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December 2, 2021

Your CFA Update on COVID-19

New Brunswick to raise minimum wage $2 next year — to $13.75

New Brunswick's minimum wage will increase by $2 in 2022 to correct an hourly rate.

A $1 increase will take effect in April, with another $1 increase in October, bringing the rate to $13.75. That is a 17 per cent increase over the current rate of $11.75. This increase represents the most significant jump in the rate since 1980 and gives New Brunswick the highest minimum wage in Atlantic Canada.

In 2019, the Minimum Wage Regulation was changed under the Employment Standards Act to index minimum wage increases to New Brunswick’s consumer price index. However, the provincial government determined a correction was necessary in order to boost the minimum wage to an appropriate level in a single year. In 2023, the minimum wage will resume being tied to consumer price index.

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Freeland to deliver fiscal update Dec. 14

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will release her fall economic and fiscal update on Dec. 14.

The announcement comes as inflation continues to plague the economic recovery in Canada and other developed countries, with the price of everything from food to energy rising at rates not seen in decades.

The Trudeau government is also in talks with the opposition parties to expedite Bill C-2, which was introduced last week in the Commons and would provide more than $7 billion in additional pandemic benefits. The NDP and the Conservatives insist they will not fast-track the legislation through the Commons and have called on the Liberals to swiftly reform parliamentary committees so that MPs can study the bill.

A motion was passed in the House of Commons earlier today that would see the Commons finance committee reconstituted to consider Bill C-2 no later than Monday, Dec. 6. The same vote also brought back the other committees of the House of Commons. As a part of the motion, Freeland is to appear before MPs during the consideration of Bill C-2 to make a statement and take questions from MPs for no less than two hours.

Alberta's economic rebound poised to continue in 2022

Alberta's oil-and-gas fuelled economic recovery shows signs of continuing into next year, according to a new forecast from RBC Economics.

The report released Thursday predicts that Alberta's economy will grow by 4.7 per cent in 2022 — behind only Saskatchewan's 5.6 per cent — after tying Quebec for top spot with 5.9 per cent growth in 2021. It forecasts an unemployment rate of 6.7 per cent in 2022 (down from 8.7 per cent this year) and falling to 5.3 per cent in 2023.

Earlier this week, Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews said the province's updated fiscal outlook predicts five times as much bitumen royalties to flow into provincial coffers compared with the budget forecast last February. He said that will drive down the forecast deficit this year to $5.8 billion — substantially lower than the projected $18.2-billion deficit for 2021-22.

The research firm says its optimistic forecast rests on several factors, including stronger drilling activity, new pipeline capacity and an expected uptick in capital expenditures in the energy sector — "though they will remain a fraction of what they were before oil prices crashed in mid-2014."

The report also predicts economic growth will be supported next year by improved labour market conditions, rising consumer confidence, strong household savings and more immigration that should boost consumer spending and housing sales. 

There are also signs of growing strength in Alberta's renewable energy sector, RBC says, noting 61 solar projects are underway and set to be operating by the mid-2020s.

The pandemic gutted Alberta's GDP to the tune of eight per cent in 2020, at a time when the province's finances had not yet fully recovered from the 2015-16 recession.

Securities regulator to establish national retail investor advisory panel

The Canadian Securities Administrators said Thursday it plans to establish an advisory panel to represent the interests of retail investors on Canada-wide policy issues.

The CSA said it wants the new group to bring more retail investor perspectives to regulation, as well as to improve dialogue between those investors and provincial regulators.

CSA Chair Louis Morisset said in a statement that retail investors have been asking for more structured and sustained engagement with regulators.

Currently retail investors provide feedback on proposed rules through comment letters or ad hoc engagement with CSA members.

The CSA, which is the umbrella organization of Canada's provincial and territorial securities regulators, says it is seeking comments on the proposed panel and will open the site to accept applications after the comment period ends on Feb. 1.

It says the panel will be composed of experts on retail investing from across the country with an aim for a diversity of backgrounds. The CSA expects to name members by the spring.

Ontario gave $210M in COVID aid to ineligible businesses

Ontario's auditor general has found that thousands of businesses received a total of more than $200 million in provincial COVID-19 supports that they weren't eligible for.

It's one of the findings in auditor general Bonnie Lysyk's annual report, which looked at pandemic support for businesses among a wide range of other topics.

Her audit found lack of good consultation, improper tracking of funds, and poorly designed eligibility criteria allowed ineligible businesses to receive the money.

The report says the Ontario Small Business Support Grant lacked controls to weed out ineligible applicants and $210 million went to14,500 ineligible recipients.

The audit also found that the program criteria excluded some hard-hit businesses and that some recipients received more money than they lost in revenue, to a total difference of $714 million.

Cargill, union reach tentative deal to avert meat plant strike in Alberta

Cargill Inc. reached a tentative deal with the union representing about 2,000 workers at one of Canada’s biggest beef plants, bringing the sides closer to averting a strike that threatens to disrupt the country’s meat supply.

The offer includes retroactive pay, signing bonuses and a 21 per cent wage increase over the life of the contract for union workers at Cargill’s beef processing plant in High River, Alberta, the company said Wednesday in an emailed statement. The agreement, negotiated as a Dec. 6 strike deadline loomed, needs to be approved by the workers in a vote scheduled from Thursday through Saturday.

The Cargill facility accounts for roughly 40 per cent of Canadian beef processing capacity, so any potential labor impasse could have disrupted the nation’s meat supply when beef prices are already soaring amid supply chain snags. The previous contract offer, which included a 19 per cent wage hike over the course of the five-year contract plus a one-time bonus of $1,200 (US$940), was rejected on Nov. 24 by the union members.

If ratified, the offer will be the best food processing contract in Canada. The tentative agreement includes retroactive pay up to $4,200 for many workers, and more than $8,000 worth of possible bonuses, the union said in a statement Wednesday.

Ontario Accelerating Booster Eligibility to Adults Aged 50+

Starting on Monday, December 13, 2021 at 8:00 a.m., individuals aged 50 and over will be eligible to schedule their booster dose appointment through the COVID-19 vaccination portal, by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre, through Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, select pharmacies and primary care settings. Appointments will be booked for approximately six months (168 days) after a second dose.

Beginning in January, Ontario will further expand eligibility for booster doses based on age and risk, with an interval of six to eight months from the second dose.

Expanding COVID-19 booster to all Albertans 18-plus 

Effective Dec. 2, eligible individuals can book appointments for third doses online with participating pharmacies by using the Alberta vaccine booking system. Albertans can also call 811, participating pharmacies or participating physicians’ offices. The first appointments will be available starting Dec. 6.

All other Albertans aged 18-plus will be notified when the next age group is able to book appointments. Additional age groups will be announced as quickly as possible.

U.S. to require all inbound foreign air passengers to get COVID test the day before

As early as Monday, Canadians and all other foreign visitors who travel to the U.S. by air will need to get a COVID-19 test no later than 24 hours before their departure.

"All inbound international travellers must test within one day of departure, regardless of their vaccination status or nationality," Biden said as he outlined the plan at the National Institutes of Health headquarters in Bethesda, just north of D.C.

"This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of protection and scientists continue to study the Omicron variant."

The plan also extends into March a rule requiring domestic and international passengers by air, rail and public transportation to wear a face mask, including inside airports, train stations and bus terminals.



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