April 27, 2020

McLennan Ross Update for Monday

By McLennan Ross Labour & Employment Team

What we are seeing

  • On April 24 2020, the Government of Canada announced the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program after reaching an agreement with all provinces and territories.  
    • The CECRA provides forgivable loans to qualifying commercial property owners to cover 50% of monthly rent payments owed by eligible small business tenants during April, May, and June, 2020. It is expected to be operations by mid-May, 2020.
    • The loans will only be provided if the property owners agree to reduce the eligible small business tenant's rent by at least 75% under a rent forgiveness agreement and warrant not to evict the tenant while the agreement is in place.
    • The tenant is required to cover the remaining 25% of the rent for the three months.
    • Eligible small business tenants have been described as businesses paying less than $50,000 per month in rent and who have temporarily ceased operations or have experienced at least a 70% drop in pre-COVID revenues.
    • This support will also be available to non-profit and charitable organizations.
 What we are hearing

  • The Provincial Court of Alberta recently hosted a webinar that provided some insight into how that Court will try to restart operations. The Court recognized its biggest impediment to the resumption of full Court services is the need for restricted access and the existing technological gaps in effectively providing services to the public and profession.
    • The Court is developing a plan that continues to evolve, but stressed this was an opportunity for the Court to reimagine how it delivers services to Albertans and how it conducts business on a day-to-day basis.
    • This plan recognizes that resumption of "normal" operations will not occur soon and the best-case scenario may be a "grocery store model" where the Court is open but there is a controlled separation implemented between people to ensure safety for everyone involved.
    • The Civil Division has been trying to expand access to remote services like WebEx and telephone in order for the matters currently being heard to be expanded from urgent/emergency to non-urgent matters; however, the Court currently faces a lack of technological resources as well as a shortage of court clerks, which are required for any such hearings.
    • In rescheduling the adjourned matters across all Divisions, the Court said nothing is off the table. They are considering extending hours; however, this would be subject to resource constraints. The Court encourages litigation parties to consider mediation and to engage in meaningful Pre-Trial Conferences and Case Management hearings.
    • The Court mentioned possibly moving all $10,000 or less matters to an administrative body in the future. This would assist the Court when it moves to hearing matters up to $100,000 by redirecting some of the backlog.
  • We expect that the Court of Queen's Bench is developing a very similar plan, but is also facing gaps in its existing technology and staff.
 What we are saying

  • New Brunswick, whose number of active COVID-19 totaled 118, with 11 active cases and no fatalities, has announced its plan to reopen the New Brunswick economy.
  • Although a guidance documents is being developed, the plan includes the immediate allowance of increased but still limited contact and events, such as:
    • Households are permitted to spend time with one other household, if both households agree;
    • Golf courses and driving ranges are permitted to open if physical distancing and safety measures are in place;
    • The ban on recreational fishing and hunting is lifted;
    • Parks and beaches are reopened, but users still have to follow physical distancing measures;
    • Co-workers or neighbours can carpool if physical distancing measures are maintained by transporting the passenger in the backseat;
    • Post-secondary students are permitted to access campus if required to fulfill course requirements; and
    • Religious organizations are allowed to hold outdoor services if parishioners stay in their vehicles 2 metres apart.
  • New Brunswick also has travel restrictions in place. All travelers entering New Brunswick are still required to self-isolate for 14 days. This restriction does not apply to essential workers, such as workers in the trade and transportation sector as well as healthy people who must cross the provincial border to attend work.
  • Based on the unique situation in New Brunswick, we still expect the plan to be introduced by the Alberta Government to be more consistent with the plans already announced by Saskatchewan and British Columbia, especially with the necessity of interprovincial commerce, trade, and travel.

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