On September 23, 2020, the federal government delivered its Speech from the Throne, in which it announced various plans to support the economy and Canadian businesses in the face of COVID-19. Below are the key highlights of the speech.
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)
As we previously wrote about, CEWS was extended to December, 2020 and broadened to apply to more employers. Yesterday’s announcement confirmed that CEWS will now be extended to (at least) the summer of 2021, as part of an effort to create over one million jobs.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
Having already recently announced the impending transition from CERB to EI, the federal government confirmed that the new EI system will become the sole delivery system for employment benefits, and will include workers who did not previously qualify for EI, such as the self-employed and those in the gig economy.
Taxing “Extreme Wealth Inequality”
The federal government intends to limit the stock option deductions for top ranking executives and to limit tax avoidance by “digital giants.” Employers should keep abreast of any such changes. Executive compensation is an increasingly contentious issue in employment litigation and employers will want to ensure their contracts and compensation plans, or any changes to them, are carefully drafted.
Support for Clean Technology Companies
The federal government intends to launch a new fund to attract investments in making zero-emissions products and cut the corporate tax rate in half for these companies.
The federal government promised to make a “significant, long-term, sustained investment to create a Canada-wide early learning and childcare system” and to subsidize before and after school program costs. This could reduce the current burden on workplaces, which are statutorily required under human rights legislation to accommodate employees’ child-care situations.
Canadian Disability Benefit (CDB)
The CDB will be a new benefit for those with disabilities, modelled on the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors.
The following additional measures were announced, the details of which are expected to be released in the Fall:
- the Canada Emergency Business Account to help businesses with fixed costs;
Improving the Business Credit Availability Program; and
Introducing further support for industries that have been the hardest hit, including travel and tourism, hospitality, and cultural industries like the performing arts.
Companies in the “hardest-hit” industries should stay tuned, particularly those considering imminent and costly terminations.
In Ontario, it was announced on September 23, 2020 that the Ministry of Labour will hire 98 new labour inspectors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces.
This should allow employees who feel unsafe at work, or employers who want to ensure they are satisfying their statutory obligations, to better avail themselves of workplace health and safety inspections.
The provincial government also announced on September 23, 2020, that COVID-19 testing will be expanded to pharmacies. As of September 25, 2020, up to 60 pharmacies in Ontario will begin offering testing by appointment only, with further locations set to open in the coming weeks. This will allow for much quicker and more widely available testing. It should be welcome news to workplaces that have re-opened and/or are not conducive to working from home.
If you have any questions about the Government’s response to the pandemic, and how this affects your workplace, please contact the employment law experts at Hyde HR Law. We would be pleased to assist.