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June 1, 2021

Your CFA Update on COVID-19

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BC Minimum Wage increases to $15.20

Minimum wage workers in B.C. will get a boost Tuesday (June 1) as their wages rise to $15.20 an hour.

The increase will push B.C.’s wage up by forty cents and hour from $14.60 and surpass Alberta, which had the highest minimum wage of $15.

The move satisfies a promise made by the NDP during their 2017 election campaign, where the party pledged to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2021. According to the B.C. government, 400,000 people – largely women, youth and immigrants – will benefit from the uptick.

The lower minimum wage for liquor servers is increasing from $13.95 an hour to the standard of $15.20.

This increase was announced several months ago but came into force on June 1.

Debt Is a Major Hurdle to Growth – Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSBC) 

Late last week, Statistics Canada released data from the CSBC indicating that business investment will play a big role in how Canada’s economy emerges from the pandemic. Canada’s rate of business investment has consistently been among the lowest in the OECD.

Last quarter, Statistics Canada’s CSBC found 40% of Canadian businesses could not take on additional debt and 26% of Canadian businesses were unsure about their ability to take on additional debt. The data shows that lack of confidence, uncertainty in future sales, cash flow and expectations of being turned down are the three biggest barriers to businesses for fueling business investment when the economy reopens.

To counter the debt load hurdle and unlock business investment for growth, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce recommends the following:

1. Reopening the economy and avoiding further lockdowns by leveraging public health infrastructure, such as vaccines and rapid tests. Simply put, opening leads to growth, consumer spending and business confidence in future sales. Jurisdictions that leveraged public health infrastructure to remain more open, such as Australia, are showing good performance in the areas of consumer spending and business confidence. 

2. Being more ambitious in fixing Canada’s costly and burdensome regulatory environment. According to Statistics Canada’s Survey of Regulatory Compliance Costs, 2 times the number of businesses said the amount and complexity of mandatory government paperwork had increased versus stayed the same last decade. Improving Canada’s regulatory environment would reduce business costs, support cash flow and unlock new productive investments. 

3. Addressing Canada’s uncompetitive tax rates on capital. For instance, while the recent federal budget moves forward with accelerating capital cost allowance (CCA) deductions for Canadian-controlled private corporations on a temporary basis, the measure should be extended to publicly traded firms, as is typical under the CCA system. 

Restaurants and gyms allowed to open again in Montreal, Laval starting June 7

Premier François Legault announced Tuesday that Gyms will be allowed to open and restaurants will be allowed to serve diners inside in Montreal and Laval starting June 7.

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Ontario's stay-at-home order to expire June 2 – most COVID-19 restrictions to remain in place

Ontario’s Stay-at-Home order will expire on June 2, 2021. When it does, all other public health and workplace measures will remain in place provincewide until Ontario enters Step One of the Roadmap to Reopen, at which point some restrictions will ease with an initial focus on outdoor settings.

The restrictions include limiting outdoor gatherings to up to five people, limiting essential retail capacity to 25 per cent, restricting non-essential retail to curbside pick-up and delivery only, limiting short-term rentals to those who need housing only and limiting Ontario Parks and public campgrounds to day-use only. Indoor gatherings remain prohibited. 

A summary of restrictions can be found on the province’s “Reopening Ontario” webpage, which provides details on what public health measures are in place before the province enters Step One of the Roadmap to Reopen.

Ontario extends ban on interprovincial travel until June 16

The Ontario government has announced that it has extended its ban on interprovincial travel until June 16 as part of its emergency measures implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The ban, which applies to non-essential travel, affects Ontario's land boundaries with Manitoba and Quebec.

Ontario Mandates Immunization Policies for Long-term Care Homes

Ontario is mandating immunization policies for long-term care homes. Ontario is making it mandatory for homes to have COVID-19 immunization policies for staff and to set out the minimum requirements that need to be included in these policies.

Under the immunization policies to be put in place at all long-term care homes in the province, each staff member must do one of the following:

  • Provide proof of vaccination of each dose;
  • Provide a documented medical reason for not being vaccinated; or
  • Participate in an educational program about the benefits of vaccination and the risks of not being vaccinated.

Homes will be required to track and report on the implementation of their policies, including overall staff immunization rates. The immunization status of individual staff members will not be shared with the province.

For more information

Canada's economy expanded again in March — shrank in April

Canada's gross domestic product grew for the 11th month in a row in March as the total value of all goods and services produced by the country expanded by 1.1 per cent from February's level.

Statistics Canada reported Tuesday that 18 of the 20 parts of the economy it tracks grew during the month, except for management and the utilities sector, which both shrank slightly from February's level. The housing market was a source of strength, with residential construction spending rising 7.6 per cent to $14 billion, while real estate agents and brokers raked in more than $19 billion, an all-time record. Overall, the real estate sector contributed $254 billion to Canada's economy during the month. That's more than the $108 billion contributed by the manufacturing sector, and more than twice as much as oil and gas extraction, at just over $106 billion during the month, according to Statistics Canada.

April growth negatively impacted by third-wave lockdowns

Despite the growth in March, Canada's economic output is still about one per cent below what it was in February of 2020, before COVID-19. Preliminary data for the April suggests the economy shrank by 0.8 per cent. Retail trade, accommodation and food services look to have born the brunt of April's decline, as new lockdowns to counter the third wave of COVID-19 hit those parts of the economy hard. Even sectors like manufacturing and real estate seem to have contracted during the month.

CRA estimates 30,000 self-employed people may not have to repay CERB

The Canada Revenue Agency says thousands of self-employed workers who received emergency benefits last year won't have to repay any of it, as long as they meet certain conditions.

For anyone whose net self-employment income was under $5,000, those conditions include having filed their 2019 and 2020 tax returns and having $5,000 or more in gross self-employment income in the 12 months before their application for benefits.

They also must meet all other criteria the government laid out for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit when it paid out $500 weekly last year for workers whose incomes crashed during the first half of the pandemic.

Applications to receive a refund are now open, and the CRA says payments should begin in mid-June.

City of Ottawa set to charge tax on vacant homes

The City of Ottawa is set to begin taxing vacant residential units next year. City staff are still working out the details, but have suggested taxing vacant homes at an additional one per cent, or about $4,150 on a residential home assessed at $415,000, if they sit empty for a total of more than 184 days, or half the year.  

Vancouver has a vacant homes tax, and Toronto and Mississauga are looking at the idea after Ontario gave its municipalities that power in 2017.

Ottawa plans to follow Vancouver's example and require all 307,000 homeowners to declare annually whether their property is occupied or vacant. Those who don't could face a fine and have their properties deemed vacant.

The new tax would apply to buildings with up to six units including condos, but not to units considered a primary residence, or to commercial, industrial or larger multi-unit buildings. There would be exemptions for occupants who die or are hospitalized, or if extensive renovations are taking place.

The first bills would go out in 2023 for buildings that were assessed as vacant in 2022.

National vaccine panel allows for mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has changed its guidelines to allow for mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines.

Federal health officials announced the updated guidance during a press briefing on Tuesday, saying that a first dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford/COVISHIELD vaccine can be followed up with a second AstraZeneca shot, or be safely combined with a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shots "unless contraindicated."

The new guidance from NACI also advises that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be mixed for first and second doses.

PCR tests are not prone to false positives say experts

Infectious disease experts are again pushing back against "armchair" molecular biologists who continue to make false claims about PCR tests — the primary method for diagnosing COVID-19.

Claims have circulated on social media since the beginning of the pandemic and have been repeatedly debunked, but nevertheless they persist in a variety of forums.

One of the most common false claims is that PCR tests are prone to huge numbers of false positives, and this is often rooted in a misunderstanding of how the tests work, says Jonathan Jarry, a biological scientist with McGill University's Office for Science and Society in Montreal.

Experts say PCR tests are routinely described as the "gold standard" for a reason. The National Human Genome Research Institute in the United States describes the technology as "one of the most important scientific advances in molecular biology."

To read more click here

Health Canada extends expiry date for thousands of AstraZeneca-Oxford doses

Health Canada has issued an authorization to extend the expiry date of specific lots of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from six months to seven months, following the review of submitted stability data.


Miller Thomson: COVID-19: Cross-Canada Support Programs for Employers and Employees

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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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