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Ford Government Announce Province Wide Shutdown

At a News Conference today, the Provincial Government announced that there will be a province-wide lockdown from Boxing Day until Jan. 9 for the northern region and Jan. 23 for Southern Ontario.

Measures include, but are not limited to:

  • Restricting indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.
  • Prohibiting in-person shopping in most retail settings – curbside pickup and delivery can continue. Discount and big-box retailers selling groceries will be limited to 25 per cent capacity for in-store shopping. Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies, will continue to operate at 50 per cent capacity for in-store shopping.
  • Restricting indoor access to shopping malls – patrons may only go to a designated indoor pickup area (by appointment only), essential retail stores that are permitted to be open (e.g. pharmacy, grocery store), or, subject to physical distancing and face-covering requirements, to the food court for takeout purchases. Shopping malls may also establish outdoor designated pickup areas.
  • Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take-out, drive-through, and delivery only.

The Province has provided a document that is a summary of information about measures proposed to come into effect:

Businesses Permitted to Open and Sector-Specific Restrictions:

  • Construction activities or projects and related services that support construction activities or projects, including demolition services
  • Land surveyors

Other

  • Businesses that supply businesses or places that are permitted to open within Ontario, or that supply businesses or services that have been declared essential in a jurisdiction outside of Ontario, with the support, products, supplies, systems, or services, including processing, packaging, warehousing, distribution, delivery, and maintenance necessary to operate
  • Maintenance, repair and property management services that manage and maintain the safety, security, sanitation and operation of institutional, commercial, industrial and residential properties and buildings
  • Businesses that extract, manufacture, process and distribute goods, products, equipment and materials, including businesses that manufacture inputs to other manufacturers (e.g. primary metal/ steel, blow-molding, component manufacturers, chemicals, etc. that feed the end-product manufacturer), regardless of whether those other manufacturers are inside or outside of Ontario, together with businesses that support and facilitate the movement of goods within integrated North American and global supply chains

The complete ‘business permitted to open’ document can be found here.

Read the complete news release here.


The New Ontario Small Business Support Grant

The government recognizes that small businesses impacted by these necessary public health measures will require additional support so they can continue serving their communities and employing people in Ontario once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. That is why the government is announcing the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant, which will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to eligible small business owners to help navigate this challenging period.

Small businesses required to close or restrict services under the Provincewide Shutdown will be able to apply for this one-time grant. Each small business will be able to use the support in whatever way makes the most sense for their individual business. For example, some businesses will need support paying employee wages or rent, while others will need support in maintaining their inventory.

Eligible small businesses include those that:

  • Are required to close or significantly restrict services subject to the Provincewide Shutdown effective 12:01 a.m. on December 26, 2020;
  • Have less than 100 employees at the enterprise level; and
  • Have experienced a minimum of 20 per cent revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

Starting at $10,000 for all eligible businesses, the grant will provide businesses with dollar for dollar funding to a maximum of $20,000 to help cover decreased revenue expected as a result of the Provincewide Shutdown. The business must demonstrate they experienced a revenue decline of at least 20 per cent when comparing monthly revenue in April 2019 and April 2020. This time period was selected because it reflects the impact of the public health measures in spring 2020, and as such provides a representation of the possible impact of these latest measures on small businesses.


Here’s the 101 on Bill 238 Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act 2020

Overview:

Every month Statistics Canada calculates the average industrial wage for Canada and for each province

One of the first steps that the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) takes to determine premium rates for the next year is to calculate the maximum insurable earnings ceiling for the next year; the maximum insurable earnings ceiling is the earnings cap up to which employers pay premiums; normally benefits are provided to injured workers up to the maximum insurable earnings ceiling
The calculation of the maximum insurable earnings ceiling for the next calendar year is prescribed in Section 54 of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act as 175% of the average industrial wage for Ontario available on July 1
The novel coronavirus pandemic caused an aberration in the composition of Ontario’s workforce that was never ever contemplated by the drafters of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act; many low wage workers were laid off; as a result, because the province’s workforce was abnormally made up of higher wage earners, the average industrial wage was artificially high; (had those laid-off low wage earners been included in the calculation with their wages at zero, an artificially low number would have been the result); this artificially high average industrial wage then resulted in an artificially large increase in the maximum insurable earnings ceiling for 2021; such a circumstance had never been contemplated by the drafters of the statute;
The maximum insurable earnings ceiling normally increases by 2% to 3% every year; however, because of the abnormality in the workforce caused by the pandemic and the layoffs of low wage earners, the increase for 2021 is 7.8% or an amount of $102,800
The impact of COVID19 on the composition of Ontario’s workforce is expected to be temporary and the wage profile of the Ontario workforce will gradually normalize as the pandemic is defeated and laid-off workers return to work
The construction industry has a significant number of workers whose earnings exceed the maximum insurable earnings ceiling so the artificial increase in the maximum insurable earnings ceiling would have seen many construction employers pay much higher premiums in 2021

What Did COCA Do:

Although the government and the WSIB would have been well aware of the abnormality in the average industrial wage and the maximum insurable earnings ceiling since July 2020, the artificially high maximum insurable earnings ceiling was first made public at the WSIB’s annual general meeting on September 25, 2020
COCA immediately drew to the attention of the government the artificially high maximum insurable earnings ceiling and the impact it would have on the premiums paid by construction employers to the WSIB
COCA suggested two simple fixes: i) freeze the maximum insurable earnings ceiling for 2021at the 2020 level; ii) increase the maximum insurable earnings ceiling by the amount of inflation

What the Government Did:
On December 8, 2020, hours before the legislature adjourned unexpectedly two days ahead of schedule, the government introduced Bill 238
Bill 238, if passed, gives the government the authority to set the maximum insurable earnings ceiling for 2021 and establishes it at $97,308, 2% above the 2020 level
There is also a provision for the Government to impose a further cap, via regulation, for 2022
Worker benefits will be determined based on the artificially high maximum insurable earnings ceiling

Pros:
Reduces the impact of the artificially high maximum insurable earnings ceiling on employer premiums for 2021; this is a positive
Cons:
Creates an artificially high maximum insurable earnings ceiling for the purposes of benefits entitlements

COCA is in discussions with other employer associations to gather their assessment of Bill 238.


WSIB Makes It Easier to Work With Them

As the WSIB continues to look for ways to make it easier to work with them, there are now two new ways to report online.

Uploading exposure incident and injury reports
The WSIB has introduced a new way to report injuries, illnesses and exposures online. Through this service, people with injuries and exposures, businesses and representatives can:

  • upload workplace exposure incident reports,
  • upload workplace injury or illness reports when a claim number does not already exist, and
  • add supporting documents when submitting their report.

If a claim number already exists, people should upload their report using the WSIB’s claim document upload or report through your online services for businesses account.

Reporting a noise-induced hearing loss
Also starting recently, people who want to make a claim for their work-related, noise-induced hearing loss can fill out a new online form. Providing an easy online option to make a noise-induced hearing loss claim allows the WSIB the ability to gather all the information they need in one form, simplifying and speeding up the process for everyone.

Navigating to the right online service
To make it easier for people to navigate to the right online service to report an injury, illness or exposure incident, they can answer a few questions and get directed to the right online service. People with injuries and exposures, businesses, health care professionals and representatives can use this feature.

Online services for people with claims update
In late January, people with claims can start adding direct deposit information to their online services accounts, making it easier and quicker to get benefit payments sent right to their bank accounts.

More people than ever are using the WSIB’s online services for people with claims; over 12,000 people have signed up since June.

For more information about our online services, please visit wsib.ca/onlineservices.


IO Awards Contracts Using Accelerated Procurement

Infrastructure Ontario recently announced several contracts for the construction of long-term care homes using their Accelerated Build Pilot. Those projects are:

Infrastructure Ontario and Lakeridge Health announced that PCL Constructors Canada Inc. had signed a contract to design and build a new long-term care home at the Ajax Pickering Hospital site.

Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and Trillium Health Partners (THP) announced that EllisDon has signed a contract to design and build two new long-term care homes on Speakman Drive in Mississauga.

The successful proponents were selected as the result of a two-stage competitive and accelerated procurement process. In the first stage, a Request for Qualifications and Standing Offer (RFQSO) was issued to establish a list of firms with demonstrated ability and experience in rapid delivery construction projects and mandates. In the second stage, shortlisted firms from the RFQSO were invited to enter into confidential meetings and negotiations, concluding with the contract award.


Auditor General’s Annual Report Critical of Government

The job of the Ontario Auditor General is to shed light on the weaknesses, ineffectiveness and inefficiencies across the provincial government’s operations and spending and her 2020 annual report, tabled in the legislature on Monday, December 7, 2020, was no exceptions. Here are some highlights:

The implementation of virtual care by doctors has been too slow and there have been irregularities in physicians’ billings for virtual care because of a lack of oversight
The Ford government doubled its advertising spending, much of which was designed to improve its image
There is no official oversight for “alternate level of care” (ALC) residents of long term care who are often discharged from hospital to a long term care home and require a higher level of care; this is a hole in the powers of the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario fails to provide effective oversight of the province’s liquor distribution, gaming, horse racing and cannabis distribution sectors
The waitlist of adults with mental disabilities for services has increased by 80% in the last five years despite the doubling of funding
The former Liberal government knowingly understated the costs of the proposed Hamilton LRT
There are IT complications at Metrolinx; the transit agency failed to refund fares to customers as a result of delays and cancellations which it could have done automatically and charged many customers twice for monthly passes
The Ministry of Indigenous Affairs needs to provide additional supports to indigenous communities to assist in the uptake of internet services so residents can access government programs
Funeral homes require greater regulation and proactive inspections and cemeteries a strengthened licensing regime to protect consumers
Condominium governance and management needs to be strengthened
The province’s school curricula are outdated and must be modernized

Art galleries and museums that are supported by public funds do not put on display a significant portion of the pieces they own

For the full report, click on the following link Office of the Auditor General of Ontario


Government Names Vaccine Distribution Task Force

The province recently announced the names of the members of its vaccine distribution task force, led by retired General Rick Hillier. In addition to Hillier, they are:

Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s chief coroner and coordinator of the provincial outbreak response.
Dr. Homer Tien, trauma surgeon and president and CEO of Ornge.
Dr. Maxwell Smith, bioethicist and assistant professor at Western University.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious diseases consultant and internist at Toronto General Hospital.
Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald of Taykwa Tagamou Nation.
Dr. Regis Vaillancourt, director of pharmacy and integrated pain services at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar Corporation.
Angela Mondou, President and CEO of TECHNATION.
Mark Saunders, the former Toronto police chief.

Here are some facts about vaccination and the Task Force:

The deputy minister of health and the commissioner of emergency management will serve as vice-chairs.
Non-OPS Task Force members will be paid $398 per day plus expenses
Hillier will be paid $20,000 per month
Taskforce members who aren’t already in the Ontario Public Service will earn a $398 per diem plus expenses, according to an order-in-council. Hillier rakes in $20,000 a month.
It’s unlikely that vaccination against COVID19 will be made mandatory but those who choose not to be vaccinated may have restrictions placed on their activities

Groups receiving the early vaccine doses in the first few months of the Ontario immunization program will include:

Residents, staff, essential caregivers, and other employees of congregate living settings (e.g., long-term care homes and retirement homes) that provide care for seniors as they are at higher risk of infection and serious illness from COVID-19;
Health care workers, including hospital employees, other staff who work or study in hospitals, and other health care personnel;
Adults in Indigenous communities, including remote communities where risk of transmission is high; and
Adult recipients of chronic home health care.


Premiers’ Popularity Waning

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, Premier Ford’s approval rating was steadily declining, from 42% approval in December 2018 to 31% in February 2020 according to the Angus Reid Institute.

Then COVID 19 hit and a new Doug Ford, a more empathetic and caring Doug Ford showed up. His approval rating shot up to 69% in May 2020. However, since that time there has been a slight decline to 66% in August 2020 and then down further to 55% in November 2020.

Almost all provincial premiers’ popularity benefitted from the pandemic and the daily exposure it provided them to display their leadership and like Premier Ford have seen their popularity wane slightly since May. The exception may be Alberta Premier Jason Kenny whose popularity has been in a steady state of decline from June 2019 (69%) to November 2020 (40%) with a 1% bump up in May 2020.

Premier Ford is in the middle of the pack in terms of his popularity. Here are the December 2020 rankings according to the Angus Reid Institute*:

  • Horgan – BC 64%
  • Legault – Que 64%
  • Higgs – NB 63%
  • McNeil – NS 62%
  • Moe – Sask 61%
  • Ford – Ont 55%
  • Furey – NL 53%
  • Kenny – Alberta 40%
  • Pallister – MB 32%

For the full rundown, go to Premiers’ Performance: The year of COVID-19 draws to a close with most, but not all holding majority approval – Angus Reid Institute
*PEI’s population is too small to draw discreet samples over multiple waves and is not included in the Angus Reid surveys


COCA is the voice of our membership at Queen’s Park.

We want to hear from you. All questions, ideas and comments are more than welcome.

Council of Ontario Construction Associations
180 Dundas Street West, Suite 2001
Toronto, ON M5G 1Z8
416-968-7200