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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Daily Update: February 22nd, 2021

Canada Revenue Agency adds additional support at start of tax season

February 22 marks the official launch of the 2021 Tax Season and individuals can now file their 2020 income tax and benefit return. Filling a return is essential to ensure individuals and families continue to receive the benefits and credits they deserve.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has taken steps to accommodate those who need extra assistance when filing their taxes this year. For example, the CRA is:

  • Adding more call centre agents and extending call hours to give taxpayers more time to have their tax and benefit questions answered;
  • Providing a targeted interest relief for Canadians who received COVID-19 related income support benefits, giving them more time and flexibility to pay if they have an amount owing;
  • Expanding payment arrangement parameters to provide Canadians more time and flexibility to repay a tax debt—those who are in difficult financial situations who find themselves owing money can call a CRA agent for help, toll-free at 1-888-863-8657 between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., Eastern time, Monday to Friday (except holidays);
  • Helping employees cope with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by making the deduction for home office expenses more accessible and easier to claim;
  • Supporting community organizations who offer free virtual tax help to individuals with modest income and a simple tax situation through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP);
  • Offering a new pilot program to offer grants to CVITP and Income Tax Assistance – Volunteer Program (IVATP) clinics to help them with the costs of running community tax clinics;
  • Offering a Liaison Officer service that provides free personalized virtual visits by phone or videoconference to small business owners and self-employed individuals to help them understand their tax obligations.

Public Health Agency of Canada begins COVID-19 testing at land borders

It is now mandatory for travellers arriving at Canada’s land ports of entry, unless exempted, to present proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test result taken in the United States within 72 hours before entry into Canada or proof of a positive COVID-19 test conducted between 14 and 90 days before arrival.

As of today, to meet day 1 arrival requirements, travellers entering Canada at land borders, unless exempt, will be required to take a test using a self-swab kit. This test can be taken either at the traveller’s quarantine location or at a border testing site.

To help travellers meet this mandatory requirement of a COVID-19 molecular test on day 1 upon entry to Canada, self-swab kits will be handed out at all 117 land points of entry.

Ontario government invests in training for new Personal Support Workers

The Ontario government is investing more than $4.1 million to help train 373 new Personal Support Workers (PSWs) and provide them with additional health and safety resources. In total, the funding is supporting eight projects, although none of the funding was allocated to Niagara institutions.

St. Catharines farmers’ market applications open

Applications are now open for farmers and producers to join the St. Catharines Farmers’ Market for this spring/summer season. As peak season approaches, the St. Catharines Farmers Market, which will run every Thursday and Saturday between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. in spring and summer, is ramping up its operations with additional vendors. They are especially seeking farmers and/or those that produce products containing locally grown ingredients, to ensure balance and diversity of products at the market.

Applications and full details on the market, including a list of existing vendors, rules and regulations, selection criteria and market stall rental rates can be found online at Applications are open until March 22.

Welland Council to consider waiving business fees

Business licence fees paid in Welland in 2021 could be refunded if city council approves a staff report that also calls for waiving fees for the rest of the year.

“Local businesses have been affected by COVID-19 over the past year and continue to face challenges given the current lockdown situation,” said a report by senior bylaw enforcement James Cronshaw to be presented at Tuesday night’s special council meeting. “Staff feels it is necessary to assist businesses when possible.”

The city issues about 300 businesses licences annually. The report recommends excluding fire inspection fees. If fees are waived, all other provisions of the city bylaw would still apply. Businesses would be required to obtain a valid licence. All required inspections and applications would need to be completed, as well.

Other municipalities across Ontario, including St. Catharines and Fort Erie, have waived business licensing fees for at least those industries that were most affected by the pandemic.

The GNCC has communicated its support for the waiver to Welland councillors.

Ontario Chamber of Commerce calls for all levels of government to work together

Rocco Rossi, President & CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce released the following statement in response to the Government of Ontario’s decision to extend the shutdown and stay-at-home orders:

“We call for clarity on concrete milestones that trigger lockdown or extension. Many business owners are struggling to wrap their heads around requirements and health protocols and scrambling to hire, re-hire, or lay-off staff to no fault of their own. There is no easy on or off switch for employers; the lack of predictability and clarity in government decisions makes it difficult for businesses to plan effectively and invest in the necessary infrastructure for a safe re-opening. Ultimately, business owners and their workers are the collateral damage from misalignment between regional public health units and different orders of government.

“We are at an inflection point and getting this right is critical. As we have said from the outset of the crisis, prioritizing public health is our best long-term economic strategy. You cannot restart the economy without control of the virus, particularly with consumer confidence at an all time low and new strains of the virus aggressively spreading across Ontario.

“A new spike in cases could trigger another full provincial lockdown, prolong the crisis, and further depress consumer confidence. That is why clear and consistent communication and guidelines will be critical determinants of the plan’s, and by extension Ontario’s, success.”

Reading recommendations

How midsize companies can use data to compete with digital giants

Jonathan Byrnes & John Wass, Harvard Business Review

The pandemic has changed the business environment dramatically, both for B2C and B2B companies. Consumer behavior has shifted from in-store to online, and to a significant extent, it will not shift back. The flood of home deliveries has bankrupted scores of firms who traditionally relied on in-person interactions, with midsize companies (with limited resources) hit especially hard. In the B2B markets, buyer behavior has shifted just as dramatically. Electronic orders have displaced sales calls in many companies; one industrial distributor, for example, has seen its digital business climb steadily, now reaching over 60%.

The digital giants have benefited from this shift and have grown in size and capability. Wayfair, for example, is rapidly taking over huge swaths of the furniture market, and Amazon is relocating its local distribution facilities to enable two-hour deliveries of its various products.

All companies have to adjust — but in particular, midsize ones, who are very vulnerable but also potentially very agile. Their vulnerability stems from having fewer resources than their giant competitors and less diversification to shield against the impact of price wars. They can be agile if they have the resources to reposition and less-entrenched bureaucracies, which makes it easier to innovate and change.

Texas failed because it did not plan

Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic

How could this have happened? For four days, millions of people in Texas—the so-called energy capital of the world—shivered in the dark, unable to turn the lights on or run their heaters during some of the coldest days in decades. At least 30 Texans have died so far, including a 75-year-old man whose oxygen machine lost power and an 11-year-old boy who may have perished of hypothermia. Desperate families have tried to stay warm by running generators and grills indoors, leading to more than 450 carbon-monoxide poisonings, many of them in children.

Here are three explanations. I won’t give away the ending, but they are many of the same issues that hampered the United States in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Too many crucial systems in this country are run on an ad hoc basis. A lack of planning, a reliance on just-in-time logistics, and a self-defeating trust in the profit motive are withering the American economy and way of life.

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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