Ontario to provide COVID 19 liability protection to workers and some organizations

Ontario to provide COVID 19 liability protection to workers and some organizations

By Shawn Jeffords and Liam Casey

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Health-care workers, businesses and non-profits could receive liability protection against COVID-19-related lawsuits under legislation proposed by the Ontario government Tuesday, but critics said the bill would result in extra protection for long-term care providers who failed residents during the pandemic.

Attorney General Doug Downey said that if passed, the proposed law would ensure that anyone making an “honest effort” to follow public health guidelines while working or volunteering would not be exposed to liability.

He noted, however, that the bill would not prevent lawsuits against those who willfully or through “gross negligence” endangered others during the pandemic.

“This is not going to help anybody who’s a bad actor, people who ignore the public health guidance,” he said. “This is really to help those who are doing things in good faith.”

The government said health-care workers and institutions, front line retail workers, charities, and non-profits would be covered by the bill. The legislation would also cover coaches, volunteers and minor sports associations, and would be retroactive to March.

In terms of long-term care providers, Downey said the bill would cover those who saw “inadvertent transmission” of COVID-19 in their facilities.

“Those who act in good faith and make honest efforts will receive a level of protection,” Downey said.

“But this will not help people who are being sued for wrongful death, assault and battery, or failure to provide necessities, or fraud or charter violations, or trespass to the person.”

The Ontario Long-Term Care Association, which represents more than 70 per cent of nursing homes in the province, has been asking for such measures for months, CEO Donna Duncan said.

The proposed law will not absolve any provider of responsibility when it comes to issues of gross negligence, she said.

“Liability protection is a necessary measure to stabilize and renew Ontario’s entire long-term care sector,” Duncan said in a statement. “Without it, many insurance companies will cease coverage, as they have already begun to do, putting homes across the province at risk and jeopardizing their expansion and renewal.”

COVID-19 has killed 1,907 long-term care residents since the pandemic began. There has been a recent surge of cases in the second wave, with 87 homes currently experiencing outbreaks.

Dozens of homes across the province face numerous lawsuits, including several class-action suits with unproven claims in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada said it supports the legislation, which it called balanced and responsible.

Steve Kee, a bureau spokesman, said the legislation illustrates the government’s support for entrepreneurs and hardworking Ontarians as they focus on getting through the COVID-19 threat.

“Today’s legislation is intended to protect the good actors _ those who follow public health guidelines _ from certain civil liability,” he said in a statement.

“As tabled, it would not protect bad actors against other legal consequences, including criminal charges.”

Michael Smitiuch, a personal injury lawyer who represents several families who are suing long-term care homes after losing loved ones to COVID-19, criticized the government’s proposed law.

“Losing a loved one during this pandemic because of mistreatment and lack of attention is already devastating to families, but having them die in vain will be even worse if they can’t seek justice for them,” Smitiuch said.

He said the government is essentially “raising the bar” on negligence to a “high degree of negligence.”

“This will create an unnecessary layer of protection for bad actors,” Smitiuch said. “These changes will help insurance companies save money and will hurt victims and their families.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she was shocked by the new bill and that if a long-term care home failed in its duty to protect a resident, it should be liable.

“This bill protects the for-profit long-term care homes,” she said. “It protects the backside of the Ford government, but what they never did was protect the seniors in long-term care.”

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said he is concerned that the bill will protect the “bad actors” the government says will still be held accountable.

“Negligent long-term care homes do not deserve a ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card for the lives that were stolen on their watch,” he said in a statement.

 

Employment Insurance System Added 1.3 Million People After CERB Ended

OTTAWA ― The employment insurance system absorbed almost 1.3 million people in the last three weeks, new figures show, as a key COVID-19 benefit wound down.

A breakdown of applications for the simplified EI program shows that overall there had been more than 1.5 million claims as of late this past week, among them 1.15 million people who were automatically transferred when their emergency benefit ran out.

The figures are enormous for a system that in one day this month handled 246,000-plus claims. In the spring, officials worried the 87,000 applications on one March day would make the decades-old system burst its seams.

Figures obtained by The Canadian Press also show that more than 84 per cent of applications had been processed, which experts who reviewed the numbers noted was a positive sign for the transition off the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, better known as the CERB.

Couple that with the more than 300,000 people who turned to a suite of new benefits on the first day they were available, and the figures provide a hint at the ongoing need for income support even as employment has picked up.

Figures on claims can be “valuable in providing a partial, real-time assessment″ of the impact COVID-19 has on the labour force, officials wrote to Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough in April.

At the time, they were writing in a briefing note about providing regular updates on CERB recipients and payments as “the labour market landscape continues to evolve across the country.”

READ MORE HERE: 

Source: Huffington Post

 

CRA to withhold tax from new Covid-19 benefits

Unlike the CERB, new benefits will be subject to 10% tax at source

The excerpted article was written By Rudy Mezzetta

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will withhold 10% tax at source from amounts distributed through three new Covid-19 recovery benefits announced by the federal government in September.

Amounts received through the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) are taxable, meaning they must be included in income for the year when recipients file their tax returns.

“The 10% tax withheld at source may not be all the tax you need to pay,” indicates the CRA in its guidance for the three programs. “When you complete your personal income tax return, you may need to pay more (or less), depending on how much income you earned.”

Applications for the caregiving and sickness benefits open today, while applications for the CRB begin Oct. 12.

The three new programs were introduced to replace the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which came to an end last month. Amounts received through CERB are taxable, but the CRA did not withhold tax at source for the program.

The government’s decision to withhold tax from the new benefits makes sense, says Jamie Golombek, managing director, tax and estate planning with CIBC Private Wealth Management in Toronto.

“This is consistent with most employment income, which these benefits are supposed to replace, wherein tax is paid when funds are paid to recipients,” he said.

The CRB provides income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are directly affected by Covid-19, but are not entitled to employment insurance benefits. Canadians eligible for the CRB can receive $1,000 — $900 after tax withheld — for a two-week period. Canadians can apply up to a total of 13 eligibility periods, or 26 weeks, between Sept. 27, 2020 and Sept. 25, 2021.

Canadians who receive CRB may also earn employment or self-employment income while doing so, but will have to reimburse $0.50 of the CRB for every dollar of net income above $38,000 earned in the calendar year.

The CRSB provides income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are unable to work because they’re sick or need to self-isolate due to Covid-19, or have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of getting Covid-19. Canadians eligible for the CRSB can receive $500 ($450 after tax withheld) for a one-week period. Canadians may apply up to a total of two weeks between Sept. 27, 2020 and Sept. 25, 2021.

The CRCB provides income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are unable to work because they must care for their child under 12 years old or a family member who needs supervised care. If a Canadian is eligible for the CRCB, their household can receive $500 ($450 after taxes withheld) for each one-week period. Canadians may apply up to a total of 26 weeks between Sept. 27, 2020 and Sept. 25, 2021.

Source: advisor’s edge

Morneau’s successor faces challenges amid pandemic spending, unemployment

Canada’s next finance minister faces a serious challenge as the country charts its way through the most difficult economic circumstances since the Great Depression.

Chrystia Freeland, who will be sworn in later today after Bill Morneau resigned Monday night, will have to manage a COVID-19 recovery that is still very much underway, with more than 40 per cent of the three million workers who lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic still unemployed as of mid-July.

Fewer than one-third of the 4.7 million Canadians who were receiving the $2,000-per-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit at the beginning of August would qualify for Employment Insurance when the CERB ends on Sept. 26, making the transition to EI another hurdle.

Meanwhile the spectre of protectionism continues to loom large after U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed tariffs on Canadian aluminum earlier this month _ Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also harbours protectionist sentiments _ further complicating trade relationships.

Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter says the longer-term issue is whether the surge in spending linked to the coronavirus will morph into a more permanent trend, with attendant tax and debt implications.

Ottawa has been pumping money into the economy since March, resulting in a projected debt of $343 billion, an increase of more than 1,000 per cent from the previous year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2020

Shuttered Service Canada centres to slowly reopen with new COVID 19 measures

OTTAWA _ The federal government says it plans to slowly reopen Service Canada centres it shuttered in late March over public health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Up to 90 centres across the country will gradually reopen in July, starting with 14 on Wednesday. Further openings are to be guided by public health advice as well as how many Canadians each centre serves.

The government has spent the past few weeks upgrading the centres to put up clear barriers at counters, signs to encourage physical distancing and reduce seating in waiting areas.

Personal protective equipment will also be provided to staff at centres that reopen.

Face masks will be offered to people visiting centres in provinces or municipalities that have mandated their use in indoor public spaces.

Anyone going to a centre that doesn’t fall under any such provincial or municipal requirement will be encouraged to wear a masks and use hand-sanitizer.

While the newly reopened centres will handle queries for social insurance numbers, employment insurance and the Canada Pension Plan among others, the government says passport and biometrics services won’t be available at first.

Days after public health authorities closed businesses and ordered workers to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Liberals closed the sprawling network of Service Canada centres.

Some of the offices, such as one tucked inside Ottawa’s city hall, had already started to close before the official announcement in March as confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased and workers were needed elsewhere, or resisted going in.

The government says an online Service Canada portal opened in response to the closures has seen more than 700,000 requests. That’s about half the number of in-person visits Service Canada locations would see in the same period in normal times.

In a release, the government is still urging Canadians to use online services wherever possible, including to book appointments online for in-person help.

The network of 318 Service Canada centres, along with almost 250 more outreach centres, received about 8.4 million visits during the 12-month period between April 2018 and March 2019. The figure, noted in a recently posted evaluation of federal services, included over 1.9 million people walking in to use a self-service kiosk.

 

Alberta cuts business tax, boosts infrastructure spending to reboot economy

By Dean Bennett

THE CANADIAN PRESS

EDMONTON _ Alberta is cutting business taxes, pumping billions into infrastructure and making a full-court press to lure jobs from Toronto, Montreal and elsewhere to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re going to be placing a huge emphasis on finance and financial technology,” Kenney said Monday in Calgary.

“All of those banks and insurance companies down on Bay Street that are paying way more taxes. Their workers are paying way more taxes. They are paying way more for rent. They’re fighting Toronto traffic.

“We’re going to be telling them that they can save money for their shareholders, for their workers, for their operations by relocating financial and fin-tech jobs to places like downtown Calgary, downtown Edmonton.”

Kenney said they will also target companies in other locations such as Montreal, Houston and New York as his province works to dig out of a cratered provincial economy caused by the pandemic and by a global oil price war that sent profits into a tailspin.

Alberta has flattened the curve on COVID-19 and has reopened much of its economy, albeit with health safety conditions, and Kenney said now is the time to get the economy back on its feet.

This year’s budget deficit is expected to balloon from $7 billion to $20 billion.

Kenney announced an immediate $10 billion will be spent on a range of infrastructure projects, including roads, health-care facilities, and schools to create construction jobs, with spinoff benefits to other service providers.

Kenney cut the corporate income tax rate to 10 per cent from 12 per cent after taking office last year. That figure was to go down to eight per cent in the coming years, but Kenney announced it will be done this week. That makes it four percentage points lower than key competitors such as British Columbia.

Albertans already have the lowest tax regime in Canada and pay no sales tax.

There will also be an Innovation Employment grant to encourage high-tech companies and investment. The grant replaces tax incentives put in place by the previous NDP government, which Kenney scrapped on the grounds the incentives were too narrowly focused.

Details on this fund, and other sector-specific initiatives are expected in the coming days.

NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said the $10 billion will help as a short term  “shock absorber” but called Kenney’s other ideas unimaginative, adding the corporate income tax cut didn’t bring back jobs before the pandemic, and won’t bring them back after.

“There’s very little new that is in here and it proves that this government is already out of ideas,” said Notley.

Ken Kobly, head of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, said the announcement delivers critical aid.

“The measures announced today will help business operators get back on their feet so they can begin rebuilding our economy,” he said.

The plan is a marked departure from the laissez-faire economic platform Kenney championed and won on in the election. Kenney chastised then-premier Notley’s NDP at the time for heavy spending on infrastructure and on day-to-day operations, saying it would cripple future generations with unsustainable debt.

Since then, as the oil and gas economy has been slow to recover, Kenney assumed a more direct interventionist approach.

In March, his government agreed to provide $1.5-billion, plus a $6-billion loan guarantee, to Calgary-based TC Energy Corporation, enabling the completion of the KXL pipeline.

Finance Minister Travis Toews said Monday that “there’s good debt and bad debt.” Bad debt, he said, is borrowed money for operations while good debt invests in infrastructure that in turn lures businesses to the province.

“This is an incredible ditch that we have to get through, and so it warrants a significant investment,” said Toews.

 

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