COVID-19 Update
Government of Canada actions on COVID-19
March 25, 2020
After a marathon late-night negotiating session, the House of Commons passed emergency legislation at 5:00 AM this morning to respond to COVID-19.  The Senate has now passed the bill. It will receive Royal Assent within hours. Bill C-13 can be found in full here:
Big ticket items in the legislation:
  • $500-million in cash for provincial/territorial governments that could be used to purchase sorely needed medical equipment.
  • Combines measures from the emergency response package announced last week to create a new Canada Emergency Response Benefit, providing $2000 each month for the next four months to workers who have lost their income, are sick or quarantined, or are caring for someone who is ill. The CERB would apply to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). This new benefit will be available via an online portal available as of April 6 and funds will flow within 10 days of applying. The government is redeploying 13,000 workers to process claims. Canadians can continue to apply for EI in the meantime, but only 143,000 of 1 million new EI claims have been processed so far.
  • Minister Morneau suggested to the Senate today that additional credit facilities/backstops are coming in days for firms, adding finance officials are working “overnight” with banks to get this done. It has also been reported that the government will make as much as $300 billion in credit available to businesses via the Export Development Bank and Business Development Bank to meet payrolls.
What else the legislation does:
  • The government has been given special spending power until September 30 to spend “all money required to do anything in relation to that public health event of national concern” without parliamentary approval. The spending powers granted to the cabinet in this bill are unprecedented. Cabinet now has the ability to increase payments to individuals, businesses or the provinces. Additional measures are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
  • The COVID-19 Emergency Response Act would amend Canada’s Patent Act to grant the federal Health Minister new powers to authorize the manufacture of patented inventions “to respond to the public health emergency.” This would enable Ottawa to boost the production of necessary goods that might otherwise be hindered by patents.
  • The government also has the power to make any regulations that it considers necessary for the purpose of preventing drug shortages in order to protect human health.
  • The government also agreed to authorize the Commons Health and Finance committees to hold weekly virtual tele-meetings to monitor the government’s response to the pandemic, and give the Finance Committee the power to ask the Speaker to recall Parliament if they believe the temporary new spending powers are being misused.
Other items of note from the Prime Minister’s recent press conferences:
  • The Prime Minister committed to speed up testing and increase testing capacity. 10,000 Canadians are being tested daily.
  • The PM has been speaking to African leaders today about efforts to contain the virus and will be speaking with G20 leaders tomorrow about financial measures that will be required to stabilize the global economy.
  • Minister Guilbeault will shortly announce new measures to support media who are playing a critical role in informing Canadians during this crisis.
  • Canada is arranging more repatriation flights including from Morocco, Peru, Panama, Tunisia, Ukraine and Spain. 1 million Canadians returned to the country last week.
  • The government has discussed the federal Emergencies Act with provincial and territorial Premiers, but for now has determined that is not required and will only be considered as a last resort.
  • Minister Hajdu announced that self-isolation for those returning to Canada has been made mandatory under the Quarantine Act.
We will continue to provide updates when relevant new information becomes available. In the meantime, please keep reaching out to us for help where required.