What we are seeing
- On April 22, 2020, Prime Minister Trudeau announced new financial support programs for students who, to date, had been largely ignored by the Government. Details of the programs include:
- Introduction of the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) for new, current, and recently graduated post-secondary students not eligible for the CERB. Eligible students can apply to receive $1,250 a month for the traditional summer break from May to the end of August. Students with permanent disabilities and those with dependents can receive an additional $500 per month.
- An increase in the value of Canada Student Grants.
- An increase to the Canada Student Loans limit from $210 to $350 per week of study.
- Expansion of the Student Work Placement Program to promote the creation of more paid work placements in healthcare, food, agri-food, retail and e-commerce.
- $291 million is being allocated to support student researchers and post-doctoral fellows through federal granting councils.
What we are hearing
- On April 9, 2020, the Minister of Service Alberta signed Ministerial Order SA:009/2020 which had a significant impact upon public bodies attempting to deal with Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) access requests. The Order:
- Extends the timeline for a public body to respond to an access request from 30 days to 90 days (s.11);
- Allows a public body to extend that 90-day timeline by an additional 60 days (or longer with the permission of the Privacy Commissioner) if the COVID-19 pandemic unreasonably interferes with the operations of the public body (s.14);
- Extends the 15-day time limit during which a public body can transfer an access request to another public body to 45 days (s.15); and
- Allows a public body to extend the 30-day timeline for deciding whether or not to provide access to a third party record to 60 days (or longer with the permission of the Privacy Commissioner) for operational reasons related to the pandemic (s.31).
- The Order applies to all FOIP access requests received on or after April 9, 2020, and all access requests which were underway on April 9, 2020, regardless of whether timelines had already been extended under FOIP. It will remain in effect until 60 days after the public health emergency is declared to be at an end, or until terminated by the Minister or Cabinet.
- Despite the significance of the Order, very little has been said about it and surprisingly, it does not seem to be mentioned on the OPIC website. This is a very important order for any public body struggling to deal with the pandemic and its ongoing obligations under FOIP.
What we are saying
- Saskatchewan announced a five-phase plan to re-open Saskatchewan's economy beginning on May 4, 2020.
- The phases will be implemented via public health order with timing dictated by evidence of transmission:
- Phase One: Re-opening previously restricted medical services and the opening of golf courses, parks and campgrounds;
- Phase Two: Re-opening retail and select personal care services;
- Phase Three: Re-opening restaurants and food services, gyms and fitness centres, licensed establishments, childcare facilities and any remining personal care services as well as increasing the size of public and private gatherings to 15 people;
- Phase Four: Re-opening indoor and outdoor recreation facilities and increasing the size of public and private gatherings to 30 people; and
- Phase Five: Consider lifting long-term restrictions.
- We expect that the Alberta Government will soon be introducing a similar plan which will also be dictated by medical evidence. In light of the connection between Alberta and Saskatchewan commerce, it would be surprising if the Alberta strategy was inconsistent with Saskatchewan's plan. At the very least, Alberta employers should take note of where they fall in the Saskatchewan phases as that could be a good indication of where they might be placed if Alberta follows a similar course.