Insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit due to COVID-19; are residents of Prince Edward Island; and are not currently receiving rental support;
  • The COVID-19 Income Support Program has been established to assist individuals with bridging the gap between loss of income and Employment Insurance benefits or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit by providing a one-time payment of $750 to eligible individuals. Eligible individuals are those who as of March 13, 2020, have lost their job or have been laid off, have had Employment Insurance benefits expire and do not yet have a job to return to, or who are self-employed and have lost all revenues through self-employment. Individuals must be:
    • 18 years of age or older;
    • be a resident of Prince Edward Island as of December 31, 2019;
    • have earned a minimum of $5,000 gross earnings in the last 12 months;
    • lost their primary source of income because of COVID-19 and have no other income; and
    • have applied for federal benefits;
  • The COVID-19 Special Situations Fund has been established and provides up to $1,000 to those who have experienced urgent income loss as a result of COVID-19 and are not eligible for other federal and provincial funding support;
  • Farm Team Program will provide students returning to post-secondary studies in the fall with a $2,000 bursary and students returning to high school with a $1,000 bursary to those who choose to work in the agricultural industry this summer;
  • Temporary wage top up of $1,000 for workers employed by an entity providing essential services, who have been working through the pandemic and may less than $3,000 per 4-week period;
  • Provincial property tax and fee payments have been deferred until December 31, 2020, as have property tax assessment appeal deadlines; and
  • There is moratorium on evictions until the end of June and enforcement of eviction orders is suspended until courts resume regular operations.

We will continue to update our clients with information as soon as it becomes available. If you have any questions about this topic, other COVID-19 related questions, or would like assistance with developing and/or reviewing pandemic plans, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer, or refer to the Firm’s other COVID-19 website resources.

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