March 13, 2020
As the federal and provincial governments across Canada announce their contingency plans to deal with COVID-19, we want to inform you of recent decisions by the federal government and provincial governments in the jurisdictions we serve with respect to their operations and what it means for your advocacy efforts.
We also wanted to update you on how Counsel intends to continue to serve your advocacy needs throughout this pandemic.
The Government of Canada has just announced that Parliament will rise today and not return until at least April 20th. The release of the federal budget will no longer be taking place on March 30th. A new date has not been set.
It is important to understand that the Parliament has not been prorogued – meaning all legislation currently before parliament will remain on the Order Paper and will be in a position to continue through legislative process where it left off when parliament resumes.
The Federal Government House Leader indicated today that the government could recall parliament with smaller numbers of MPs and staff if they need to take measures that require legislation.
As of 1:30pm today (March 13th) the Ontario Legislature remains set to return to Queen’s Park on March 23rd after its previously scheduled March break.
That said, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed a motion yesterday empowering the Government House Leader to delay the return of the legislature (without proroguing) should it be necessary to do so simply by notifying the Speaker.
The Ontario budget is currently scheduled to be tabled on March 25, 2020. Given the federal decision, it is possible and we believe quite likely that Ontario’s budget may be delayed as well.
In Manitoba, the budget originally scheduled to be tabled on March 11, 2020, has been postponed due to delay tactics instituted by the Opposition over non-COVID-19 issues.
In Saskatchewan, Premier Moe ended rumours this week of a spring election, citing concerns over COVID-19. Their Budget is scheduled to be tabled on March 18, 2020, and as of the writing of this note, there are no announced changes to it or to the parliamentary schedule.
In Alberta, the Budget was tabled on February 27, 2020. As of the writing of this note, there have been no announced changes to the Legislative calendar or protocols. Their legislature is on scheduled break until March 16, 2020.
In British Columbia, the Budget was tabled on February 18, 2020. As of the writing of this note, there have been no announced changes to the Legislative calendar or protocols. Their legislature is on a previously scheduled break until March 23, 2020.
Impact of Budget delays
While the introduction and passage of federal and provincial budgets play an important role in establishing governments’ fiscal priorities, unlike our neighbors to the south, the failure to pass a budget (or “continuing motion”) will not result in the shut-down of non-essential services.
In Canada, federal and provincial governments have the ability through Special Warrants and Supply Motions to fund the ongoing operations of government without a budget. The federal parliament is expected to enact those powers prior to rising today and we would expect the provincial governments to do the same if budgets are delayed.
Counsel Update – Continuing to Serve
We are also providing you with an update on what we at Counsel are doing to protect our staff and the ongoing business needs of our clients. Our top priority is the health and well-being of our team, our business associates, our clients, and their families, friends and loved ones.
Counsel remains fully operational and our team remains available to you.
We have equipped our staff to work remotely to provide you with seamless services. As part of our ongoing commitment to excellence in client service, Counsel leverages secure technology that enables us to continue to be available to you and to government at all times.
In line with other businesses and government, in lieu of in person meetings with officials and clients, Counsel is moving to virtual communications via teleconferencing and videoconferencing.
Governments across Canada are updating their practices on an ongoing basis and we will continue to keep you apprised as the situation evolves.
Caroline Pinto, Managing Principal