- As we mentioned here on May 29, 2020, the Government of Alberta announced that the state of public health emergency under the Public Health Act, will not be renewed. In contrast, the Legislature of the Government of Ontario voted on June 2, 2020 to extend its provincial state of emergency to June 30, 2020. This decision came after there were an additional 446 cases of COVID-19 reported by the Ministry of Health. These increases are due in part to an error made in flagging positive cases by two Toronto area hospitals, leading to thousands of Torontonians ignoring social distancing guidelines and gathering in close proximity together in local parks the previous weekend.
- The extension of the state of emergency may impact the opening up of the Ontario economy, which would benefit all Canadians. Although Ontario has said it still intends to proceed with plans to implement a regional phased approach to reopening, the large cluster of cases in the Greater Toronto Area will almost certainly inhibit the ability of that area to do so.
What we are hearing
- A key part of allowing Albertans to return to work and to an effective relaunch of the economy is the ability of employees to find childcare. Stage 1 of Alberta's relaunch strategy allowed licensed daycare and out-of-school care programs to reopen as of May 14, 2020. Preschools were permitted to begin reopening as of May 28, 2020.
- Unfortunately, the limitations placed on daycare and preschool facilities may make reopening until the fall uneconomical. According to the Province's guidance for these facilities, which can be found here, childcare can only operate in cohorts of 10 people, including staff and children. Cohorts are directed not to mix with other cohorts or be within the same room/space at the same time, including pickups and drop-offs, mealtimes, playtime, outdoor activities, staff rooms, nap time, etc. Although multiple programs can be offered in the same building, each must have separate entrances. Even if these childcare operations can figure out how to meet expenses with reduced enrolment, many have stated they could not do so in the short-term so they will not open for June.
- As more and more employers are requesting employees return to the workplace, accommodation of childcare needs will continue to be necessary if other options are not available.
What we are saying
- The Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta made another announcement regarding its ability to hear contested interlocutory applications effective June 3, 2020:
- The Court will commence hearing regular Masters Chambers applications (with an anticipated length of 20 minutes or less) remotely via WebEx video and audio. In Calgary and Edmonton, regular Masters Chambers will be held at 10 am every Court sitting day, Tuesday through Friday. In regional centres, Masters Chambers will be available on specified sitting dates.
- The Court will also commence hearing regular Civil Justice applications remotely via WebEx video and audio in Edmonton and Calgary. Regular Civil Chambers will continue to be held at 10 am every Court sitting day.
- To secure a hearing date, parties are first required to view available sitting dates online. Once parties have determined an appropriate (available and alternate) sitting date, the parties contact the Clerk's Office by sending the draft Application and Form of Order, along with their proposed available and alternate date in accordance with the procedures outlined on the Court's website.
- Although this announcement signals that interlocutory matters can be heard immediately, subject to availability, Masters Order #4 granted by the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench is still in effect. Paragraph 10 of that Order states that "[a]ll filing deadlines under the Alberta Rules of Court, including Rule 13.41(4), are suspended until June 26, 2020 with the exception of those Rules applicable to the commencement of proceedings, including originating applications.
- It therefore appears that applications that were contemplated prior to the declaration of the state of emergency and the closing of the Courts will be able to be argued, but applications to compel parties to complete steps required under the Rules or to seek relief due to a party missing a filing deadline will not yet be available.