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COVID-19 Federal, Provincial and Municipal Update (#1)

Published on
March 17, 2020

Federal Government Update:

Trudeau Enacts Border Closures and Airline Entry Restrictions

At a press conference this afternoon in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced tightened border controls, including travel restrictions and new travel screening requirements.

Actions Include

  • Closing the border to all non-citizens, except permanent residents, US citizens, the immediate family of Canadian citizens, diplomats and flight crews.
  • Airlines will be ordered to ban all travelers presenting COVID-19 symptoms from boarding an airplane.
  • Canadian travelers will be able to access financial assistance to help them with travel-related costs.
  • Starting at noon on March 18, all international airline traffic (except North American and Caribbean flights) will be rerouted through four major airports: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto-Pearson and Montreal-Trudeau.
  • These measures will not apply to flights related to trade.
  • Health Canada will start providing a daily update at 12noon EDT, starting March 17.

Federal Engagement

The Government of Canada continues their open procurement call for goods and services that can help fight COVID-19. Below is the link to more information about what products and services the government is looking for and the appropriate forms to submit. Please reach out if you need assistance and guidance on this process.


Also, while the Government remains focused on containing the spread of COVID-19 as the first order of business, they are keen to hear about ideas and projects that will help mitigate the economic impact and can stimulate recovery. Prime Minister Trudeau noted that “in the medium term and then into the long term, we will need to invest significant amounts to restore people’s confidence in the economy, to restore the kinds of growth that is going to ensure a better future for all Canadians.”  

Provincial Government Update:

The Government of Ontario has taken several significant steps to address the evolving challenge of the pandemic.

These steps include:

  • Reducing the provincial budget, to be issued on March 25, to a fiscal update. The full budget will be released at a later date. The fiscal update will provide a picture of the Province’s economic health and provide information regarding fiscal budgets for governmental departments. Minister Phillips has signalled there will be more money for health care. Other policy announcements are likely to wait until the full budget is unveiled.
  • As announced today, legislation will be introduced to protect workers impacted by COVID-19. This legislation will provide protected leave to individuals needing to go into isolation or quarantine and for those who need to miss work in order to care for family members, including children who are at home due to school or daycare closures. The legislation will also make explicit that doctor’s notes will not be needed in such instances. The protected leave will be retroactive to January 25 (the date of the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Ontario).
  • As of right now, the Ontario Legislature is on a scheduled constituency week and is scheduled to resume sitting on Monday, March 23. Just before rising, a motion was passed that allows the Legislature to be suspended until June 4 without having to prorogue. It is anticipated the quorum of 12 legislators will meet to pass the worker protection legislation noted above and that the Legislature will be postponed for at least 2 weeks (likely longer).
  • Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, and the Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, will now hold daily media briefings regarding COVID-19. Prior to today, these briefings had been taking place twice a week.
  • Last week, the Ontario government dedicated $10-million to a public education and awareness campaign regarding COVID-19.
  • Minister of Health, Hon. Christine Elliott, has asked all hospitals to prepare a pandemic plan and to ramp down elective surgeries to create additional capacity for COVID-19 if/when needed. Both the Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario Hospital Association have signaled their support for these measures.
  • All post-secondary institutions in the province have had all in-person instruction cancelled. Classes will continue to conclude the semester, but are being conducted through alternative means.
  • The closure of all publicly-funded schools until at least April 5 (closure for 2 additional weeks following March break). Recommended the closure of all private schools and daycares.
  • Enhanced public health and screening measures are being put in place for long-term care and retirement homes, as well as licensed child-care facilities. Long-term care homes, retirement homes, supportive housing, hospices and other congregate care settings are allowing only essential visitors.
  • It is strongly recommended all events and public gatherings of over 50 people be suspended.
  • Enhanced social distancing by increasing closures to include all recreational programs and libraries, all church and faith-based groups. Recommended the closure of all bars and restaurants with the exception of takeout and delivery services.

Today’s legislation to provide protections to Ontario workers received support from both the NDP and the Liberals, although both called for more robust protections such as financial support for small and medium-sized businesses that are operating at the margins.

The Government of Ontario is responding to advice and guidance from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and others. By necessity, response measures are fluid. At today’s press conference, the Ford government made it clear all options remain on the table and that the situation will likely continue to evolve. When asked if Ontario would follow the restrictions put in place in other jurisdictions, the Premier and Deputy Premier did not say no. Already in Ontario, some businesses have voluntarily changed their business models or operating hours without being ordered by government to do so.

Your Sussex consultants are in regular contact with senior government officials, who are seeking to ensure issues relating to COVID-19 are adequately addressed. If you or your organization are experiencing specific challenges due to COVID-19, please let your Sussex consultant know, so we can ensure your voice is heard by the provincial government.

Municipal Government Update:

Economic Support and Recovery Task Force – City of Toronto

Mayor John Tory announced today the launch of an Economic Support and Recovery Task Force to help protect Toronto’s economic success in the wake of COVID-19. This task force will include the Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson and Budget Chief Gary Crawford along with City Finance and Economic Development staff, who will be setting up conference calls with key stakeholders to discuss how to best help businesses.

“The first set of meetings start[ed] today with representatives from the hospitality and film sectors.  Meetings are also being convened with faith and community leaders, BIAs, universities, social services and not-for-profits, organized labour, tech and big business.

The City will be working with industry partners to identify actions to support businesses and the Task Force is to enable the City to better respond to the evolving challenges with a coordinated approach.

5 Immediate Measure have been identified that the City can take under its purview to provide economic relief:

  1. Extending the grace period for tax and other City of Toronto payments for businesses (payment and payment penalties)  for the first 30 days as of today, March 16, 2020.
  2. City employees will be protected from layoffs this month due to the cancellation of City programs.  The City is committed to paying for shifts that were planned for City-run daycares, museums and recreation centres.
  3. Establishing a substantial contingency fund to support businesses and affected groups, based on the consultations they undertake to determine the need and scale.
  4. Facilitating entry into the EI System for those impacted by the pandemic. The City will work with companies and employees to ensure they are fully aware of how to apply for their rights under employment insurance.
  5. Expanding the City’s small business advisory services to help businesses as they plan to recover from impacts.

“The Mayor will also be seeking from the Federal and Provincial Governments to waive penalties for business owners failing to remit HST on time.”

This Task Force will also be consulting with Members of Council who are recommending stakeholders/businesses to get in touch with and we are happy to assist you with this essential follow up to limit your impacts.

Other municipalities are slower to release a potential/commitment to a stimulus plan and are likely waiting to see what other measures the Federal and Provincial Governments will take which they may assist in the administration of.

24-Hour Retail Deliveries – City of Toronto

In a push by the Retail Council of Canada, to ensure supply chains remaining active, the City of Toronto is, effective immediately, exempting all retail businesses from the City of Toronto Noise Bylaw, in order to facilitate after-hour deliveries. This step is being taken to ensure that retailers are able to keep essential goods in stock.

The Bylaw regulates, loading and unloading of goods and motor vehicles. “The City's Noise Bylaw [also] includes the ability to provide an exemption in response to extraordinary circumstances affecting the immediate health, safety or welfare of the community. This exemption will ensure retailers can receive deliveries 24 hours of a day, seven days a week to ensure essential goods remain in stock.”

Provincial Offences Act – Toronto Courtrooms Temporarily Close

Starting today all Provincial Offences Act (POA) courtrooms located in Toronto will be closed from March 16 to April 3, 2020.

These courtrooms handle offences against Municipal Bylaws, including:

  • Highway Traffic Act charges such as speeding or traffic violations
  • Municipal bylaw charges relating to business licensing, excessive noise, animal control or garbage disposal
  • Charges laid under provincial legislation such as the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, Building Code Act, Environmental Protection Act and Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“Provincial Offences Act matters will be adjourned without the individual being present and rescheduled to a later date, as per an order by Chief Justice of Ontario. Individuals who were expected to appear in court are not required to attend and will be notified of new court dates. A notice of the new court date will be sent by mail to the address on file with the court.”

All legislative timelines for tickets that have not expired prior to March 15, 2020 have been extended. For tickets outside of this timeline, click HERE.

New Recommendations Related to Restaurants, Entertainment and Shopping Malls – City of Toronto

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, and the head of the City’s Office of Emergency Management, Chief Matthew Pegg, provided further temporary closure recommendations to begin tomorrow:

  • Dine-in restaurants
  • Bars
  • Nightclubs

“Businesses that provide food takeout and delivery options are encouraged to keep those options available to continue to provide the public with food options while limiting social interactions between people.”

Due to community transmission that is starting to occur, “Dr. de Villa warned that if businesses fail to comply with the recommendation, she will issue orders to individual establishments under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act.”

Additionally, when asked at a press conference this afternoon about Shopping Malls, Dr. Villa, is also encouraging them to participate in the effort to practice social distancing (like all residents) however she does recognize that residents need access to goods and services as part of their daily lives and that the basic interaction to purchase necessary goods they are small and limited interactions.  The recommendations aim to maximize social distancing, minimizing time, encourage staying home when you can and not purchasing items unless they are essential/necessary.

For updates on the COVID-19 risk in Toronto and information on how to protect yourself from infection, click HERE.

As this situation continues to evolve, we will keep you updated. Please reach out to your Sussex representative directly or to:

Paul Pellegrini – President

Brett James, Partner – Federal Government Relations

Devin McCarthy, Vice President – Federal Government Relations

Joseph Ragusa, Partner – Ontario Government Relations

Brian Zeiler-Kligman, Vice President – Ontario Government Relations

Jamie Besner, Partner – Municipal Government Relations

Angela Drennan, Vice President – Municipal Government Relations

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