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December 16, 2021

Your CFA Update on COVID-19

Feds advise against non-essential international travel 

The federal government is once again warning Canadians against non-essential travel abroad as the Omicron variant continues to quickly spread worldwide.

Officials announced Wednesday that Canadians, regardless of their vaccination status, should avoid non-essential international travel as the country, and world, see a rise in Omicron COVID-19 infections.

If you must travel, the government advises travellers to check Canada’s entry requirements and to pay close attention to the COVID-19 situation at both home and abroad.

You should also check with your insurance provider to ensure you have coverage if you must travel outside of Canada given the federal governments advice.

Click here for more information

Canada Summer Jobs 2022: Application period for employers begins today

On December 16 the federal government announced the launch of the employer application period for the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) 2022 program. CSJ is a long-standing Government of Canada program that strives to help youth (15–30 years of age) obtain their first summer work experience. The program provides opportunities for youth to develop and improve their skills within the not-for-profit, small business and public sectors, and supports the delivery of key community services. 

This year, CSJ 2022 is targeting the creation of up to 100,000 full-time summer job opportunities for young people. This represents a 40% increase from pre-pandemic targets. Not-for-profit organizations, public sector employers, and private sector employers with 50 or fewer full-time employees can apply for funding now until January 25, 2022, to hire young Canadians next summer. Full-time job placements will take place during the summer of 2022. 

Employers interested in applying for CSJ 2022 funding can submit their applications electronically via either the online fillable application or the Grants and Contributions Online Service. The online fillable application is the fastest way for employers to complete an application online without having to create an account.

Ontario Cutting Wholesale Alcohol Prices to Support Restaurants and Bars

The Ontario government is cutting the LCBO wholesale prices for bars and restaurants, enabling curbside pickup of beer, wine and cider from licensed grocery stores, and freezing the basic beer tax rate.

The new LCBO wholesale prices for businesses with a licence to operate a liquor consumption premises from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission will come into effect on January 1, 2022.

This price cut will be achieved by increasing the discount on liquor consumption premise licensees’ alcohol purchases from the LCBO to 10 per cent* and eliminating the 6 per cent mark-up on cider, wine and spirits. When combined with HST recovery and container deposit fees, these licensees will effectively pay 20 per cent less than retail prices for alcohol purchased wholesale from the LCBO. *The 10 per cent discount will not apply to kegs of beer or cider.

The beer basic tax rates are prescribed amounts of tax added to beer sold in Ontario. The rates adjust annually based on the Consumer Price Index. The government has frozen the beer tax rates until March 1, 2023. This is the third year in a row the government has frozen these rates. Similarly, LCBO beer mark-ups will not increase until March 1, 2023.

Prior to the modernized legal framework, which came into force November 29, 2021, Ontario’s liquor legislation had not been comprehensively updated in over 40 years. In 2018, the government announced a comprehensive review of the beverage alcohol sector, including modernizing the rules for the retail and consumption of beverage alcohol.

Canadian Inflation Holds Steady at 18-year High of 4.7% in November 

Businesses are struggling with surging input costs, labour shortages, supply chain disruptions and renewed uncertainty due to the latest rise in COVID cases. In the near-term, profitability will be squeezed, and if businesses pass these cost increases onto their consumers, this will prolong the pressures on (expected) inflation and wage demands. For small businesses carrying elevated debt from lockdowns, the higher interest rates ahead will make it harder to service their debt.

Key takeaways from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce

BOE shocks with first rate hike since crisis to combat inflation

The Bank of England unexpectedly raised interest rates for the first time in three years, setting aside concerns over a surge in coronavirus infections to tackle the highest inflation in more than a decade.

The first major central bank to hike its benchmark since the pandemic began opted to lift borrowing costs by 15 basis points to 0.25 per cent, delivering an increase that no other Group of Seven central bank has made since the start of the crisis.

The market reacted with the pound rallying 0.8 per cent while U.K. 10-year yields jumped 5 basis points after the decision. Traders now see the BOE’s key rate rising to 1 per cent by September. The FTSE 100 stock index pared gains.

“Another hike in February of 25 basis points is well in the cards,” said Fabrice Montagne, chief U.K. economist at Barclays. “If delivered, the MPC would also be in a position to start running down its balance sheet with bonds starting to mature out of its portfolio in early March.” 

Central bankers around the world are watch the market reaction as they figure out when to implement their rate increases.

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Ontario implementing capacity limits for theatres, museums

Ontario announced Wednesday that it would be tightening capacity limits to 50 per cent for indoor venues that would normally hold 1,000 people or more. 

Those venues include:

  • Entertainment facilities.
  • Meeting and event spaces.
  • Sports venues.
  • Theatres
  • Museums
  • Galleries
  • Casinos
  • Bingo halls.

The restrictions come into effect Saturday December 18 at 12:01 a.m. ET.

Asked if new limits could be coming for restaurants and bars, Ford said that "everything is on the table" but that "locking ourselves down to get out of this isn't the solution." 

Wednesday's announcement did not include any new restrictions for private gatherings or for retail establishments, such as malls. 

Quebec government limits gatherings, delays high school reopening

The Quebec government is re-tightening public health measures while delaying the start of high school to Jan. 10 across the province.

Masks will be again required in primary and high school classrooms and buses.

Premier Legault said the province does not want to close schools, so primary schools will reopen after the New Year at the regular date. High schools will be remote learning until Jan. 10.

Private gatherings will be reduced to 10 people inside, 20 outside and it is recommended that people use rapid testing kits before gathering.

The measures also include:

  • Stores can have one client per 20 square metres.
  • Places of worship will reduce capacity by 50 per cent, with a cap of 250 people. Vaccine passports will be required and people must be seated.
  • Funerals and weddings can have up to 25 people without requiring vaccine passports but up to 250 people with passports.
  • Working from home is strongly recommended.
  • At work, two metres of distance must be maintained, masks worn at all times, and there will be increased monitoring for at-risk places.
  • For public activities, capacity is lowered by 50 per cent to a maximum of 250 people. People must stay seated and wear a mask at all times.
  • Bars and restaurants must cut capacity by 50 per cent, spacing tables as much as possible, with a maximum of 10 people at tables.
  • Dancing and karaoke are banned once again.
  • Cinemas and theatres will also have capacity reduced by 50 per cent.
  • All tournaments and competitions suspended as of Monday, with reduced capacity of gyms and other indoor training facilities.

Booster Doses for Quebecers

As of Monday, Quebecers who are 65 and over will be able to make an appointment for a booster shot, Health Minister Christian Dubé said. People with certain health conditions 60 and up will also be able to make appointments, he said.

Starting December 27, all people 60 and up will be able to make an appointment. From there, the aim is to begin offering the rest of the population booster shots in the New Year.

Ontario opens up booster shots for 18 and up starting Monday

Ontario announced Wednesday that it's accelerating its COVID-19 booster shot rollout over fears around the Omicron variant, with everyone 18 or older eligible to book their third vaccine dose starting Monday.

The province is also shortening the interval required to wait before getting a booster from six months to three months after a second dose and is launching a holiday testing blitz with free rapid antigen tests available as of Wednesday at pop-up sites, including malls and libraries, as well as some LCBO stores.  

Click here for more details

Book an appointment online

N.B. tightens restrictions

Earlier this week, Premier Blaine Higgs announced new "interim measures" aimed at containing the spread of the virus and preventing hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

"I know that people are concerned, as am I," he said. "The holiday season is here and with more people gathering and socializing, it is vital that we work together to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our province, as we have done before, while still finding a balance of living with COVID."

The holiday break for students in kindergarten to Grade 6 will begin at the end of the day Friday, a week early, he said, noting "the majority" of cases are in children, and 50 to 60 per cent are related directly to activity in schools.

Extending the school break to three weeks will help reduce transmissions as health officials "get caught up" with vaccinations for this age group and will limit the number of children in a cluster when exposures occur said Higgs.

Click here for more information

Alberta’s actions to deal with Omicron

Expanding rapid testing

Alberta’s rapid testing program is expanding to allow all Albertans to have access to free rapid tests. Test kits of five individual tests will be available at select Alberta Health Services sites and select pharmacies starting Dec. 17. More than 500,000 rapid antigen test kits will initially be available for at-home use. Rapid test kits will also be made available at more schools and for vulnerable populations.

Expanding vaccine boosters

As of Dec. 15, Albertans aged 50 and older and all health-care workers who had their second dose six months ago or longer can book a third dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine to increase their protection against the virus. This will make up to 700,000 more Albertans eligible to book boosters.

Ramping up health system capacity

Alberta Health is working with Alberta Health Services on planning to restore intensive care unit surge capacity if Omicron begins to put pressure on the health-care system. Alberta Health is also reviewing policies for health-care worker exposure, infection prevention and control, and visitors to acute/continuing care sites.

Clarifying health measures

Albertans are being asked to observe public health measures over the holidays around social gatherings, masking and personal practices. Indoor social gatherings will remain limited to 10 people. This applies to Albertans aged 18 and over, with no limits on those under 18.

How does Omicron spread so fast? Virus may now be multiplying 70 times quicker in airways

Hong Kong study offers clues on transmission but questions remain over disease severity, symptom presentation.

Final COVID Update for 2021

Barring any unforeseen events this will be the last CFA COVID Update for 2021.

This year the CFA has sent out 102 CFA COVID Updates which we hope you have found helpful is keeping track of what is happening with COVID and government programs across Canada.

We look forward to bringing you more great content in 2022.

Stay safe!


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