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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Daily Update: February 24th, 2021

Niagara Public Health offers clarification to businesses

In response to inquiries from the GNCC, Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Mustafa Hirji offered greater clarity on recent public health decisions in Niagara.

The two recent Section 22 orders for food service establishments and retailers would be lifted once infections are under control. The most reasonable expectation would be that once Niagara is moved into Green-Prevent, and if there has been no increase in the infection rate for 3-4 weeks, the orders could be lifted, while paying close attention to infection rates. If rates then begin to rise, the orders could be reinstated.

The orders also reflect those made in Hamilton and Halton. Lifting those orders could be done in coordination with those regions, even if that means lifting them earlier, in order to keep the business environment similar for all three regions.

The primary concern for public health is the possibility of a third wave, which modelling indicates could be imminent if reopening is not careful and cautious. Additionally, a third wave could be fueled by new variants of the virus which are more contagious, and against which vaccines may be less effective. The hope is that vaccination and warmer weather will allow us to get COVID-19 under control and allow a safe re-opening and a lifting of the restrictions on business.

The Medical Officer of Health stated that Niagara had not developed and was not following an independent reopening framework. He noted that such a framework was unlikely to be helpful since the province does not always heed local advice (for example, in June 2020, when Dr. Hirji advocated for moving to Stage 2 reopening more rapidly but was ignored). The provincial public health agency has put out science-based conditions for reopening, effectively requiring having metrics similar to the Green-Prevent level. The province appears not to be following this advice with more rapid reopening in some parts of the province, but cautious reopening for Niagara and other regions (e.g. North Bay Parry Sound’s metrics are consistent with the Yellow-Protect level, yet they continue under a stay-at-home order).

Finally, in December, the province prioritized vaccine to regions in Grey and Red. Niagara was Orange at the time, and thus did not receive vaccine doses until a month later. If the province adopts a similar targeted approach again, the Medical Officer of Health is hopeful that Niagara’s status in Grey would mean prioritization.


Ontario details provincial vaccination plan

Ontarians aged 80 and older are set to start receiving COVID-19 vaccines in the third week of March as the province expands its immunization campaign. Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccine task force, announced a specific timeline for distributing the shots today, noting the schedule depends on vaccine supply. An online booking system and service desk will become available March 15. Ontario then aims to vaccinate adults aged 75 and older starting April 15. Shots will go to those 70 and older beginning May 1, while people aged 65 and older will be vaccinated starting June 1 and those 60 and older the following month.

The UK, for comparison, has now vaccinated over 18 million people, and has already begun offering vaccines to those aged 60 and above, having already vaccinated older age groups and vulnerable populations. Vaccination of every willing person aged 50 and older in the UK will almost be complete by the time Ontarians aged 80 and older are offered the vaccine. Israel expects 95% of its population to be vaccinated by the second week of March. The successful Israeli vaccination program has already resulted in significant loosening of restrictions. Malls and zoos are open, as well as gyms and hotels for those who can prove vaccination. Concerts and sporting events are now being permitted with up to 500 people in attendance.

The GNCC has repeatedly pointed the dire state of Canada’s vaccination program out and called for provincial and federal governments to do better, understanding that widespread vaccination is the only permanent and sustainable solution to the current pandemic and its economic fallout.


Ontario offers funds to help municipalities prepare for extreme weather

The Ontario government is providing up to $2 million in additional funding to extend the Build Back Better pilot project through 2023, and help eligible municipalities rebuild infrastructure that was damaged by extreme weather to a higher standard. This investment is part of Ontario’s Municipal Recovery Assistance (MDRA) program.

Under Build Back Better, municipalities are eligible to receive up to 15 per cent above the estimated cost of rebuilding damaged infrastructure to make it more resilient to extreme weather. Municipalities can use the additional funding to make improvements such as raising roads to ensure better overland flow of water, improving the columns or footings of a bridge, or enlarging the size of ditches and catch basins to increase the capacity to hold water.


Government of Canada releases the first annual report from the National Advisory Council on Poverty

Yesterday, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Ahmed Hussen, tabled in Parliament the first report on Canada’s progress, entitled Building Understanding: The First Report of the National Advisory Council on Poverty.

The Poverty Reduction Strategy included concrete poverty reduction targets and established Canada’s Official Poverty Line to measure poverty and track progress toward the targets. It also created the National Advisory Council on Poverty to provide independent advice to the Government on poverty reduction; to submit an annual report on the progress achieved toward the Government’s poverty reduction goals; and to continue a dialogue with Canadians on poverty.

The report tabled yesterday highlights that if progress made toward poverty reduction is maintained, the Government of Canada will meet its overall poverty reduction targets. The report also notes that the impacts of COVID‑19 on poverty reduction efforts remain to be seen, and there is more to do to ensure that every Canadian has a real and fair chance to succeed. It also provides key recommendations on how to improve poverty reduction efforts to ensure that the 2030 target is metwhich include: continuing existing measures to reduce poverty; specific measures to address poverty among Indigenous people; more inclusive data gathering to support better decision making; incorporating an equity lens in policy development to meet the needs of marginalized groups; and working with the provinces and territories to ensure a robust social safety net that provides benefits at the level of Canada’s Official Poverty Line.


St. Catharines moving forward on living-wage designation

On Monday City Council approved a motion that will see the City certified as a living wage employer. St. Catharines already meets the support level of requirements, meaning all its full-time employees are paid a living wage of at least $18.12 an hour. As part of this certification, the City has pledged to meet champion level requirements by 2024. These requirements would see all part-time staff and employees of City contractors brought up to at least this minimum threshold for a living wage by 2024.

A living wage is calculated by the Ontario Living Wage Network to show how much a household – two adults working full-time supporting two small children – must earn per hour in order to make ends meet and enjoy modest participation in their civic and cultural community.

The City is the fifth Ontario municipality to undergo certification, joining 16 other Living Wage employers across St. Catharines and 50 across the region.

St. Catharines hopes to lead other employers in the community by example, but private-sector and non-profit certification remains strictly optional.


Canadian Chamber welcomes Canada-U.S. relationship reset, shares what businesses want from roadmap

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Vice President, Policy and International, Mark Agnew, issued the following statement today in response to the announcement today by the Canadian and American governments on the Canada-U.S. Partnership Roadmap.

“No relationship in Canadian foreign policy is more important than our partnership with the United States, whether it is on economic or security issues. The Roadmap announced today by Prime Minister Trudeau and President Biden is a welcome reprieve from the past four years, and the business community is eager to usher in the next phase of the relationship between the two countries.

The intent of the plan announced today signals a positive outlook for workers and businesses on both sides of the border, but its success hinges on the ability of both countries to deliver on the details.

As Canada looks to return to more normalized relations with the US, there are opportunities for both countries to help each other build a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery. Since we know that every recovery is a business-led recovery, Canadian businesses need certainty on three critical trade-related issues:

  • Given how integrated and interdependent our supply chains are, there should be a carve out for Canadian companies on Buy American rules.
  • Both countries should coordinate approaches to carbon border adjustments to reduce unnecessary costs associated with regulatory overlap for businesses on both sides of the border. The approach should recognize the realities of our integrated supply chains and existing price on carbon.
  • Business also needs a forward-looking plan that provides predictability for the eventual unwinding of border restrictions, which includes clear milestones and consultations with industry on the new normal.

It will be critical to ensure these issues are addressed in the Roadmap’s delivery given their broad impacts on both Canadian and US businesses. Strengthening the relationship is important for Canada at the best of times, but even more critical now as a means to support a business-led recovery on both sides of the border.”


Niagara Health patients part of numerous COVID-19 clinical trials

Since the early weeks of the pandemic, the Niagara Health team has been creating opportunities for their patients to participate in clinical trials related to COVID-19. Clinical trials are research studies involving patient participants that aim to find out whether a medical treatment is safe and effective for people.

Examples of COVID-19 clinical trials and studies currently happening at Niagara Health:

  • CATCO Study: Evaluating the clinical effectiveness and safety of ritonavir/lopinavir (kaletra) and remdesivir in hospitalized patients. The clinical trial is being conducted in conjunction with the World Health Organization’s Solidarity trial. Solidarity is one of the largest international trials for COVID-19 treatments.
  • REMAP-CAP Study: Evaluating the clinical effectiveness and safety of various COVID-19 treatment in patients admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, including the use of corticosteroid.
  • COVI-Prone Study: Examining the benefits of prone positioning (lying on stomach) for COVID-19 patients with respiratory failure, and whether it reduces the need for mechanical ventilation.
  • ACT (Anti-Coronavirus Therapies to prevent progression of COVID-19 Trial): Studying whether treatment with certain medicines can prevent the need to be admitted to hospital or for an intensive level of care.

Statistics Canada releases quarterly financial statistics for enterprises for Q4 2020

Corporate net income before taxes (seasonally adjusted)

In the fourth quarter, Canadian corporations reported a 7.9% increase in net income before taxes to $82.5 billion, a growth of $6.1 billion. Operating revenues rose 1.8% to $1,080.4 billion during the quarter.

Net income before taxes in the non-financial sector increased by 12.8% (or $6.0 billion) to $53.2 billion in the fourth quarter.

Net income before taxes in oil and gas extraction and support activities increased by $3.7 billion (+56.5%) in the fourth quarter. This increase is attributable to higher oil prices and volumes for the quarter. Nonetheless, the industry reported losses for a fourth consecutive quarter, recording a loss of $2.9 billion in the fourth quarter. This was an improvement from the loss of $6.6 billion in the third quarter.

Net income before taxes in the manufacturing industry edged down by $120 million (-0.9%), reaching $12.6 billion in the fourth quarter. Petroleum and coal manufacturing led the decrease in net income before taxes, down $870 (-187.1%) million as expenses related to asset revaluations increased in the fourth quarter. Net income before taxes in motor vehicle and trailer manufacturing decreased by $536 million (-45.8%) as revenues were down this quarter. Exports of motor vehicles and parts decreased by 9.9% in the fourth quarter.

Mostly offsetting these decreases in net income before taxes for the manufacturing industry was wood and paper manufacturing, which rose by $711 million (+32.4%), on increased prices and robust demand in the panels segment of the industry. Net income before taxes in the retail trade sector decreased (-17.8%, or -$776 million) to $3.6 billion. The food and beverage stores industry led the decrease in net income before taxes, down $2.6 billion (-187.8%) on lower revenues. Motor vehicles and parts dealers recorded an increase in net income before taxes (+$755 million, or +126.9%).

Net income before taxes for financial corporations edged up 0.1% (+$37 million) to $29.4 billion in the fourth quarter. Life, health and medical insurance carriers led the increase, up $873 million (+56.2%) because of higher premium revenues. The banking and depository credit intermediation industry saw continued growth from the prior quarter, with net income before taxes reaching $9.5 billion in the fourth quarter—a rise of 6.2% (+$553 million). Mostly offsetting those increases in net income before taxes for the financial sector were the property and casualty insurance carriers that decreased by $1.4 billion (-50.7%) in the fourth quarter.


Reading recommendations

Bank of Canada warns buyers of ‘early signs’ of overheating in housing market

Don Pittis, CBC News

Despite early signs of overheating in Canada’s housing market, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem so far has no plans to raise interest rates until the economy and employment are back on track following the slump caused by COVID-19.

Speaking remotely to the combined Calgary and Edmonton chambers of commerce on Tuesday, Canada’s top central banker said that the economy would continue to need monetary stimulus, likely until 2023, even though there are already signs it could be distorting the residential real estate market.


What a 3rd wave of COVID-19 could look like in Canada — and how we can avoid it

Adam Miller, CBC News

COVID-19 levels are declining from the devastating peaks of the second wave across much of Canada, but experts say the threat of more contagious coronavirus variants threatens to jeopardize our ability to prevent a third wave.

Canada has close to 850 confirmed cases of the variants first identified in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, with at least six provinces now reporting community transmission — meaning there’s probably a lot more spreading beneath the surface than we know.

But as variant cases increase, overall COVID-19 numbers have dropped steadily in Canada, with just over 31,000 active cases across the country, and an average of about 2,900 new cases and 54 deaths daily.


Making the Hybrid Workplace Fair

Mark Mortensen & Martine Haas, Harvard Business Review

The pandemic has upended much about how we work, and what comes next is neither the death of the office nor a return to the way things were. Instead, our new reality will be hybridity: working with employees who are co-located in the same physical space as well as employees working remotely.

Hybridity promises organizations the benefits of remote working (increased flexibility, reduced carbon footprint, labor-cost optimization, and increased employee satisfaction) alongside the critical strengths of traditional, co-located work (smoother coordination, informal networking, stronger cultural socialization, greater creativity, and face-to-face collaboration). But hybridity is also inextricably tied to power — it creates power differentials within teams that can damage relationships, impede effective collaboration, and ultimately reduce performance. To lead effectively in a hybrid environment, managers must recognize and actively manage the two distinct sources of power that can impede — or facilitate — hybrid work: hybridity positioning and hybridity competence.


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.

 Incidence ratePercent positivityRt
Target: Green<10<0.5%<1
Target: Yellow10-24.90.5-1.2%1
Target: Orange25-39.91.3-2.4%1-1.1
Target: Red≥40≥2.5%≥1.2
Niagara Current154.2 ▲7.4% ▲1.2 ▼

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

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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