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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

COVID-19 Business Update: January 20th, 2021

Government of Ontario expands workplace enforcement campaigns

Following last week’s big-box store blitz, provincial offences officers will be now be visiting an expanded range of workplaces across Ontario to educate and ticket businesses that are not complying with COVID-19 health and safety requirements. Starting today, more than 300 officers will be supporting these blitzes, and will be visiting a variety of workplaces that are allowed to be open during the provincial shutdown such as retail establishments, including big-box stores; restaurants providing take-out meals; essential service-sector establishments (such as gas stations); and farming operations.

Corporations can be now be fined $1,000 for failing to comply with the orders under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act and the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. All individuals, including employees and patrons, can also be fined $750 for failing to comply with orders under the acts. If a violation is more serious, a person can be charged with failing to comply with an order under the acts. If convicted, the court can impose fines as high as $100,000 for individuals, and directors and officers of a corporation can be fined up to $500,000. Both could also receive terms of imprisonment of up to one year. The maximum fine for a corporation on conviction of an offence is up to $10,000,000.

The GNCC urges all businesses to follow provincial regulations, not to endanger public health, and not to risk substantial fines and prison sentences.

Tourism Adaption and Recovery Fund launched to support Niagara tourism operators

Niagara’s Tourism Adaption and Recovery Fund Grant will provide tourism-dependent businesses with up to $20,000 in non-repayable contributions to support costs associated with adapting and re-opening. These include projects such as space renovations and retrofits, the purchase of equipment and fixtures, personal protective equipment, and support for technology and digitization. In order to be eligible, the business must currently be operating in the Niagara region and be tourism-dependent. This grant was previously administered separately to Niagara-on-the-lake and is therefore not available for businesses in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Project costs must be incurred between June 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021. Priority will be given to projects that retain/create jobs, have a high jobs/dollar invested ratio and increase the competitiveness and sustainability of the business post-COVID-19. Applications for the first round of funding close on Jan. 31, 2021. Businesses can apply for the fund through the ERRT’s website.

Government of Canada drafts adjustments to Employment Insurance and COVID-19 benefits

Under the current tax rules, EI and CERB income are treated differently when determining tax relief under the Child Care Expense Deduction and the Disability Supports Deduction. EI recipients are not able to deduct eligible expenses against their EI income, whereas CERB and other COVID-19 emergency income recipients can. The proposed changes introduced today would amend the Income Tax Act to temporarily allow Canadians receiving EI benefits to make the same claims for the Child Care Expense Deduction and Disability Supports Deduction as COVID-19 income support recipients. This change applies to income for 2020 and 2021. The Child Care Expense Deduction allows child care expenses to be deducted from income, subject to some limitations, when those expenses are incurred in order to earn employment or business income, pursue education, or perform research. The Disability Supports Deduction provides tax relief for individual taxpayers who have paid for certain disability-related supports in order to earn employment or business income, pursue education, or perform research.

Ontario Business Community Launches the COVID-19 Ontario Vaccination Support Council

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) announced today the establishment of the Ontario Vaccination Support Council, founded by close to 100 businesses, organizations, and the Ontario Chamber Network. The Council will leverage the businesses and organizations involved, representing hundreds of thousands of employees from across the Province, to provide support for Ontario’s historic COVID-19 vaccination effort with the ultimate goal of ending the pandemic.

The Council will bring together a diverse group of OCC members, representing a range of sectors, to share pertinent information and provide government with timely and evidence-based recommendations. The Council will:

  • Provide Ontario’s business community with a window into the Ontario Vaccine Distribution Task Force to share public health information; updates on logistics and distribution plans and seek input on non-health-related issues.
  • Consolidate a directory of capabilities and services within the Chamber Network that could be utilized and procured by government, hospitals and public health in the distribution of vaccinations.
  • Share policies, best practices and approaches with government to ensure the maximum participation of employers and their employees in vaccination efforts with a specific focus on being proactive and removing barriers.

Further changes to Niagara’s vaccination plan

The provincial government has provided direction today to all hospitals and public health units in Ontario to pause administration of all first doses of vaccine, except for residents of long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes. This interim direction is in response to this week’s news of reductions in supply of the Pfizer vaccine. The provincial government is directing that scheduled second dose vaccinations proceed at this time. The change in scheduling of first doses will take place effective end of day today (Wednesday, Jan. 20). This means appointments scheduled for Thursday and Friday of this week will be postponed and rebooked on a priority basis.

Niagara Health holding virtual job fair on Feb. 4

Niagara Health is hosting its first-ever virtual job fair on Thursday, Feb. 4 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. New graduates, students, and job-seekers are invited to apply for positions including:

  • Registered Nurses
  • Registered Practical Nurses
  • Personal Support Workers
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Speech Language Pathologists
  • Clerical Medical Administration
  • Environmental Services, and other healthcare professionals

Interested parties should visit the virtual career fair link and create a new Job Seeker account to register. Log in on Feb. 4 anytime between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to meet with Niagara Health representatives and discuss employment opportunities.

Bank of Canada will hold current level of policy rate until inflation objective is achieved

The Bank of Canada today held its target for the overnight rate at the effective lower bound of ¼ percent, with the Bank Rate at ½ percent and the deposit rate at ¼ percent. The Bank is maintaining its extraordinary forward guidance, reinforced and supplemented by its quantitative easing (QE) program, which continues at its current pace of at least $4 billion per week.

The economic recovery has been interrupted in many countries as new waves of COVID-19 infections force governments to re-impose containment measures. However, the arrival of effective vaccines combined with further fiscal and monetary policy support have boosted the medium-term outlook for growth. In its January Monetary Policy Report (MPR), the Bank projects global growth to average just over 5 percent per year in 2021 and 2022, before slowing to just under 4 percent in 2023.

Canada’s economy had strong momentum through to late 2020, but the resurgence of cases and the reintroduction of lockdown measures are a serious setback. Growth in the first quarter of 2021 is now expected to be negative. Assuming restrictions are lifted later in the first quarter, the Bank expects a strong second-quarter rebound.

Reading recommendations

The controversial Keystone XL pipeline has been dealt a final blow with U.S. President Joe Biden’s confirmed plans to cancel its construction permits, according to one advisor. “I think Keystone XL is cooked, I think it’s done,” James Moore, senior business advisor at Dentons and a former member of the NAFTA Advisory Council, said in an interview on Wednesday.

Niagara COVID status tracker

Niagara’s most up-to-date COVID statistics, measured against the targets for the various stages of the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework, are presented below. This does not predict government policy, but is offered to give you an idea of where Niagara is situated and how likely a relaxation (or further restrictions) may be. These data are drawn daily from Niagara Region. The Grey-Lockdown level does not have its own metrics, but is triggered when the COVID-specific measurements in a Red-Control region have continued to deteriorate.

Note that the Provincewide Shutdown is not the same as the Grey-Lockdown level listed in the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework, which has been suspended for the duration of the shutdown. Additional restrictions for businesses apply during the Shutdown. Businesses should not use the Response Framework as a guide during this time, but should instead refer to the Shutdown guidelines.

December 18December 25January 1January 8January 15January 22January 29
Reproductive number1.
New cases per 100,000101.2267.3469.8575.8507.1295.5250.6
New cases per day (not including outbreaks)60.7178.7311.7376.9325.4182.7145.7
Percent of hospital beds occupied97%95.2%98.2%103.2%104.5%103.6%106%
Percent of intensive care beds occupied78.8%77.3%87.9%87.9%90.9%89.4%93.9%
Percentage of positive tests6.1%15.6%28.1%28.6%26.6%21.2%16.2%


  • Weekly Incidence Rate: the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per week
  • Percent Positivity: the number of positive COVID-19 tests as a percentage of all COVID-19 tests performed
  • Rt: the reproductive rate, or the number of people infected by each case of the virus

Information on government grants, resources, and programs, policies, forms, and posters for download and use, are available here.The GNCC is here to support you. Contact us with any questions you have.

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