Ontario will spend $17B over the next year to help battle COVID-19 pandemic

Ontario will spend $17B over the next year to help battle COVID-19 pandemic

The excerpted article was written by Colin D’Mello CTV News Toronto

TORONTO — Ontario will spend $17 billion dollars over the next year, record a $20.5 billion deficit and will set aside an unprecedented $2.5 billion dollars for emergency spending, allowing the province to battle the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Progressive Conservative government unveiled an action plan designed to tackle the growing health and financial crisis due to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, including new measures for frontline health care workers, and support for businesses, seniors and families.

The new spending will also include:

  •  $3.3 billion on the health care system, including $1.2 billion on improvements
  •  $3.7 billion on support for people and jobs, including $2 billion in targeted supports, and $290 million in tax measures
  •  $10 billion in support for businesses, including $6 billion in tax deferrals affecting 100,000 businesses.

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said the new measures are necessary to deal with the “extraordinary threat” to the health and economy of the province.

“It demands an extraordinary response from all levels of government and civil society because we’re all in this together,” Phillips said.

The majority of the focus will be on Ontario’s healthcare system, which has been inundated with pandemic-related cases, with $3.3 billion in spending.

  •  $1 billion contingency fund specifically for healthcare
  •  $341 million for hospital capacity to increase assessments
  •  $243 million emergency funding for long-term care homes to contain the spread of COVID-19
  •  $100 million for public health units
  •  $170 million for community care capacity and Telehealth Ontario
  •  $62 million for health care workers in assessment centres, hospitals and community
  •  $75 million for new personal protective equipment for health care workers
  •  $80 million for ambulance and paramedic services
  •  $70 million for new infection control measures in retirement homes and emergency shelters
  •  $1.2 billion will be spent on improving services in health and long-term care homes.

The government will also spend $3.7 billion dollars to help the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the pandemic – from families forced to stay at home in self-isolation, to those who have lost their jobs as a result of the economic shock.

Families will get a one-time payment of $200 per child up to the age of 12, to help parents keep their children engaged during an extended time away from school or daycare.

The $340 million initiative would be available on Apr. 6 through an online portal where parents could apply.

The government will also spend $3 million dollar per day to offer free emergency daycare for frontline healthcare workers and first responders.

Meanwhile, the government said student loan repayments, under OSAP, would be suspended for six months during the COVID-19 crisis.

As businesses face a major financial hit due to forced COVID-19 closures, the government will spend $6 billion in tax deferrals this fiscal year giving owners up to five months – Aug. 31, 2020 – to pay their provincial taxes.

The government says the exemptions would apply to: Employer Health tax; Tobacco tax; Fuel tax; Gas tax; Beer, Wine and Spirits tax; Mining tax; Insurance Premium tax; International Fuel Tax and the Race Tracks tax.

The government expects to help roughly 100,000 businesses with the program and projected that businesses would collectively save $25 million in interest and penalties.

Economic impact

COVID-19 is expected to carve out $5.8 billion dollars from the province’s revenue stream in 2020-21, largely due to drops in personal income and corporate tax revenue, and due to the closure of casinos operated by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming corporation.

To ensure the province can withstand the economic blow, the Progressive Conservative government – which has been focused on fiscal prudence and restraint – will record a massive $20.5-billion deficit in the year 2020-2021.

The massive deficit figure is comparable to the financial crisis of 2008 when the government, under then-Premier Dalton McGuinty, spent $24-billion dollars to stabilize the economy.

While the government acknowledges that the COVID-19 outbreak has “significantly impacted” Ontario’s economy – which the government said recorded strong growth before the pandemic – the fiscal document states that the economy should turn around in the second half of 2020.

“Pent up demand for goods and services along with and improving labour market would add momentum, supporting stronger consumer spending,” the fiscal document reads. “However, some sectors will take longer to recover.”

In his remarks to the Ontario legislature on Wednesday, Phillips called COVID-19 a generation defining moment that requires a non-partisan approach to financial stability.

“And we are confident that every dollar we invest through this action plan that saves a life or saves a job is a dollar well spent.”

What To Do When You Receive a Force Majeure Claim Based On The  Novel Coronavirus

What To Do When You Receive a Force Majeure Claim Based On The Novel Coronavirus

The excerpted article was written by Thomas J. Timmins and Howard XIN Articling student

Gowling WLG

Start with the Clause

A force majeure clause is a common inclusion to contracts for protecting parties from impairment caused by extraordinary or extreme events. These extraordinary events are often referred to as “acts of God”. When a force majeure clause has been included in a contract and force majeure events actually do occur, the expectation is that the party or parties facing impairment as a result of the proscribed force majeure event–a hurricane, war, flooding, political unrest, epidemic, etc.–will be relieved of all or some portion of its delivery obligations under the relevant contract and from all or some portion of liability for damages arising from delay or default occurring in the performance of its contractual obligations.

In drafting these provisions, companies will often use language that defines what will or will not constitute a force majeure event, often by listing specific examples which qualify as such–hurricanes, war, volcanic eruptions, strikes, lockouts, etc. Occasionally, in the rush to get the deal done, not a great deal of thought is given to the breadth or inclusions expressed in the clause and a “boilerplate” is used.

If there is no force majeure clause, courts will still consider defences by the impaired party based on foreseeability of the impairing event. Whether there is a force majeure clause or not, the burden of proof rests on the party seeking to rely upon the force majeure provision. In any case, the key starting point is with the force majeure clause itself. What does it say? Do the events which one party alleges to have occurred actually qualify under the terms of the clause? If so, did those qualifying events actually lead to the delay or the breach in question?

Force Majeure Case Law in Canada

For the past half-century, the leading case on force majeure in Canada has been Atlantic Paper Stock Ltd. v St. Anne Nackawic Pulp & Paper Co. This was a 1975 Supreme Court decision concerning a minimum annual supply of paper pulp over a 10-year period, which allegedly became subject to extraordinary events including acts of God and substantial decline in the market for such paper pulp. In this decision, Justice Dickson established that, “An act of God clause or force majeure clause … generally operates to discharge a contracting party when a supervening, sometimes supernatural, event, beyond control of either party, makes performance impossible. The common thread is that of the unexpected, something beyond reasonable human foresight and skill” (emphasis added). Since then, no Canadian Supreme Court cases have revisited the matter in depth. However, despite the lack of Supreme Court precedents, there have been various lower-court cases affirming Atlantic Paper and exploring the interpretation of force majeure clauses.

In World Land Ltd. v Daon Development Corp., the court accepted the use of basket clauses to define the scope of force majeure applicability. In this case, a land development company was accused of failing to commence construction on the land by a specific date. In the agreement, the force majeure clause included in its definition of force majeure events, the very broad and inclusive language, “…or any other causes…beyond the control of the vendors or the purchasers”. The company had relied on this language and announced that the development would be delayed on the grounds of not having received a development permit, which it claimed was beyond its control. The court accepted the applicability of the basket clause. However, to the detriment of the land development company, it chose to interpret the language plainly and held that it had been within the company’s control to obtain the permit on time. In other words, the party alleging that force majeure events occurred was not entitled to sit idle.

Subsequently, Atcor Ltd. v Continental Energy Marketing Ltd. seemed to have revised the criteria for what constitutes a force majeure event. In this decision, a gas supplier successfully relied on force majeure when it failed to deliver gas because of various technical pipeline issues suffered by a third party pipeline owner. Here, the Alberta Court of Appeal rejected the idea that a force majeure event had to make performance impossible. Instead, “a real and substantial problem” that makes contractual performance commercially unfeasible was held to be the standard—i.e. a significantly lower threshold than the impossibility of performance standard posited in Atlantic Paper, cited above.  Despite the apparent departure in Atcor, the impossibility standard set in Atlantic Paper has continued to be followed in recent cases. Thus, from a practical viewpoint, unless you have expressly contracted otherwise, ‘impossibility of performance’ should be viewed as the basic standard when reviewing force majeure circumstances.

As if to emphasize this point, in the 2011 British Columbia Supreme Court decision Domtar Inc. v Univar Canada Ltd., there was a focus on language of the force majeure provision. The facts were that a supplier could not source and supply caustic soda on commercially acceptable terms and, therefore, alleged that an event of force majeure had occurred and that it should be exempted from its contractual supply obligations. The force majeure event, in this case, was not being able to purchase raw materials at a commercially acceptable price because of an unprecedented rise in price of caustic soda. The argument was ultimately unsuccessful. The B.C. court found that the force majeure clause in the relevant contract did not include or contemplate economic or market conditions, and agreed with earlier findings from the English courts that, “the fact that a contract has become expensive to perform, even dramatically more expensive, is not a ground to relieve a party on the grounds of force majeure.

Domtar Inc. suggests that “economic” force majeure would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to justify. It also emphases the point which we made above—start by reading the force majeure clause in your contract.

Considering the Novel Coronavirus

It is not uncommon for force majeure clauses to include specific references to terms such as “plague” or “epidemic” when describing force majeure events. In light of global health emergencies that have surfaced in the last few decades, we have found that these types of clauses have included increasingly specific event references such as “public health emergencies” and “communicable disease outbreaks”. However, whether these specific wording inclusions will be of use to the party alleging that a force majeure event which can be relied upon as relieving it from its contractual obligations has occurred remains uncertain.

The Canadian case law surrounding force majeure provisions based on global health concerns is limited. For example, most mentions of the 2003 SARS outbreak or the 2015 Ebola pandemic pertain to cases of domestic occupational health and safety and refugee protection. Reported cases that refer to these specific health crises as triggers of force majeure are few. There is one 2005 decision issued by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) concerning rate adjustment plans in the Telecom industry that linked SARS to a force majeure event. In the decision, Bell Canada, TELUS, and several other telecom companies submitted that the 2003 SARS outbreak in Toronto fell within the scope of the following force majeure clause:

“No penalty shall apply in a month where failure to meet the standard is caused, in that month, by fire, strikes, default or failure of other carrier, floods, epidemics, war, civil commotions, acts of God, acts of public authorities or other events beyond the reasonable control of the Company which cannot reasonably be foreseen or provided against.”

In this case, Canadian telecom carriers sought to rely upon the force majeure wording above, arguing that factual circumstances, including the necessity to quarantine of a number of Bell Canada employees, and the specific mention of “epidemics” in the force majeure clause, lessened their respective quality of service obligations. (In many force majeure clauses, epidemics are not specifically included in the clause and left to be read-in under the sweeping category “other events beyond the reasonable control of the Company”.) In the end, the CRTC held that the approach to be adopted in order to determine whether or not SARS-related events were sufficient to trigger force majeure clause protections was a case-by-case one.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE AT GOWLING WLG

Federal government to announce supports for people, businesses hit by COVID-19

PM says Ottawa expecting ‘significant economic impacts’ from COVID-19

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce on Wednesday supports for people and businesses affected by COVID-19 — the first part of a federal package designed to help workers who are forced to stay home from their jobs as the virus spreads and disrupts the economy.

Trudeau will announce supports for those facing “immediate pressures,” with more aid for other sectors to be announced in the coming days.

Sources have told CBC News that the measures Trudeau will announce include waiving the one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance benefits for people who have to self-isolate because of the outbreak.

The package also will include a boost to research funding to combat the virus, over and above the $27 million announced in Montreal last week.

Ottawa is also leading a pan-Canadian effort to bulk-buy certain medical devices, and the federal government says it will be ready to support provinces needing further assistance to shore up their health care systems as the number of confirmed cases rises.

Trudeau met with top ministers this afternoon, including Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Health Minister Patty Hajdu, as part of the government’s response to a virus that has sickened dozens across Canada and killed one person in B.C.

“We recognize that there are going to be significant economic impacts for Canadians, for workers, for businesses, and that’s why we’re going to be talking very soon about measures that Canada is going to put forward to support people on the economic side,” Trudeau told reporters on his way into question period.

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said Ottawa is considering stimulus spending in the upcoming federal budget.

Beyond Wednesday’s planned announcement, Duclos said the federal government will spend more to help people “go through the crisis” and help “workers, families and businesses thrive and sustain themselves.”

“We have the fiscal room and the fiscal power to intervene and provide the stimulus that the economy will demand,” Duclos said in an interview with CBC’s Power & Politics. “We have the will and the ability to make a difference. We will use our considerable fiscal room and power to invest.”

While the debt-to-GDP ratio has been falling in recent years, Ottawa is running a federal budget deficit of $26.6 billion for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

READ MORE HERE AT CBC NEWS

City may want a slice of home insurance fire coverage

The excerpted article was written by NORMAN DE BONO | The London Free Press

Home insurance rates may spike in London if the city goes after insurers when firefighters respond to a home blaze, an Insurance Bureau of Canada official says.

But a business that helps communities get money from insurers called the threat a lobby group “scare tactic.” Ken (Ted) Woods, a partner with Fire Marque Inc., said the hundreds of communities it works with, including St. Thomas, Sarnia and Middlesex Centre, have not seen rates rise.

At a recent council committee meeting, Ward 12 Coun. Elizabeth Peloza suggested city staff look into contracting Fire Marque, which files insurance claims on behalf of communities to recover some of the costs of responding to home fires.

If there is home blaze, firefighters respond to and if the home is insured, Fire Marque files a claim on behalf of the municipality, as the homeowner policy covers the service. That claim seeks partial reimbursement of the cost of firefighters’ response.

“If the individual has an insurance claim, charges added to the claim will see an increase in claims paid,” said Peter Karageorgos, the insurance bureau’s consumer and industry relations director. “Premiums for policies are driven by costs, if this increases total costs, it will have an impact on premiums.”

Not so fast, said Woods: Premiums won’t increase because most homeowner insurance policies include coverage of firefighters attending a home blaze, meaning that money is sitting there and available and most homeowners are unaware of it. If the money is not claimed, it simply boosts the insurer’s bottom line, he added.

“We act on behalf of the municipality. Our job is to make sure the insurance company honours the coverage in the policy,” said Woods.

Studies by some communities have concluded the claims don’t affect premiums, he added. Home insurance policies have a clause titled “fire department charges” that usually offers as much as $1,000 in coverage.

Fire Marque offers its services to more than two million people in “hundreds” of communities, Woods said.

In her pitch to community and protective services committee colleagues, Peloza said she met Fire Marque officials at a Federation of Canadian Municipalities  conference. The committee voted to refer the matter to staff for more study.

When the city looked into the issue in 2016, it found Fire Marque claimed 30 per cent of the money recovered. A staff report said the city would have recovered anywhere from $43,000 to $142,000 a year at that time. The money must go toward fire services, either education or capital costs.

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“We will lay out the information for council, we will investigate this and report back,” said Cheryl Smith, the city’s director of neighbourhood, children and fire services.

The staff report in 2016 recommended the city not contract Fire Marque, citing “legal risk and financial concerns . . .  related to recovery of costs through property insurance policies.”

Karageorgos said homeowners already pay for fire department services through property taxes and home insurance policies, and an additional claim should not be necessary.

“Don’t property taxes already pay for fire service? I would be asking then why am I paying taxes? Is this creating a two-tier system?”

Municipalities have turned to Fire Marque as budget pressures prompt them to seek new ways to generate revenue, he added.

“What’s next? Will firefighters insist on a credit card payment before they put out your fire?”

Source: London Free Press

Canada preparing plane to fly Canadians from Wuhan, once China gives OK

By Mike Blanchfield and Hina Alam

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canada has a plane being prepared to fly Canadians out of the province in China at the centre of an outbreak of a new coronavirus, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Wednesday.

The government is also advising all Canadians to avoid  “non-essential” travel to China and has also scaled back its diplomatic presence in the country because of the outbreak.

The next step in the evacuation process is to secure co-operation from China to assist the 160 Canadians who have requested some form of help, Champagne said. Not all of them want to leave, he emphasized in an appearance on Parliament Hill.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, later warned that not everyone who wants to come back to Canada may be able to leave.

“The Chinese authority will not let anyone who might be infected on the plane,” she told the House of Commons health committee.

China has all but sealed off one of its central provinces where the novel coronavirus was first detected. The virus causes respiratory symptoms similar to the common cold, but it can be deadly in very severe cases.

At Champagne’s side, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the government still has to decide what will happen with the Canadians who leave China, so as to prevent any spread of the illness.

Asked whether returning travellers would be held in quarantine, Hajdu replied:  “We will always work to ensure the health of Canadians, whether they’re abroad or whether they’re here. So, yes what we’re looking at is a scenario where we have all the measures in place to protect Canadians from exposure to the virus. Having said that, that’s about as far as I can go.”

Officials say the 201 Americans taken to the United States from the Chinese city at the centre of the virus outbreak are undergoing three days of monitoring at a southern California military base to make sure they do not show signs of the virus.

Hajdu said the U.S. has a process that is working  “efficiently.”

Champagne said Canada is working with allies to co-ordinate plans and make the logistics work, and that could take more time.

Some other countries have promised similar help for their citizens stuck in the province of Hubei particularly those that have diplomatic offices there, which Canada does not and Champagne said Canada isn’t far behind them.

“The only plane which has landed is a U.S. plane that was scheduled to be there,” Champagne said, which was then followed by a plane sent by Japan earlier Wednesday.

He said Canada was at the  “forefront” of the international response.

The virus has killed 170 people and infected more than 7,700 on the Chinese mainland and abroad.

A Twitter message by the Canadian Embassy in China said that as of Wednesday its diplomatic missions are working with reduced staff due to the coronavirus. It urged Canadians in need of emergency consular assistance to call or email the emergency response centre of Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa.

It also posted the contact phone number of 1-613-996-8885 and the email address of sos?international.gc.ca.

A teacher who is living with his pregnant Canadian wife and child in a city that is the epicentre of China‘s coronavirus outbreak had been hoping to leave the country on a British flight.

Tom Williams is hoping to get his wife, Lauren, who is about 35 weeks pregnant, out of Wuhan, the Hubei city that has been essentially locked down with the emergence of the disease. The couple also has a two-and-a-half-year-old son, James, who is Canadian.

Williams is a British expat and his wife and son are from British Columbia.

“We’re just currently waiting to hear confirmation whether we’ve got space on the British flight,” Williams told The Canadian Press in a FaceTime interview from China on Wednesday, before Champagne’s announcement.

The family received a call from officials in Ottawa earlier this week, who asked permission to share his wife’s file with the British Embassy, he said.

“We have some stuff laid out in case it’s a last-minute departure.”

At least 250 Canadians have registered with Global Affairs Canada to say they are in Wuhan, said Champagne, who added that officials are trying to contact everyone to assess their needs.

Williams said looking at options isn’t really helping people on the ground, although he understands that Canada doesn’t have a diplomatic presence in Wuhan, a city of 11 million. Canadian offices in Beijing and Shanghai are closed until Sunday for the Lunar New Year holiday.

“We’re just a little anxious and hoping for some answers pretty soon,” said Williams, who added that he and his family are  “still healthy and still OK.”

The family went out during the day Wednesday and the streets were “very quiet,” he said. They take their temperatures whenever they enter and leave their apartment complex.

James was watching “Toy Story” Wednesday afternoon.

“He’s a little bit clingy, but we’re doing our best with train sets and different things. Trying to keep him entertained.”

Canadian Wayne Duplessis, who teaches in China, said he and his family registered with the emergency response centre in Ottawa to know what help may be available in Wuhan.

But Duplessis, who is originally from Espanola, Ont., said he is not looking to leave.

Most people he knows are taking the situation in stride, although he said there is  “a certain resignation” and  “despair.” Duplessis and his family members take their temperatures every morning at breakfast.

More restrictions have been placed on cars and some people are worried those might affect day-to-day activities such as getting groceries, he said.

From his 28th-floor balcony, Duplessis said he could see the highway, usually buzzing with activity, was empty.

“The IKEA mall across the street is empty, which is too bad. There’s great lunches there,” he said.

“An IKEA meatball lunch would be nice right now.”

The reality is “insurers are not going to write business that is unprofitable. It’s not their function,” Muir-Wood said.

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