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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Daily Update: April 8th, 2021

Ontario launches zero-tolerance workplace safety inspections in COVID hotspots

The Ontario government is launching a series of zero-tolerance workplace safety inspections in sectors and regions hardest hit by COVID-19, beginning tomorrow with warehouses, food processors and manufacturers in Peel and Halton Regions.

On Friday April 9th, officers will be checking for compliance with COVID-19 health and safety requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) to ensure appropriate physical distancing, screening, and masking.

There will also be increased inspections and enforcement across the province that will include:

  • Enhanced education and outreach to the construction sector, a robust and expanding program for rapid antigen screening for COVID-19 in construction, along with a zero-tolerance approach to enforcement of COVID-19 safety requirements on construction projects.
  • Continued risk-based inspections of farms employing temporary foreign workers, including working closely with Service Canada and local public health units to coordinate inspections and share information.

Click here to read more.


New funds available for farm protective equipment

The Ontario government is providing $10 million to allow more farmers and agri-food operators to purchase personal protective equipment, enhance cleaning and disinfection and redesign workstations to better protect workers.

Under the new Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program, farms and agri-food businesses that hire three or more employees will be eligible for funding. Additional businesses and workers will be eligible including corn detasselers, transporters, hatcheries, and primary processing (e.g., cutting, cleaning, packaging, storage and refrigeration of raw plant foods to prevent food from spoiling before it reaches consumers).

Detailed program information and application forms will be available when the intake opens on April 22, 2021 and cover costs retroactive to March 13, 2021. Applications will be accepted while funding is available or until November 30, 2021.

Click here to read more.


New South Niagara Hospital Project moved to active procurement

he April 2021 P3 Market Update includes a total of 41 projects in planning, including 27 in pre-procurement and 14 in active procurement, totalling an estimated $60 billion in contract value.

Highlights from the latest P3 Market Update:

  • Niagara Health – New South Niagara Hospital Project moved to active procurement.
  • Thunder Bay Correctional Facility RFP was issued April 1.
  • Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Integrated Treatment Centre is added as a project in pre-procurement.
  • Collingwood General and Marine – Hospital Redevelopment/Replacement is added in pre-procurement.
  • Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare – Mental Health Inpatient Bed Expansion is new to pre-procurement.

Click here to read more.


Ontario schools to remain open with additional protective measures

New measures being introduced are intended to further protect schools and communities against the spread of COVID-19 include:

  • On-site confirmation of self-screening;
  • Refresher training upon return from April break;
  • Outdoor instruction when possible;
  • Enhanced cleaning during the April break;
  • Curriculum-linked activities for students;
  • Letter to parents promoting best practices for a safe April break; and
  • Asymptomatic testing expansion.

Under the Ontario government’s plan, expanded access to asymptomatic testing is available for students and staff at pharmacies that offer testing and in 180 assessment centres across the province for the week of April 12-18, 2021.

In addition, beginning next week, education workers who provide direct support to students with special education needs across the province, and all education workers in select hot spot areas, will be eligible to register for vaccination. Vaccinations will commence during the April break starting with priority neighborhoods in Toronto and Peel, then rolling out to priority neighborhoods in other hot spot regions, including York, Ottawa, Hamilton, Halton and Durham.

Click here to read more.


The 2021 Spring Reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development are as follows:

Report 1—Implementing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This audit focused on whether Employment and Social Development Canada and selected organizations were implementing a national approach for achieving the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and had made progress toward achieving selected national targets that would result in more inclusive and sustainable outcomes for Canadians.

Report 2—Natural Health Products—Health Canada. This audit focused on whether Health Canada ensured that natural health products available for sale in Canada were safe and accurately represented to consumers.

Click here to read more.


Reading recommendations

Bank watchdog proposes stiffer mortgage rules amid hot housing market

Theophilos Argitis, Bloomberg News/Financial Post

Canada’s bank regulator is proposing to tighten mortgage qualification rules to make it more difficult for home buyers to secure financing, a move aimed at easing financial stability risks stemming from a booming real estate market.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions said it will set up a new benchmark interest rate used to determine whether people will qualify for an uninsured mortgage to a minimum rate of 5.25 per cent. The current threshold, based on posted rates of the country’s six largest lenders, is at 4.79 per cent.

The move comes amid a surge in housing prices that’s raising concern among policy makers and economists. Cheap mortgages and new remote-working conditions have spurred a frenzy of demand for more spacious homes, with house hunters bidding up prices across the country.

The Canadian Real Estate Association calculates prices are up 17 per cent nationally over the past 12 months. Twelve major markets — or about one quarter of the total — have posted price gains of more than 30 per cent.


Canada is losing the race between vaccines and variants as the 3rd wave worsens

Adam Miller, CBC News

Much of Canada is in the grips of a worsening third wave as COVID-19 vaccinations slowly ramp up, and experts say the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants is throwing gasoline on an already-raging fire.

“We have a lot of virus moving around the country and escalating very, very quickly,” said Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor of viral pathogenesis at the University of Manitoba and Canada Research Chair of emerging viruses.

“Vaccinations are certainly starting to pick up, but we’re nowhere near where we need to be to get this thing under control.”

More than 15,000 cases of the more transmissible and potentially more deadly variants have been reported across Canada to date, with more than 90 per cent of those being the B117 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

But the P1 variant first discovered in Brazil is also on the rise in Canada, with cases doubling in the past week to close to 1,000 — mostly in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta.

And the B1351 variant first found in South Africa is also picking up steam, with over 150 cases identified in Quebec, more than 70 in Ontario and over 50 in B.C. as of Tuesday.

But experts say Canada’s slow vaccine roll out has failed to keep up with the exponential rise in variants in the third wave and the premature loosening of restrictions has led to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths — even in younger Canadians.


Housing policy must cool market imbalance: RBC CEO

Stephanie Hughes, BNN Bloomberg

Amid a scorching real estate market, the head of the Royal Bank of Canada warned that the country needs short-term policy changes to cool the stark supply and demand mismatch.

“I do think we have a supply-demand imbalance that’s causing a very strong, heated marketplace,” RBC’s chief executive officer Dave McKay said in an interview. “I do believe… that we do need to start invoking some policy change in the short-term.”

Some of these policies McKay pointed to include the B-20 residential mortgage rule that the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) introduced in 2012. Revised in 2016, the current guidelines urge lenders to implement a stress test on prospective borrowers by verifying employment status and income history.

These measures were put in place to ensure that borrowers would be able to pay their mortgage, which McKay applauded.


Why you can’t compare Covid-19 vaccines

Madeline Marshall, Kimberly Mas, Vox

In the US, the first two available Covid-19 vaccines were those from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Both vaccines have very high “efficacy rates” of around 95 percent. But the third vaccine introduced in the US, from Johnson & Johnson, has a much lower efficacy rate: just 66 percent.

Look at those numbers next to each other, and it’s natural to conclude that one of them is considerably worse. Why settle for 66 percent when you can have 95 percent? But that isn’t the right way to understand a vaccine’s efficacy rate, or to even understand what a vaccine does. And public health experts say that if you really want to know which vaccine is the best one, efficacy isn’t actually the most important number at all.


Niagara COVID status tracker (March 28-April 3)

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 the most recent published by 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.

▲: Metric has increased since last published measurement

▼: Metric has decreased since last published measurement

 December 18December 25January 1January 8January 15January 22January 29
Reproductive number1.41.81.41.11.00.70.9
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%

Definitions:

  • 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

Niagara COVID vaccination tracker (April 8)

Niagara’s most up-to-date vaccination numbers are presented below, along with comparison data from Ontario, Canada, and G7 countries.

Total doses administered in Niagara: 96,351

Total doses administered in Niagara since yesterday: 3,518

 Percentage of population with one dosePercentage of population fully vaccinated
Niagara82.7%78.2%
Ontario84.6%79.1%
Canada84.7%78.6%
United States75%64%
United Kingdom78%72%
Germany76%74%
France80%77%
Italy83%76%
Japan80%79%
World63%53%

Data are drawn from Niagara Region, the Government of Ontario, and Oxford University’s Our World in Data project.


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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