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October 12, 2021

Your CFA Update on COVID-19

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Alberta announces supports for businesses trying to enforce COVID-19 restrictions

The Alberta government has announced new supports for businesses to help them implement and enforce COVID-19 measures including the province's version of a vaccination passport. 

The measures, introduced Thursday by Premier Jason Kenney, include a one-time, $2,000 implementation grant for small- and medium-sized businesses using Alberta's restriction exemption program; a $1-million fund to support training to ensure employee safety; and a doubling of fines, from $2,000 to $4,000, for individuals who mistreat public-facing workers trying to enforce it.

Click here for more information on the Alberta support programs for business

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Canadians want BoC to keep 2% inflation target

Most Canadians don’t want to give the Bank of Canada the flexibility to raise its 2 per cent inflation target, a new poll finds as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government nears a decision on the central bank’s mandate. 

About 56 per cent of Canadians are uncomfortable with adjusting the bank’s mandate, according to the poll, conducted by Nanos Research Group for Bloomberg News. Only a third said they were comfortable with the idea.

Major central banks are grappling with how hot they should let their economies run as they begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Annual consumer price gains in Canada hit 4.1 per cent in August, the highest since 2003, but policy makers led by Governor Tiff Macklem argue the surge is temporary.

The U.S. Federal Reserve last year gave itself leeway to tolerate periods of inflation above its 2 per cent target. It adopted a policy, “flexible average inflation targeting,” with the explicit goal of having inflation run moderately above 2 per cent for a time to make up for periods below that level.

Every five years, the Bank of Canada and the federal government negotiate the monetary policy framework, a process that must be completed by the end of 2021. The bank’s current mandate targets inflation of 2 per cent, within a control range of 1 per cent to 3 per cent -- but it’s been above the upper end of that range for five consecutive months. 

Signing off on the bank’s new mandate is one of the first item’s on Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s desk after Trudeau’s government won re-election on Sept. 20. Rising prices became a key issue during the campaign, in which the prime minister’s incumbent Liberals were held to minority control of the legislature. 

The timing of the mandate renewal poses challenges to Bank of Canada officials, who are winding down emergency monetary stimulus while also facing headwinds from supply-side disruptions that threaten to curb growth. Macklem said at a press conference last week that there are “good reasons” to believe increasing price pressures will be short-lived.

The central bank will have to decide whether to tolerate the recent high inflation readings or tighten monetary policy sooner and risk slowing down growth. Markets have priced in two rate hikes from the Bank of Canada in the next year. Most economists expect the first one in the second half of 2022.

The latest Nanos survey echoes findings by a Bank of Canada report earlier this year, which indicated that most Canadians preferred the current 2 per cent inflation-targeting framework over alternatives. The bank has studied several options including moving toward a dual mandate that considers labor market metrics or average-inflation targeting in addition to inflation. 

The Fed, unlike the Bank of Canada, already has a second mandate to promote maximum sustainable employment. A Bank of Canada move toward inflation averaging would resemble the Fed’s move last year.

Nanos Research conducted the survey of more than 1,000 people from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 via telephone and online polling. It is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points.

Canada returns to pre-pandemic employment levels

Canada has recovered all of the roughly three million jobs lost to COVID-19. The country’s economy added 157,100 jobs in September, returning the labor market to pre-pandemic levels, Statistics Canada said Friday in Ottawa. That compares with economists’ expectation of 60,000 new jobs, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

The unemployment rate fell to 6.9 per cent from 7.1 per cent in August. Hours worked were up 1.1 per cent in the month but remain 1.5 per cent below their pre-pandemic level. 

The robust numbers are a welcome sign for the nation’s economy. They suggest that companies are willing and able to hire workers as virus restrictions ease and as high vaccination rates boost optimism among consumers and businesses. 

They will also bolster predictions by Bank of Canada officials that the economy will post a strong rebound after contracting earlier this year during a third wave of COVID and business restrictions. 

The strong report also reinforces the expectation that the central bank will taper its weekly purchases of Canadian government bonds to $1 billion (US$799 million) later this month from the current pace of $2 billion, effectively halting the expansion of its balance sheet. 

Also on Friday, the U.S. posted weaker-than-expected jobs numbers, with employment rising by 194,000 or less than half of what economists had forecast. That complicates a potential decision by the Federal Reserve to begin scaling back monetary support before the end of the year.

Canada’s job gains were driven entirely by full-time workers while part-time employment fell slightly. The increases were led by the public administration, information culture and recreation sectors. Around 139,000 people entered the labor force in September, bringing the participation rate to 65.5 per cent, also the highest since before the pandemic.

 

Canadian Chamber of Commerce: We can’t afford to sweep long-term unemployment numbers under the rug

“It’s important to celebrate the encouraging gains we are seeing in employment numbers over the past month, yet we also cannot afford to sweep under the rug those numbers we know point to a drag on our economic growth – long-term unemployment. Our long-term unemployment numbers are still nearly double what they were pre-pandemic. That means that, in the midst of a mass labour shortage, 27.3% of unemployed Canadians are unaccounted for. Where did they go?

We can speculate all day, but the fact is, we currently have no data to tell us why nearly 400,000 Canadians haven’t been able to rejoin the workforce after 27 weeks or more. Is it a skills issue? Compensation? Life re-evaluation? This is critical information that we need to find out if we are to come up with effective, evidence-based policy solutions. Canadians want to work, most are not unemployed by choice, so we need to dig down and find out exactly what’s holding them back so we can make evidence-based decisions. Our full economic recovery depends on it.”

RBC launches Black Entrepreneur Business Loan (BEBL)

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) launches Black Entrepreneur Business Loan (BEBL) that provides eligible Black entrepreneurs in Canada with loans of up to $250,000.

The RBC Black Entrepreneur Business Loan is part of a five-year, $100 million RBC Black Entrepreneur Program. The overarching Program that this new loan offering is a part of focuses on three key pillars to help Black entrepreneurs successfully start, manage and grow their business: enabling access to capital; providing access to a network of experts, mentors and business resources; and bringing together community leaders to recognize and advance the growth of Black-owned businesses.

Click here to learn more about the program.

Ontario Lifting Capacity Limits in Select Settings

On October 9, Ontario began lifting capacity limits in select indoor and outdoor settings where proof of vaccination is required, as well as certain outdoor settings that have a capacity below 20,000. Effective Saturday, October 9, 2021, at 12:01 a.m., capacity limits will be lifted to allow 100 per cent capacity in the following settings:

  • Concert venues, theatres and cinemas;
  • Spectator areas of facilities for sports and recreational fitness (would not include gyms, personal training);
  • Meeting and event spaces (indoor meeting and event spaces will still need to limit capacity to the number that can maintain physical distancing);
  • Horseracing tracks, car racing tracks, and other similar venues; and
  • Commercial film and television productions with studio audiences.

To date there has been a limited number of outbreaks in these settings. Other public health and workplace safety measures continue to remain in effect for these settings. This can include wearing face coverings, screening and the collecting of patron information to support contact tracing. In settings where capacity limits have been lifted, the requirement for individuals to maintain two metres of physical distancing are being removed, with limited exceptions. In addition, proof of vaccination will continue to be required in outdoor settings where the normal maximum capacity is 20,000 people or more to help keep these venues safe for patrons.

Since the proof of vaccination requirement went into effect, the province has reached two key milestones in its COVID-19 response, with more than 86.8 per cent of individuals aged 12 and over vaccinated with at least a first dose and more than 81.9 per cent with two doses. The majority of new cases continue to be among the unvaccinated.

Click here for more information

B.C.'s indoor mask mandate now includes children aged 5 and up

Children aged five and older are now included in the public health order mandating masks for indoor public spaces in B.C., the province confirmed Tuesday.

The change was made for consistency's sake — B.C.'s provincewide mask mandate is now more aligned with new school masking rules in place for kids in kindergarten to Grade 3. 

Previously, the mask rule for indoor public spaces only applied to children aged 12 and older.

Vaccine mandate now in place for B.C. workers in long-term care, assisted living

All long-term care and assisted-living employees in British Columbia now need to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced last week that all workers in those facilities must have a first dose by Oct. 12 and a second dose within 35 days of the first, or they will have to take a mandatory leave of absence without pay. 

Those who have received one dose will have to undergo rapid testing daily.

Starting Oct. 12, visitors to long-term care homes will also have to show their vaccine card. On Oct. 26, all health-care workers in B.C. and visitors to acute care facilities must also show proof of vaccine, with certain exceptions for palliative and end-of-life care. 

Quebec health minister won't budge on Friday's vaccine deadline for health-care workers

As of Friday, health-care workers in Quebec who are not fully vaccinated will be suspended without pay. Dubé also said that being suspended would affect people's benefits, seniority, vacation pay and pension plans.

Asked if he's considered moving Friday's deadline in light of an ongoing labour shortage in the health sector, Dubé didn't hesitate… "No change," he said.

Several professional orders representing health-care workers, including the province's orders of nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, licensed practical nurses and the college of physicians, have said they will suspend the licences of members who aren't adequately vaccinated against COVID-19 by Friday.

Quebec premier to prorogue legislature, with new session starting Oct. 19

Quebec Premier François Legault says he will prorogue the province's legislature and a new session will begin Oct. 19.

Legault made the announced Thursday afternoon in a news release, but the decision must be approved by his cabinet and it won't be official until it is proclaimed by the lieutenant-governor.

The premier says it's time to begin planning for what's to come after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new session will begin with an inaugural speech, which will outline the government's priorities for the final months of its current mandate. A provincial election must take place on or before Oct. 3, 2022.

Prorogation ends work on all bills before the legislature, though the government can bring back legislation it considers essential and pick up where it left off.

The premier's office confirmed that Bill 96, the reform of the province's Charter of the French language, would be among the bills revived in a new session.

Nova Scotia Throne speech focuses on health-care 

New NS Premier Tim Houston's government dedicated its first throne speech to talking mostly about health care in Nova Scotia, but it was the near absence of anything related to housing that caught the attention of opposition members.

The document, read by Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc, talked about improving access to care, building more long-term care beds, increasing mental health supports and the Tories' plan to tackle a system plagued by staff shortages and long wait times.

The Houston Tories campaigned on a plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to try to improve the system. Houston and Health Minister Michelle Thompson recently conducted a listening tour to hear directly from health-care workers. The speech referred to that tour, as well as recent announcements of pairing people without a family doctor with access to virtual care, and an expanded patient-transfer program intended to free up paramedics and ambulances for emergencies.

Click here to read more about the NS Throne Speech

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