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May 20, 2021

Your CFA Update on COVID-19

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BC LRB orders rehearing of the Sobeys/UFCWI common employer case

Yesterday, the BC Labour Relations Board threw out the September 2020 common employer declaration and ordered a rehearing of the matter.

CFA members may remember that back in September 2020, the BC Labour Relations Board issued a decision that declared Sobeys and several of its franchisees as a common employer under the BC Labour Relations Code. In the decision, the Labour Board used many of the common practices of franchising to reach its conclusion such as the existence of the Operating Manual, training, sub-leasing arrangements, and merchandising standards.

Sobeys appealed the decision. As part of that process the CFA applied for intervenor status in the case.

The ordering of a rehearing is good news for CFA members. We will continue to monitor this issue and we will continue fighting to protect the franchise business model and each of your businesses.

To read the BC LRB Decision

Canada's annual inflation rate rises at fastest pace since 2011

Statistics Canada says the consumer price index in April was up 3.4 per cent compared with a year ago, when prices plunged due to the pandemic. Year-over-year inflation rose at its fastest pace since May 2011, the agency said Wednesday.

Prices rose in every major component on a year-over-year basis — and slightly faster than economists predicted. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the annual rate to rise to 3.2 per cent in April. Gasoline prices in April were up 62.5 per cent on a year-over-year basis, the largest annual increase Statistics Canada has on record. Removing gasoline prices, Statistics Canada says annual inflation for April would have clocked in at 1.9 per cent.

Regionally, Statistics Canada says prices rose year-over-year in every province, but were generally higher in Atlantic Canada where furnace fuel oil, which has risen in price, is more often used.

Statistics Canada said the impact on the price index, which measures the change in prices on a variety of goods and services, should be temporary.

Last week, Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem warned about looming volatility in the headline inflation reading, adding that he didn't think a high reading in April would require immediate action by the central bank. "The other part is large parts of our economy remain very weak". "There are far too many Canadians unemployed, and that is putting downward pressure on inflation. So, yes, we expect it to go up to around three [per cent] and then diminish thereafter."

The inflation rate is the biggest factor that the Bank of Canada considers when setting its benchmark interest rate. The bank likes to see an inflation rate of between one and three per cent. Typically, the bank cuts its rate to stimulate the economy when the inflation rate is too low, and it raises its benchmark lending rate to cool things down when inflation is too high.

Derek Holt, vice-president of Capital Market Economics at Scotiabank, said the narrative that inflation is transitory as the economy recovers is "at risk." "If we can post numbers like this in lockdown with stay-at-home orders, just imagine what happens when the economy  reopens," he said. "This is an across-the-board surprise."

Benjamin Reitzes, BMO's director of Canadian rates, said high inflation likely won't persist until the economy fully reopens and unemployment rates drop but that it could rattle nerves if the trend outlasts the temporary effects. "Then you'll start to hear the volume pick up a little bit more about concern about more persistent inflation," he said. "Then what you're going to see are central banks really changing their tune — but we're not there yet."

Growing mortgage debt making Canada's economy vulnerable, central bank says

The Bank of Canada said on Thursday that high household indebtedness and imbalances in the housing market have intensified in the last year, leaving the economy more vulnerable to economic shocks. The remarks were the most expansive commentary the central bank has made about the risks posed by a hot housing market since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic early last year.

Canada's housing market boom and the corresponding rise in mortgage debt support economic growth in the short-term but also increase the risk to the economy and financial system over the medium-term, the central bank said in its annual review of financial systems.

Although consumer debt has fallen since early 2020, an increase in mortgage debt has more than offset that decline, with total household debt rising sharply since mid-2020.

"The vulnerability associated with elevated household indebtedness is significant and has increased over the past year," the bank said, adding the quality of new mortgage borrowing had deteriorated during the pandemic.

The share of newly issued mortgages with a loan-to-income ratio above 450 per cent rose substantially in the second half of 2020 and account for 22 per cent of all new mortgages. That is above the range seen in 2016-17, before Canada's financial regulator introduced mortgage stress tests intended to cut out risky lending.

"If house prices and household incomes were to fall in the future because of a shock to the economy, some households could need to cut back on spending. This would slow the economy and possibly put stress on the financial system," the bank said.

Canada's financial system had proven to be resilient thanks to a well-capitalized banking sector and strong support from governments and the bank, it noted. Other vulnerabilities are the mispricing of assets exposed to climate-related risks, cyber threats and fragile corporate debt funding from certain markets.

The CFA's 2021 Annual Accomplishments Report is available now

Focusing on each of the four pillars of the CFA’s strategic plan, this report outlines our Association accomplishments over the past year, including many exciting “firsts,” in the key areas of community, education, advocacy, and lead generation. Read it here! 

B.C. to announce details of economic recovery plan next week

The British Columbia government is poised to announce details of a provincial restart plan to support the post-pandemic economy. On Thursday, Ravi Kahlon, B.C.'s economic recovery minister, told the legislature that a restart announcement is set for Tuesday May 25.

Federal, provincial privacy watchdogs issue warning about vaccine passports

Canada's privacy commissioners are issuing a warning about vaccine passports, saying measures must be taken to ensure Canadians' personal information is protected. "While this may offer substantial public benefit, it is an encroachment on civil liberties that should be taken only after careful consideration," federal, provincial and territorial privacy commissioners and the ombudsperson's offices in Manitoba and New Brunswick said in a media statement today.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu told CBC News last week that her government is talking with G7 allies about implementing a vaccine passport that would allow Canadians to travel internationally again.

On May 13, Quebec started issuing downloadable QR codes that people can keep on their phones to prove they've been vaccinated, but it remains unclear how that digital proof of vaccination will be used. Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said the QR code, which supplements paper vaccination documents already being distributed, is not itself a vaccine passport but is a necessary first step toward implementing such a system.

The privacy commissioners say that if vaccination passports are issued in Canada, steps must be taken to ensure the highest level of privacy protection is maintained so that personal health information is not disclosed. "Vaccine passports must be developed and implemented in compliance with applicable privacy laws," the statement said.

The privacy commissioners say governments must ensure there is a legal basis to require proof of vaccination. Canadians travelling internationally, for example, may need to carry proof because destination countries require it. Vaccine passports, the commissioners said, should contain only the information required to prove vaccination and not additional health information that could be compromised. The commissioners also want independent oversight of any vaccine passport program and for Canadians to be told how their information is used and stored.

Businesses and governments that plan to require proof of vaccination, the commissioners said, will need to lay the groundwork for that requirement by introducing new laws or amending existing ones. 

Alberta unveils $370M jobs recovery plan

Alberta plans to spend up to $370 million in an effort to get more people working in a province hard hit by the pandemic and a prolonged downturn in oil and gas. Premier Jason Kenney announced the Alberta Jobs Now program on Wednesday, touting it as the largest jobs training program in the history of the province. The government says it will put more than 22,000 Albertans back to work by providing grants to companies and not-for-profits that hire unemployed or underemployed workers. 

Employers will be able to apply for grants that cover 25 per cent of an employee's salary for a 52-week period, up to a maximum of $25,000 per employee. Those who hire persons with disabilities will receive a grant that is 1.5 times higher. The grant can cover salary or training costs, according to the province, and applications must be submitted within the first 30 days of hiring a new employee. Employers will be paid a first instalment after 12 weeks of employment and a final payment after 52 weeks.

Alberta's unemployment rate in April was 9.0 per cent, according to Statistics Canada, down from a high last year of 15.8 per cent. Only Newfoundland and Labrador has a higher unemployment rate among the provinces. Alberta is tied with Ontario. 

Applications for the new grants open on May 20 and will be accepted until Aug. 31. A second application period will run between Sept. 15 and Dec. 31. Employers can apply for up to 20 new hires during each application period. 


Tighter restrictions coming to Manitoba for May long weekend 

Manitobans will face tighter restrictions as COVID-19 cases continue to climb, Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday morning.

Earlier today, Dr. Brent Roussin and Manitoba Health Minister Heather Stefanson announced new public health restrictions ahead of the May long weekend, as public health officials reported a record single-day COVID-19 case count and the local ICUs are near capacity.

People will only be allowed to gather outdoors with people they live with, regardless of circumstances. Only one person per household can enter a business to purchase essential items, though there are exceptions for people such as caregivers.

For more information click here

Ontario announces reopening framework

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced details on Thursday. Under the new plan, restrictions will be eased gradually though June, July and August based on vaccination rates and key public health and health-care indicators

The current stay-at-home order will remain in place until June 2, except for these newly announced changes to some outdoor activities. The three phases of the province's plan are: 

·         Phase 1: An initial focus on resuming outdoor activities with smaller crowds where the risk of transmission is lower. This includes allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, outdoor dining with up to four people per table and non-essential retail at 15 per cent capacity. 

·         Phase 2: Further expanding outdoor activities and resuming limited indoor services with small numbers of people. This includes outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people, outdoor sports and leagues, personal care services as well as indoor religious services, rites or ceremony gatherings at 15 per cent capacity. All indoor gatherings in this phase will require face coverings. 

·         Phase 3: Expanding access to indoor settings, with restrictions, including where there are large numbers of people and where face coverings can't always be worn. This includes indoor sports and recreational fitness, indoor dining, museums, art galleries, libraries, casinos and bingo halls, with capacity limits.

Phase 1 set to start week of June 13 

The province says it will remain in each step of its plan for at least 21 days to evaluate any impacts on key public health indicators. If at the end of the 21 days, the following vaccination thresholds have been met, along with positive trends in other key public health and health system indicators, then the province will move to the next step:

·         Step 1: 60 per cent of adults vaccinated with one dose.

·         Step 2: 70 per cent of adults vaccinated with one dose and 20 per cent vaccinated with two doses.

·         Step 3: 70 to 80 per cent of adults vaccinated with one dose and 25 per cent vaccinated with two doses.

Currently, 58.5 per cent of Ontarians aged 18 and over have been given first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In-person learning to remain closed for now.

NOTE: While the headline is about vaccination rates the details of the documents show that there are a number of other factors (infection rates, ICU capacity, etc.) which will be used to determine whether or not to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2.

For more information click here.

New Brunswick investigates making COVID vaccine mandatory for long-term care home workers

New Brunswick is seeking a legal opinion on whether it can make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for long-term care home employees and other health-care workers, says Premier Blaine Higgs.

The province is also considering identifying long-term care homes where an insufficient number of workers have received the vaccine, so families can decide if it's safe to put their loved ones there, he said.

Roughly 66 per cent of long-term care staff across the province have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to figures released by the government on Monday.

Nova Scotia students will not go back to school this year

Students in Nova Scotia will not return to their classrooms for the rest of the school year, the province said Wednesday as it announced 83 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths. Premier Iain Rankin told a briefing that children and teachers will continue online learning for the rest of the school year, and current lockdown restrictions in the province will last at least until June 9.

Which Tax Forms Do You Think Should Be Eliminated or Digitized by the CRA?

Through outreach with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and political offices, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has been asked to suggest ideas for tax reform.

Please provide your input on specific suggestions for tax forms to be digitized, consolidated or eliminated through our Tax Form Buster.

What do you think?

Business Recovery Summits On-Demand Videos Now Available for Purchase!

Session recordings from the Business Recovery Summit Series are now available for purchase! Choose from the Franchisee Recovery Summit, Franchise Recruitment Summit, Operations & Franchisee Support Summit, and Franchise Marketing Summit! View On-Demand Library

Purchase Access to On-Demand Videos Now!


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COVID-19's impact on the world is creating waves across all sectors and industries.

Every member of the CFA community is dealing with an issue that is affecting the world, our industries, our communities, our businesses, and our people.

We would like to hear from you if you have any topics, issues or questions to navigate turbulent times in order to support you further: 


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