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COVID-19 Federal, Provincial and Municipal Update (#2)

Published on
March 18, 2020

Federal Update: Trudeau Government Announces Sweeping $82B Support Package

This morning, the Trudeau Government announced a sweeping $82 billion support package including $27 billion in direct support and $55 billion in additional liquidity to help stabilize the economy during this period of uncertainty. The announcement was focused on addressing the immediate-term impacts affecting vulnerable Canadians, Indigenous communities, and SMEs.

The measures announced include increases to social benefit payments, income tax payment deferrals and payroll subsidies.  

The Prime Minister informed Canadians that both Canada and the US will restrict all non-essential travel over the border in a collaborative and reciprocal manner. This means travelers will not be able to cross the border for recreation or tourism for as long as necessary. Essential travel will continue, including preserving and maintaining supply chains. Actions Include:


Temporary Wage Subsidy:
Proposing to provide eligible small employers a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months. The subsidy will be equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. Businesses will be able to benefit immediately from this support by reducing their remittances of income tax withheld on their employees’ remuneration. Employers benefiting from this measure will include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, as well as non-profit organizations and charities.

Income Tax Deferral:
Allow all businesses to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today 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.

Audit Deferral:
The Canada Revenue Agency will not contact any small or medium sized businesses to initiate any post assessment GST/HST or Income Tax audits for the next four weeks. For the vast majority of businesses, the Canada Revenue Agency will temporarily suspend audit interaction with taxpayers and representatives.

Augment credit available to farmers and agri-food sector through Farm Credit Canada.

Flexibility on the Canada Account limit, to allow Government to provide additional support to Canadian businesses—through loans, guarantees, or insurance policies. The Canada Account is administered by Export Development Canada and is used by the government to support exporters when deemed to be in the national interest, to deal with exceptional circumstances.

Previously Announced

Additional Credit to SMEs:
An additional $10 billion of credit support mainly targeted to small and medium-sized businesses via Business Development Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC).

Launch an Insured Mortgage Purchase Program:
Under this program, the government will purchase up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). As announced on March 16, this will provide stable funding to banks and mortgage lenders and support continued lending to Canadian businesses and consumers. CMHC stands ready to further support liquidity and the stability of the financial markets through its mortgage funding programs as necessary. The Government will enable these measures by raising CMHC’s legislative limits to guarantee securities and insure mortgages by $150 billion each.

Help Banks augment lending into economy:
The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) announced it is lowering the Domestic Stability Buffer by 1.25% of risk-weighted assets, effective immediately. This action will allow Canada’s large banks to inject $300 billion of additional lending into the economy.


EI Sickness Benefit:
Waiving the one-week waiting period for those individuals in imposed quarantine that claim Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. This temporary measure is in effect as of March 15, 2020.

Waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits.

Emergency Care Benefit:
Providing up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks. This flat-payment Benefit would be administered through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and provide income support to:

  • Workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits
  • Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits
  • Parents with children who require care or supervision due to school closures, and are unable to earn employment income, irrespective of whether they qualify for EI or not

Emergency Support Benefit:
Provide up to $5.0 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.

Registered Retirement Income Funds Change:
Reducing the required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25% for 2020, in recognition of volatile market conditions and their impact on many seniors’ retirement savings. This will provide flexibility to seniors that are concerned that they may be required to liquidate their RRIF assets to meet minimum withdrawal requirements. Similar rules would apply to individuals receiving variable benefit payments under a defined contribution Registered Pension Plan.

Income Tax Deferral:
Allow all individuals to defer, until after June 1, 2020 the filing of tax returns and allow taxpayers to defer payment of income tax amounts owing until August 31, 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.

Boosting Child Benefit Payments:
Increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts, only for the 2019-20 benefit year, by $300 per child. The overall increase for families receiving CCB will be approximately $550 on average; these families will receive an extra $300 per child as part of their May payment.

Increasing Goods and Services Tax Credit:
Double the maximum annual Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC) payment amounts for the 2019-20 benefit year with a one-time special payment in early May 2020.

Recovery & Longer-term Measures

Minister Morneau said there will be more to come. He said: “This is only the first step in the plan. When the time is right, we will announce more long-term investments to assist with recovery and help Canadians get back to their daily lives.”  The window for that longer-term thinking isn’t closed, rather, with the announcement today to address immediate needs, once the rollout of funding and lending measures cycle closes, there will be ample opportunity to start having recovery and longer-term measures conversations.

Federal Engagement

As the details of the programs announced today become available, let Sussex help connect you with the right people in government to help your organization get through these extraordinary times. Please reach out to your Sussex representative directly or to the Sussex Federal Team.

Provincial Update: Ontario Government Response

Premier Ford commended the federal government for its $82 billion stimulus package announced earlier in the day. Reflecting the rapidly evolving pandemic situation, the Government of Ontario has continued its proactive and decisive leadership to address the challenge from COVID-19. In the past 2 days:

The Province declared a state of emergency on Tuesday morning (please note British Columbia declared a state of emergency on Wednesday adding to the public health emergency they declared on Tuesday, Alberta declared public health emergencies on Tuesday, PEI declared a public health emergency on Monday and Quebec also declared a public health emergency on Sunday). Using the increased powers granted to it under the Emergency Management Act, the government implemented the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and ordered:

  • Public libraries, private schools, child care and rec centres, theatres and bars and restaurants (except for delivery and take-out services) to close or else face fines
  • No events of more than 50 people are allowed, including parades and at places of worship

The state of emergency powers will last until March 31, when the Cabinet can renew them for another 2 weeks. Further extension of these powers will require approval of the Legislature.

In the same announcement, Premier Ford unveiled “surge” funding of $304M (which includes the $100M contingency fund previously announced) to fund health care priorities. The package will fund more hospital beds, 25 additional assessments centres, ventilators, medical equipment, nursing staff and a respite and child-care package for front-line workers.

  • The Premier also said a support package for impacted businesses and self-employed people is in the pipeline. The details will be unveiled in the mini-budget on March 25, which Minister Phillips confirmed will be introduced in the Legislature.

The Province has confirmed there will be a halt on new eviction orders and evictions scheduled for this week will be postponed.

The Legislature will be recalled on Thursday (March 19) to pass the legislation to provide support for workers impacted by COVID-19 announced on Monday. Opposition parties have indicated their support for the Bill, which the Premier hopes to pass in one day. Recall that quorum is 12 MPPs, so the recall of the Legislature will not violate the ban on events involving more than 50 people.

Minister of Education officially cancelled EQAO testing for this school year. You may recall that EQAO tests that were supposed to be written earlier this year were cancelled as a result of the ongoing labour dispute.

Also on Wednesday morning, the Ministry of Health announced that the Ontario Telemedicine Network will be transferring to Ontario Health as of April 1, 2020. Previously, the transfer of health system funding, planning and coordination functions of Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) to Ontario Health was postponed while the province deals with the pandemic. The transfer of the LHIN functions remains postponed to a later date still to be determined.

Your Sussex consultants are in regular contact with senior government officials, who are seeking to ensure issues relating to COVID-19 are adequately addressed. The Ontario government is looking to have up-to-date information on the conditions businesses are facing and how they are responding. The government is also interested in businesses that can re-purpose their operations to address immediate pandemic needs, like ventilators or hand sanitizer. We have learned a government website will be launched shortly for intake of ideas for products and initiatives that the government can assist with (financing to re-tool and other measures) to manage COVID-19. Those ideas received will be vetted by a committee. If you or your organization are experiencing specific challenges or sees an opportunity to help the province deal with COVID-19, please let your Sussex consultant or the Ontario Team know, so we can ensure your voice is heard by the provincial government.

Municipal Update: Financial Action that Municipalities are Taking to Ease the Burden During COVID-19

Below is a compilation of the current business targeted actions being rolled out across various municipalities nationwide, if there is a particular municipality you are interested in let us know.

City of Toronto

The Mayor’s Task Force is consulting with industry leaders now to find out how the City can help you with a long-term recovery plan.  Following the consultations, they will announce investments and initiatives aimed at protecting the economy. Get in touch if you wish to be involved or have valuable industry related stimulus suggestions that could be taken into consideration.

This City’s Task Force will:

  • Extend a grace period for tax and other City of Toronto payments for businesses (payment and payment penalties) first for 30 days starting March 16.
  • The City is prepared to provide a grace period for payments and payment penalties for businesses for 30 days, starting March 16, 2020.

Property Tax Payments:

  • For businesses on the regular three-instalment payment plan, the April 1 property tax instalment due date would be extended to May 1, 2020. Similarly the May 1, 2020 instalment due date would be extended to June 1, 2020.
  • For businesses on the 11-instalment pre-authorized payment plan, each instalment due date would be extended by 30 days.
  • Late payment penalties (applied on the first day following the instalment due date where payment in full is not received) would be waived for 30 days, starting March 16, 2020.
  • As Interim 2020 bills have already been mailed that specify the regular installment due dates, the City will use other means (website, social media, other advertising), to identify this grace period to business owners. Property tax accounts will be adjusted as necessary to reflect these relief measures.

Utility Bill (Water/Sewer Service and Solid Waste Management charges where applicable):

  • Approximately 30,000 utility bills are issued to business and residential property each week. Utility bills normally prescribe a due date approximately 21 days after the billing date. The City is prepared to extend the due date for all utility bills issued to businesses by an additional 30 days, to give utility customers an additional 30 days to make payment to take advantage of the early payment discount. This will be implemented immediately.

Establish a Contingency Fund

  • Establish a substantial contingency fund to support businesses and affected groups, based on consultations to determine need and scale.

City of Vaughan

As of March 17, 2020, the City has launched the Vaughan Business Action Plan, which includes a series of temporary measures to safeguard the local economy and protect businesses, consumers and all citizens. These measures include:

  1. Support the restocking of store shelves - by suspending noise by-laws and weight restriction on roads to assist with ensuring stores have items people need.
  2. Enhance the movement of goods - by suspending by-laws restricting the loading and unloading of commercial vehicles, transport trucks, and other vehicles between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  3. Improve business ground-transportation - by suspending the weight and size of vehicles that can travel on certain roads throughout Vaughan.
  4. Suspend the Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) - to support the travel and tourism industry by not requiring accommodation providers to charge the Municipal Accommodation Tax at Vaughan properties.
  5. Maintain small business services - by ensuring, where possible, Small Business and Entrepreneurship frontline services are continued (either online or by teleconference).

In addition, City Council has also voted to ensure that end dates of by-law suspensions be subject to extension should the Emergency Management Team and City Council deem it necessary.

City of Ottawa

Jim Watson has stated that Finance staff are working on a proposal to help small businesses and the Mayor will be bringing a proposal to Council on March 25, 2020:

  • As of March 17 in support of the community and local economy, all retail establishments are exempt from the Noise By-law until further notice, to ensure timely supply chain delivery.
  • Interim Property Tax Grace Period for All property Owners – the interim tax bills, which represent 50% of the previous year’s tax bill, were mailed to property owners in mid-February with payment to the City due on Thursday March 19, 2020.  The City will be extending a payment grace period to April 15, 2020.  It is important to note that property owners who are enrolled in pre-authorized debit plans are not affected by the grace period and do not need to take any action
  • New 2020 Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program for residential property owners and small business property owners (assessed property value of up to $2.5M) that have been financially affected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  If approved at Council the deferral application will be available online and would extend the interim (March 19) and final (June 18) tax due dates to October 30, 2020
  • Water Service – the City has suspended all water service disconnections due to non-payment until further notice
  • Farm Grant Program – provides financial relief to working farmers, The grant program will assist eligible farm property owners by allowing the June final tax instalment to be paid on Dec 8, 2020 as already prescribed.
  • The Mayor has made a call to action to property owners that house restaurants and businesses to share these tax deferral benefits with their tenants.

City of Burlington

As the City of Burlington continues to support the efforts to slow the COVID-19 virus, payment is not required for on-street parking or in municipal parking lots until further notice.  This is to take away numerous people touching the same parking machines throughout the day. Parking enforcement for lack of payment is also suspended. Machines are being put ‘out-of-order’ and covered with stickers to let patrons know that payment is not required.

Parking enforcement is currently limited to safety-related issues such as fire routes, accessible parking, no parking/stopping areas and blocked areas. Time limit restrictions have been relaxed to help those working from home or self-isolating.

City of Brampton

City of Brampton announced a specialized task force to support the local economy: the Mayor’s COVID-19 Economic Support and Recovery Task Force.

This group will be co-chaired by Michael Palleschi, Regional Councillor for Wards 2 and 6, Michael Palleschi, and Paul Vicente, Regional Councillor for Wards 1 and 5. It will be responsible for coordinating recommendations and measures to support business relief efforts in Brampton.

Council will work on these efforts with local stakeholders including the Downtown BIA and Brampton Board of Trade.

City of Edmonton

Mayor Don Iveson this afternoon to the impact of COVID on businesses.

  • The City is exploring property tax deferrals for individuals and but the priority is for commercial property owners/businesses. They will try to be part of a harmonized Province-wide strategy, if possible, as they collect property taxes on behalf of the Province and the decision will need to be made together.
  • Edmonton’s One-on-One Team that supports business will now be focused on assisting businesses through this period.
  • Virtual meetings are being set-up with BIAs to explore their needs.
  • The business retention team’s focus is being dedicated to the current situation, as well.

City of Calgary

Calgary Chamber notes that it is now at the table with the Business Sector Support Committee, a group established by the City, to help business through this challenging time.

The Chamber is acting as the liaison between the Business Community and local government.  If you are a business owner and you are unsure what steps you should be taking, we can get you in touch with the Chamber and Political Officials alike.

City of Vancouver

The Mayor is asking the Province of BC to:

  • Ban evictions and extend tax deferral programs for all home owners and small businesses.

The Police have briefed the Mayor on restaurants that refused orders to close.

  • As a result, they are declaring an official State of Local Emergency tomorrow and will hold an online Council meeting tomorrow morning to give the City the power to shut down businesses in contravention of orders, as well as to stop people from hoarding at stores. Police will have more flexibility to deploy their officers.

Development Services and Engineering Services

  • Staff will try to maintain inspections and reviews to the extent possible to keep re-zoning applications moving.

City of Victoria

They are holding a City Council meeting tomorrow where a member motion will be introduced around COVID-19.

  • The motion directs staff to examine all fiscal, legislative, and legal powers to support small businesses and jobs (including the visitor economy) during and after the pandemic to effect recovery with a report back on an urgent basis.


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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