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April 22, 2020

Comprehensive Summary of Provincial Emergency Measures

In response to COVID-19, the Manitoba Legislature had a one-day emergency sitting on April 15, 2020, that saw 13 bills come into effect. This article provides a summary of each bill.

Bill 54, The Emergency Measures Amendment Act

The Bill amends The Emergency Measures Act. Fundamentally, the amendments allow the Province to make three types of ordered when a state of emergency is declared: emergency orders, temporary suspension orders and reporting deadline variation orders.

Emergency orders provide the Province with broad powers to make any order it considers necessary “prevent, reduce or mitigate serious harm, or substantial damage, to persons or property or the effects of fiscal or economic disruption.” The Bill directly contemplates issuing emergency orders to prohibit price-gouging by allowing the Province to set fixed prices for necessary goods, services and resources, to order the construction of emergency shelters and hospitals, and to order that information be collected, used, or disclosed. Emergency orders remain in effect for a maximum of six months.

Temporary suspension orders allow the Province to temporarily suspend the operations of certain provisions in statutes, regulations or by-laws. The Bill speaks directly to the possibility of suspending:

  • conditions to access services, programs, benefits or compensation that: fix maximum amounts; establish eligibility requirements; require something to be supplied before access is allowed; require payment of a fee; or restrict how often a service or a payment may be provided.
  • reporting, filing and submission requirements for businesses or participation regulated activities;
  • limitation periods in proceedings;
  • payment of fees in proceedings;
  • in-person hearings;
  • actions or activities that are to be undertaken in the presence of a person; and
  • payment of late fees, interest, or monetary penalties.

Temporary suspension orders must be considered necessary to help people affected by an emergency or disaster and cannot be used to reduce services, programs, benefits or compensation, shorten limitation periods, or increase fees or penalties. These orders will remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency or for a time period set out in the order.

Reporting deadline variation order allow the province to vary the deadline or time period within which the government or a government agency is obligated to file or submit a report or information. The order or variation expires at the end of the next session of the Legislature unless sooner revoked.

All types of orders may apply retroactively and if an order conflicts with a legislative or legal instrument, the order prevails. The province may designate, by regulation, persons who can enforce orders made under The Emergency Measures Act.

Finally, the Bill increases penalties under The Emergency Measures Act. For individuals, the penalty is increased to a maximum of $100,000 or one year imprisonment, or both. For corporations, the penalty increased to a maximum of $1,000,000. Additionally, courts may increase the penalty to capture any financial benefit acquired through the commission of an offence (for example, through price-gauging). The Bill also increases penalty for a breach of an evacuation order from $50,000 to $500,000.

Bill 55, The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act

The Bill adds new provisions to The Employment Standards Code to prevent workers from being terminated or disciplined by employers for taking leaves from work due to COVID-19. Particularly, subsection 59.12(2) stipulates that employees are entitled to unpaid “Public Health Emergency Leave” if, in relation to COVID-19, they are unable to work because:

  • the employee is under medial investigation, supervision or treatment;
  • the employee has been told by a health professional to quarantine or isolate within the meaning of The Public Health Act, or is subject to self-isolation or other measure that results in their in ability to work;
  • the employer has directed the employee not to work due to the employers concern about the employee’s exposure to others;
  • the employee is providing care to a family member including caring for a child due to school and child care closures;
  • the employee cannot reasonably travel to their work place due to travel restrictions;
  • the employee is subject to an order made under The Public Health Act; or
  • the employee is acting in accordance with an order made under The Emergency Measures Act.

The unpaid Public Health Emergency Leave applies retroactively to March 1, 2020. Employees who have taken leave between March 1, 2020, and April 15, 2020, and who meet the criteria in (a) through (g) are deemed to have taken Public Health Emergency Leave. An employee’s leave ends when none of the factors in (a) through (g) apply. Employers cannot request that the employee provide a certificate from a health professional but may request other “reasonable verification of the necessity of the leave” be provided as soon as practicable.

In addition, pursuant to subsection 60(3.1) employers are prohibited from requesting medical certificates before determining an employee is eligible to take maternity leave, compassionate care leave, unpaid leave for organ donation, leave related to critical illness, and long-term leave for serious injury or illness. This section also applies retroactively to March 1, 2020.

Bill 56, the Family Maintenance Amendment Act

The Bill amends The Family Maintenance Act by enabling the Maintenance Enforcement Program to make more frequent inquires to determine if a maintenance obligation for an adult child remains eligible for enforcement. In appropriate circumstances, the program can cease enforce support for an adult child. The amendments also provide that when a request is made for an administrative suspension of enforcement, each party is entitled to a copy of the information submitted by the other party, with any sensitive information deleted.

Bill 57, The Regulated Health Professionals Amendment Act

The Bill amends The Regulated Health Professions Act to permit health profession regulatory bodies waive registration requirements for former members, and health professionals from other provinces and the United States, if a public health emergency exists and services of the health professional are required.

Bill 58, The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act

The Bill temporary amends The Residential Tenancies Act by:

  • Freezing rent to the amount payable immediately before April 1, 2020, and ordering repayment by landlords who have accepted payments for increases which came into effect on or after April 1, 2020;
  • Restricting evictions to specific circumstances that infringe, interfere with or adversely affect the security, safety, health or well-being of other tenants, such as engaging in unlawful activity, retroactive effective as of March 24, 2020; and
  • Prohibiting late fees for failure to pay rent.

These amendments will remain in effect until they are repealed by proclamation.

Bill 59, The Public Health Amendment Act

This Bill amends The Public Health Act. It gives Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer new powers to prohibit people from “travelling to, from or within a given area,” and to impose self-isolation for people who arrive in Manitoba from elsewhere.

The Bill also gives medical officers and inspectors enhanced enforcements powers to deal with anyone failing to comply with a public-health emergency order.  This includes imposing greater fines, the ability to take “any action that the medical officer or inspector considers necessary to carry out the order,” and the ability to request the assistance of a peace officer to take any such action. The Honourable Cameron Friesen, the Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living, stated that the Province is contemplating drafting a regulation that enables conservation officers, liquor inspectors, workplace safety and health inspectors, and retired police officers to participate in the enforcement of these orders.

Bill 60, The Appropriation Act, 2020 (COVID-19 Response) and Bill 61, The Loan Act, 2020

The Bills approved additional government expenditures of up to $1,000,000,000 and increased in government's borrowing authority by $5,000,000,000.

Bill 62, The Fuel Tax Amendment and Retail Sales Tax Amendment Act

The Bill changes The Fuel Tax Act by temporarily waiving the requirement for carriers who are not licenced under the International Fuel Tax Agreement to pay taxes and obtain single-trip permits upon entry into Manitoba. This is aimed at reducing the administrative burden for transportation carriers bringing vital supplies such as food, medical equipment and other goods into the province during the state of emergency.

The Bill also amends The Retail Sales Tax Act is also amended to eliminate retail sales tax on premiums payable for insurance related to real property, including:

  • policies covering homes, rental properties and commercial properties;
  • tenants' policies;
  • mortgage insurance; and
  • title insurance.

Bill 15–The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation Amendment Act

This Bill amends The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act. The holder of certain categories of liquor licenses may now sell beer, wine, cider, and coolers for delivery or takeout, including through third-party delivery services. The alcohol must be purchased with food.

The Bill also amends The Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation Act. The amendment removes the current reference to “beer” under the distributor section, which limits distribution from private distributors, and replaces it with “liquor.” This amendment will allow third-party distributors to distribute a wider variety of products and expand retail opportunities for beer vendors.

Bill 30–The Fisheries Amendment, Forest Amendment and Provincial Parks Amendment Act

The Bill amends The Forest Act, The Provincial Parks Act, and The Fisheries Act to allow the electronic sale of resource-based licences. This is intended to allow Manitobans to obtain their required licences and permits without having to physically enter a store. The Honourable Sarah Guillemard, Minister of Conservation and Climate, stated this system will be rolled out in a phased approach, offering select fishing and hunting licences and park vehicle permits first, with the remaining licences and permits going online over the next 12 months.

Bill 4, The Manitoba Hydro Amendment Act

This Bill amends The Manitoba Hydro Act to increase the borrowing authority granted to Manitoba Hydro for temporary purposes by up to $1.5 billion.

Bill 200, The Municipal Assessment Amendment Act

This Bill amends The Municipal Assessment Act to exempt real property that is used primarily by The Royal Canadian Legion or The Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada from municipal most property taxes. This has been the case in Winnipeg for some time, the Bill simply expands this province-wide.

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Resource posted April 22, 2020, with reports from Jasmine Bissoon.