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January 4, 2022

Your CFA Update on COVID-19

Ontario moving back to modified stage 2 at midnight tonight

The Ontario government is temporarily moving the province into Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen with modifications that take into account the province’s successful vaccination efforts. 

The modified version of Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen effective Wednesday, January 5, 2022 at 12:01 a.m. for at least 21 days (until January 26, 2022), subject to trends in public health and health system indicators.

These measures include:

  • Reducing social gathering limits to five people indoors and 10 people outdoors.
  • Limiting capacity at organized public events to five people indoors.
  • Requiring businesses and organizations to ensure employees work remotely unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site.
  • Limiting capacity at indoor weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites and ceremonies to 50 per cent capacity of the particular room. Outdoor services are limited to the number of people that can maintain 2 metres of physical distance. Social gatherings associated with these services must adhere to the social gathering limits.
  • Retail settings, including shopping malls, permitted at 50 per cent capacity. For shopping malls physical distancing will be required in line-ups, loitering will not be permitted and food courts will be required to close.
  • Personal care services permitted at 50 per cent capacity and other restrictions. Saunas, steam rooms, and oxygen bars closed.
  • Closing indoor meeting and event spaces with limited exceptions but permitting outdoor spaces to remain open with restrictions.
  • Closing indoor dining at restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments. Outdoor dining with restrictions, takeout, drive through and delivery is permitted.
  • Restricting the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. and the consumption of alcohol on-premise in businesses or settings after 11 p.m. with delivery and takeout, grocery/convenience stores and other liquor stores exempted.
  • Closing indoor concert venues, theatres, cinemas, rehearsals and recorded performances permitted with restrictions.
  • Closing indoor sport and recreational fitness facilities including gyms, except for athletes training for the Olympics and Paralympics and select professional and elite amateur sport leagues. Outdoor facilities are permitted to operate but with the number of spectators not to exceed 50 per cent occupancy and other requirements.
  • All publicly funded and private schools will move to remote learning starting January 5 until at least January 17, subject to public health trends and operational considerations.
  • School buildings would be permitted to open for child care operations, including emergency child care, to provide in-person instruction for students with special education needs who cannot be accommodated remotely and for staff who are unable to deliver quality instruction from home.
  • During this period of remote learning, free emergency child care will be provided for school-aged children of health care and other eligible frontline workers.

Please view the regulation for the full list of mandatory public health and workplace safety measures.

A full list of measures can be found in the news release.

New Ontario business supports

Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program this month. Finance confirmed yesterday with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that they are working to roll out the program as soon as possible.  

Eligible businesses that are required to close or reduce capacity will receive rebate payments for a portion of the property tax and energy costs incurred while subject to these measures through the program. The program will provide businesses required to reduce capacity to 50 per cent a rebate of 50 per cent of their costs, and businesses required to close for indoor activities a rebate of 100 per cent of their costs. 

Applications for the program are anticipated to open mid-January 2022, alongside a list of eligible businesses. 

The government is also providing another six-month interest- and penalty-free period for most provincially administered taxes, including the Employer Health Tax, Beer, Wine, and Spirits Tax, Tobacco Tax, Fuel Tax, and Gas Tax.  

New BC Closure Relief Grant

British Columbia businesses that were mandated to temporarily shut down through public health orders because of surging COVID-19 cases will be eligible to receive a new one-time relief grant of up to $10,000.

The COVID-19 Closure Relief Grant will supplement federal support programs and provide funding to help affected businesses alleviate some financial pressures and help with expenses including rent, employee wages, insurance, maintenance and utilities.

The grant was fast-tracked by the Province following new restrictions announced by the provincial health officer on Dec. 21, 2021, and will cost an estimated $10 million.

Businesses ordered fully closed include:

  • gyms, fitness and adult dance centres
  • bars, lounges and nightclubs
  • event venues that can no longer hold events

Relief grants of between $1,000 and $10,000 will be provided to eligible businesses based on their number of employees, following the similar formula to the previous Circuit Breaker Relief Grant that supported businesses in the spring of 2021.  (see backgrounder).

Applications for the grant will begin in January 2022. More information on how to apply will be made available over the next few weeks, with the application process open until the end of February 2022. Business advisors will be able to support and direct applicants through a dedicated call centre that will be set up in early January by the Province and Small Business BC. Businesses will also be able to email questions to: covid@smallbusinessbc.ca

The provincial COVID-19 Closure Relief Grant program is in addition to the federal government’s expansion of its Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit and the Local Lockdown Program for workers and employers across the country who are affected by new capacity restrictions and closures.

For more information on the business relief grant, including the application process and eligibility, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/business-relief

BC suggests businesses need plans for staying open as staff get sick

Health officials say the Omicron variant now accounts for the vast majority of cases of COVID-19 in B.C., as the sheer number of people off sick could affect business' ability to operate normally in coming weeks.

The sheer rate of transmission also means most people in B.C. likely know or will soon know someone who has COVID-19, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday during a news conference.

"At this point, most people in B.C. likely have a friend or family member or a colleague who has been infected with the Omicron variant. Our challenge across the board in the next few weeks will be dealing with people who are away from work or school because they're sick."

Henry did not announce any new public health orders during the conference Tuesday, but said businesses need to be planning how they will stay open when staff are isolating.

Ontario minimum wage increase came into effect on January 1

On January 1, 2022, Ontario’s minimum wage rates under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 increased.

The general minimum wage rate increased to $15.00 an hour and the other different minimum wage rates increased proportionately.

In addition, the special minimum wage rate that previously applied to certain liquor servers was eliminated. 

For more information, visit Ontario.ca/minimumwage.

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WestJet to cancel 15% of flights due to staff shortages 

WestJet Airlines Ltd. is dealing with so many employees out sick with the Omicron variant that it is being forced to cut 15 per cent of its scheduled flights through to the end of January.

WestJet spokeswoman Morgan Bell confirmed via email that the airline has seen a 35 per cent rise in active COVID-19 cases among staff in recent days, with 181 employees currently testing positive for virus.

In a statement Thursday, WestJet's interim chief executive Harry Taylor said the airline has seen a significant increase in delays and cancellations impacting its business over the past 72 hours.

As a result of the staff shortages, WestJet will remove about 15 per cent of flights from its schedule through Jan. 31. Prior to the cuts, which will be implemented over the next few days, the airline has been operating 450 flights per day.

New legislation, tax increases ring in the new year

CPP

  • Contributions to the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance are going up.
  • The maximum employer and employee contributions for CPP will be $3,499 each in 2022, an increase from $3,166 this year. 

EI premiums

  • Employment Insurance premiums are going up after a two-year freeze. Premiums are set to rise from $1.58 per $100 of insurable earnings to $1.83 by 2027.

Carbon tax

  • The tax is increasing from $40 per tonne to $50 per tonne. The carbon tax was set at $20 per tonne on Jan. 1, 2019, and will see $10-per-tonne increases for the following three years. It will increase by $15 per tonne beginning in 2023.

Ban on single-use plastics

End to fossil fuel financing

Changes to carbon tax refunds

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Milk container refund

  • In February, containers for milk and milk alternatives are joining B.C.’s list of products eligible for a refund, similar to cans and bottles. The province estimates the program will help it recycle 40 million more containers each year.

Paid sick leave

ALBERTA

Day care prices to drop

New area code

  • Alberta will welcome its fifth area code, 368, on April 23. The new code will only be issued once the province runs out of numbers on the existing area codes and will not affect existing phone users. 

SASKATCHEWAN

Mandatory smoke detectors

  • Beginning on July 1, all residential buildings in Saskatchewan will be required to have both a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. The law includes buildings with regular sleeping quarters, such as houses, condos, apartments, townhouses, duplexes, motels and care facilities. Before this law was introduced, buildings built since 1988 were required to have a fire alarm and buildings built since 2009 were required to have a carbon monoxide detector.

MANITOBA

Changes to investigations of human rights complaints

  • Beginning on Jan. 1, Manitoba is implementing changes to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission (MHRC)to allow the department to respond to human rights complaints sooner. The changes allow the commission’s executive director to dismiss complaints and to decline an investigation into some complaints, as well as setting time limits on hearings and decisions. Under the current system, it can take up to six years for a human rights complaint to be resolved in Manitoba.

ONTARIO

Minimum wage increase

Residential rent freeze ends

  • Ontario’s rent freeze, a measure meant to help residents during the pandemic, is also slated to end on Jan. 1. The provincial government has set an increase guideline of 1.2 per cent for 2022.

QUEBEC

Changes to the Quebec curriculum

  • Beginning in the 2022 school year, classrooms in Quebec will begin teaching "Culture and Citizenship in Quebec"instead of the Ethics and Religious Culture program. The new program focuses on three main aspects: "culture," "citizenship in Quebec," and "dialogue and critical thinking." The program will be under a pilot program in 2022, before being taught province wide in 2023.

NEW BRUNSWICK

Changes to address youth vaping

  • New Brunswick is requiring all vape shops to purchase a $100 licenceas of Jan. 4, though it will not be enforced until April 1. The province says the licences will allow for business inspections, will increase accountability and would allow for communication in case of a recall.

Proposed animal protection measures

  • Though only proposed, New Brunswick is also planning to implement additional animal protection measures on Jan. 1. The new measures include requiring all dog and cat sellers to provide a valid certificate of health to purchasers, improved tethering standards and adding two new standards for animal care: the NBSPCA Code of Practice for the Care of Dogs and the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Rabbits.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Minimum wage increase

  • Effective April 1, Prince Edward Island’s minimum wage is increasing to $13.70 per hour. The 70-cent increase gives P.E.I. the highest minimum wage in Atlantic Canada.

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

Soft drink tax

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES

Increased training for new truck drivers

  • Introduced a new mandatory entry-level training program to receive their Class 1 licence, beginning in January. Before, new truck drivers would only need to pass a practical and theoretical exam to receive the certification.

YUKON

Ban on single-use plastic bags

  • Beginning on Jan. 1, single-use plastic shopping bags are banned in Yukon as part of “initial steps towards a broader ban of single-use plastics in the Yukon and reflect feedback received following engagement with Yukoners and Yukon businesses,” according to a news release from the territory. The territory is also planning a ban on single-use paper bags for Jan. 1, 2023.

NUNAVUT

New holiday

  • Nunavut did not recognize Sept. 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, but it will be a territorial statutory holiday in 2022. In mid-September, the territorial government said it did not have enough time this year to formally recognize the holiday, but would be ready to do so in 2022.

Manitoba moves to remote learning for most students until Jan. 17

Manitoba is shifting to one week of remote learning after the extended holiday break to give school divisions time to address expected staffing shortages and develop plans to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Premier Heather Stefanson announced on Tuesday.

The province had already delayed the return to school after the winter break by a few days, until Jan. 10, to assess the impact of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Classes will resume next Monday, with most students in remote learning until Jan. 17.

Kindergarten to Grade 6 students who are children of critical service workers, as well as some K-12 students with disabilities, will be able to attend school in person if no alternative care is available.

TFSA contribution limit to expand by another $6,000 in 2022

Ottawa has put another $6,000 in tax-free savings account (TFSA) contribution space under the tree this year. That means starting Jan. 1, those who have already contributed the maximum allowable amount to their TFSAs can kick in up to $6,000 more to invest in just about anything, with zero tax implications. 

Annual TFSA limit amounts are at the discretion of the government of the day; but what government would want to tamper with an investment vehicle that has become wildly popular with average investors? Over 15 million Canadians have at least one TFSA to save for retirement, education, vacations, or even speculative day trading. Since its inception, the total value of TFSA holdings in Canada has topped $350 billion.

 

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