What Canadian provinces are doing to support businesses amid COVID-19

As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has brought much of Canada’s economy to a halt, provincial governments are looking to support businesses and regional economies. Some are providing tax extensions, others will provide new lines of credit and compensation for employees.

At the federal level, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Morneau provides more detail on government’s 75 percent wage subsidy for Canadian businesses” rel=”noopener noreferrer” target=”_blank”>$102 billion as part of the federal government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, including small subsidies and BDC loans. Regional Development Agencies, such as FedDev Ontario, are applying a three-month deferral for companies in repayment, which takes effect on April 1.

Here’s what Canada’s provinces are currently doing to help business communities weather the impact of the pandemic. The article will be updated each Thursday as more information comes in.

Ontario

The Ontario government has launched Ontario Together, a new website aimed to help businesses and their employees work with the province to meet the challenges of COVID-19. Ontario Together will examine supply challenges in the province and request ideas and advice from Ontario’s business and manufacturing communities on how the government can work to meet the demand.

Through the Ontario Together initiative, the government plans to partner with business community members in Canada and around the world, in order to redirect resources and explore new ways of doing business.

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The province has also introduced legislation aimed to protect the jobs of employees that are in isolation or quarantine or those who need to care for children or other relatives. Ontario’s government is expected to announce business supports in its spring economic update on March 25.

On March 23, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the province will take enforcement action to keep non-essential workplaces closed. A specific list of workplaces that must close is set to be released on March 24.

Updated 26/03/2020:
In place of its 2020 budget, Ontario announced $17 billion over the next year in its economic and fiscal update. The measures include $10 billion in tax and deferrals for individuals and businesses.

Updated 09/04/2020:
The Ontario government has launched the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, meant to get businesses operating quickly after the pandemic is over. The committee will hear from business associations, chambers of commerce, municipal leaders, corporate leaders, small business owners, and entrepreneurs, to assess the impact of the pandemic and develop an action plan. Four hundred thousand jobs were lost in the province last month.

Although Ontario tenants are still required to pay rent, Premier Doug Ford has frozen all eviction notices in the province to ensure residents and businesses can keep their homes and offices during this time.

Updated 16/04/2020

The province is developing a new health data platform called the Pandemic Threat Response (PANTHR). PANTHR will hold secure health data that will allow researchers to better support health system planning and responsiveness, including the immediate need to analyze the current COVID-19 outbreak. The Vector Institute has committed to helping with the project. It is currently unclear when PANTHR can expect to go live.

Updated 23/04/2020:

The Ontario government is investing $20 million to advance medical research and develop tools and resources to combat COVID-19 and other infectious diseases through the Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund. Eligible projects include researching the COVID-19 strain, developing a vaccine, enhancing testing procedures, or improving modelling tools to help track the virus. The Ontario government has also extended all emergency orders until May 6.

Update 25/05/2020

Quebec has begun reopening its economy, despite having the highest number of deaths in the country. Non-essential retail stores outside of the Montreal region reopened May 4 and elementary schools and daycares followed suit a week later.

Quebec

Quebec is earmarking at least $2.5 billion to help companies impacted by the pandemic. All industries are eligible for the emergency program, and businesses must demonstrate that they will be able to turn a profit after the outbreak.

Low-interest loans and loan guarantees of at least $50,000 will be offered to businesses as part of this plan. The government said it is open to providing more, based on the needs of businesses.

On Thursday, Investissement Québec was in the process of evaluating more than 600 requests for financial assistance. The government agency will also loosen terms for existing borrowers. Quebec is also extending the deadline for individuals and businesses to pay any tax balance due and tax installments to September 1, which is expected to inject $8.3 billion into the province’s economy.

On March 23, Quebec Premier Francois Legault ordered all businesses to close by the evening of March 24, for three weeks, with essential services remaining open.

Update 06/04/2020

The Quebec government announced the Emergency Assistance Program for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses, which targets SMEs that are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the crisis and require working capital totalling less than $50,000. This initiative is in addition to the Temporary Concerted Action Program for Businesses, which targets businesses in need of more than $50,000 in working capital.

The government has also established an incentive program to retain essential workers, which will offer a $100 weekly benefit for low-income earners working full or part time in essential services.

Update 30/04/2020

The Quebec government plans to gradually reopen segments of the province’s economy as well as the education sector as well as scale back on travel limitations throughout the month of May.

British Columbia

Behind many of its fellow provinces, the Government of British Columbia announced a relief plan for businesses and residents on March 23.

The BC government will provide $5 billion, including a $2.8 billion financial relief package for residents and $2.2 billion for businesses. The plan also includes a one-time, tax-free $1,000 payment to residents whose employment is affected by the pandemic. The payment will be provided to individuals who receive federal Employment Insurance, or the new federal Emergency Care Benefit or Emergency Support Benefit.

Businesses with a payroll over $500,000 can now defer employer health tax payments until September 30, 2020 (businesses with a payroll under this threshold are already exempt). British Columbia is also extending tax filing and payment deadlines, including for PST, until the same date. The scheduled April 1 increase to the provincial carbon tax, as well as the new PST registration requirements on e-commerce, will be delayed and reviewed.

BC Finance Minister Carole James called the relief plan a starting point, with more updates expected over time.

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In the meantime, the British Columbia Economic Development Association, a professional association of economic development practitioners in the province, has been providing informational resources to local, Indigenous, and regional governments as well as businesses. Some of the resources include a planning guide for businesses, workplaces, and employers, as well as a toolkit for economic preparedness in British Columbia.

Small Business BC, an organization that provides business advisory services and resources, has forwarded recommendations to the provincial government, including extending the April 30 tax deadline.

The province is also working with banks, credit unions, and other lenders, such as Community Futures, an agency that helps entrepreneurs start and expand their businesses with financing, to offer more credit options.

Update 26/03/2020:

BC announced March 26 that it is establishing a new provincial supply chain coordination unit to coordinate distribution, and plans to take a more active role in coordinating essential goods and services movement by land, air, marine, and rail. The province will also suspend any bylaws that restrict goods delivery, allowing for delivery at any time of day.

The government is also banning the secondary resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and other essential supplies, and is restricting quantities of items purchased at point of sale. Local governments are also being directed to develop business continuity plans.

Update 30/03/2020:

As part of its COVID-19 Action Plan, the BC government announced a total of $5 billion in income support, tax relief, and direct funding for people, businesses, and services. Businesses will have access to $2.2 billion earmarked to support recovery after the outbreak. The provincial government is partnering with business and labour leaders to build an economic stimulus plan. The province has allocated $1.5 billion for economic recovery.

Update 06/04/2020

On April 2, the province created an economic recovery task force, which will include leaders from business, labour, First Nations, and not-for-profits. The task force is hoped to ensure the benefits of the province’s programs will reach their targets.

The BC government has also partnered with several organizations, including Vancouver-based cloud technology company Traction on Demand and the Digital Technology Supercluster, to create an online platform to coordinate supplies for health workers fighting COVID-19.

Update 16/04/2020

The BC government has extended its provincial state of emergency to April 28.

Updated 23/04/2020:

BC is providing temporary relief to those whose ability to work has been affected by COVID-19, with applications for the $1,000 BC Emergency Benefit for Workers opening on May 1.

Updated 25/05/2020:

Qualifying BC businesses of all sizes can apply for up to $5,000 to support their Buy BC e-commerce activities. The program provides financial support to access and develop websites that accommodate online sales and helps cover the costs of marketing and shipping products to consumers throughout the province. Online applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, from May 15 to May 29.

Alberta

The Alberta government is providing a postponement of corporate income tax balances and installment payments to August 31. Small commercial customers can also postpone electricity and natural gas payments for the next 90 days.

The province is making changes to its Employment Standards Code to allow full and part-time employees to take two weeks of job-protected leave if they must self-isolate or are caring for a dependent that is required to self-isolate.

Small businesses can apply for a deferral on loans and lines of credit for up to six months and can access additional working capital through ATB Financial. Businesses of all sizes can access one-on-one support from ATB Financial. Further solutions are also being considered by the province.

On March 23, Alberta’s government reversed the increase to the education property tax introduced in the 2020 budget, a move that is meant to help business owners save $32 million. The province will also defer its portion of six months worth of taxes on non-residential properties, delaying those taxes until October 2020. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney also announced changes to Workers Compensation Board premiums for businesses of all sizes, with private-sector business payments deferred until the end of this year.

Small and medium-sized businesses will only have to pay half of their 2020 premiums, with the government covering the other half. The government noted that employers who have already paid some of their premiums can request refunds or can have a credit put on their account.

Update 06/04/2020

Alberta’s Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) premiums have been deferred until early 2021 and employers who have already paid their WCB premium payment for 2020 are eligible for a rebate. The government will cover 50 percent of the premium for this program, but only for small and medium-sized businesses.

Alberta also now has an Emergency Isolation Support program that offers paid leave for employees without access to employment insurance for receiving vacation time or sick leave. This program is also available for small business owners and the self-employed. The benefit is a one-time payment of $1,146 that is meant to bridge the gap until the federal program begins later this month.

Update 16/04/2020

Alberta has released a list of resources to help support small business owners. The tool, called Business Link, is meant to serve as a one-stop-shop to connect small businesses with advice, coaching and information on available COVID-19 resources and support.

The province has also launched the Bits and Pieces program, aimed to mobilize manufacturers, researchers, and suppliers to help meet the needs of industries impacted by the pandemic. The program is named after the program established by Canada’s Minister of Munitions and Supply during World War II.

Updated 23/04/2020:

A new task force has been launched to help businesses in the Alberta Foothills during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Foothills Business Recovery Taskforce was developed by Foothills MP John Barlow and Livingstone-Macleod MLA Roger Reid to give the regional business community hope and support during the coronavirus outbreak.

Update 25/05/2020

The province has issued guidelines for businesses reopening this month. Stage 1 of the relaunch began on May 14. The cities of Calgary and Brooks are expected to reopen more gradually with some services already resuming.

Nova Scotia

Small and medium-sized businesses in Nova Scotia will have access to $161 million to help them overcome the impacts of COVID-19. The government is also deferring government loans and business-related fees until the end of June, as well as payments and interest on loans under the Jobs Fund, Housing Nova Scotia, and Municipal Finance Corporation.

Businesses will also not be required to pay workers compensation premiums until July. Loan payment deadlines under the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program administered through the Nova Scotia credit unions will be postponed until June 30. The province is also allowing businesses to apply for up to $500,000 through the Small Business Loan Guarantee program.

Update 16/04/2020

The $20 million grant program to small businesses is now available. An additional $20 million is being made available for the Worker Emergency Bridge Fund, through which the province will provide a one-time payment of $1,000 to bridge the gap between the layoffs and the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Premier Stephen McNeil has said more funding and programming may come as necessary and existing programs receive more money if it’s required in the province.

Update 06/04/2020

The government of Nova Scotia has announced a $20 million Worker Emergency Bridge Fund to help the self-employed and those laid-off workers who do not qualify for Employment Insurance. The government will provide a one-time, $1,000 payment to those who qualify.

The province is also earmarking $20 million to fund a new program, called the Small Business Impact Grant. Eligible small businesses and social enterprises will receive a grant of 15 percent of their revenue from sales, either from April 2019 or February 2020, up to a maximum of $5,000. This is a flexible, one-time, upfront grant and can be used for any purpose necessary.

Update 30/04/2020

The Nova Scotia government has launched a new financial support program to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The program became available Thursday, and will provide small businesses with a $1,500 grant, as well as a business continuity voucher of up to $1,500 to help hire a private consultant for support.

New Brunswick

On March 19, the New Brunswick provincial government declared a state of emergency, essentially closing the majority of non-essential businesses.

Business property taxes are required to be paid by May 31, but the province will review late penalties on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the penalty can be waived for financial challenges caused by business closures during COVID-19. Banks are also working with small businesses to manage unexpected challenges, which could include relief to other credit programs offered by the provincial government.

Update 06/04/2020

New Brunswick is offering a one-time income benefit of $900 that will be provided to self-employed and workers in New Brunswick who have lost their job due to the state of emergency. The Government of New Brunswick will also defer loan and interest repayments for up to six months on existing provincial loans.

The province will also provide operating loans to support small businesses. Loans will be up to $200,000, and payments of interest and principal will not be required during the first 12 months. Opportunities New Brunswick will work to administer the application process, and will also provide working capital in excess of $200,000 to help larger employers manage the impacts of the pandemic on their operations.

The province is now removing the requirement for an employer to provide notice of lay-off to an employe, due to the fact that COVID-19 was an unforeseen circumstance.

Updated 23/04/2020:

Higgs said this week that the owners of businesses closed by COVID-19 could start thinking now about how they will adapt to meet Public Health’s prevention measures in order to reopen. The province has not revealed any dates for reopening businesses, but the cabinet committee is discussing New Brunswick’s plan for recovery from the pandemic.

Update 16/04/2020

New Brunswick’s legislature will reconvene Friday to introduce amendments that will provide job protection for people forced to take leaves of absence because of COVID-19. More details on the program are expected to be revealed at the legislature. Premier Blaine Higgs said there is a chance New Brunswick could begin restarting its economy in a matter of months.

Update 30/04/2020

New Brunswick has begun relaxing restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19. The province has reported no new cases three days after it entered the “yellow phase” of its reopening, which will allow some businesses to open their doors. As of May 25, there is one active case of COVID-19 in the province.

Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan government’s financial support plan includes a program that will offer residents not already covered by the federal government’s employment insurance programs, with $450 a week for up to two weeks.

The province’s plan also includes a three-month provincial sales tax remittance postponement and audit suspension. Businesses in the province that are not able to pay their PST due to cash flow issues will not have to pay any penalties or interest charges.

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Businesses that cannot file their provincial tax returns on time can request relief, and the province’s audit program and compliance activities have been temporarily paused. The plan also includes a utility deferral program, which waives interest on late payments for up to six months.

Update 06/04/2020

A Business Response Team has been created in Saskatchewan to assist with the economic challenges caused by the pandemic. The provincial government announced that the team will work with businesses to identify program supports available to them both provincially and federally.

A website has been created for businesses to access information and ask questions. Workers who have had their employment impacted by the pandemic can visit this for information on support.

Update 09/04/2020

The Saskatchewan government is drafting a program that would pay grants to businesses as part of an aid package that could be worth more than $50 million. The program is expected to come to cabinet on Wednesday, according to the Leader Post. It will provide $4,000 to qualifying small and medium-sized businesses and is targeted at meeting fixed costs during the current scramble for cash.

Update 30/04/2020

The Saskatchewan government plans to begin a phased re-opening of the economy on May 4. The first phase of the program will reopen medical services such as dentists and optometrists.

Update 25/05/2020

The province is offering the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment (SSBEP), which provides a payment to small and medium-sized enterprises directly affected by government public health orders related to COVID-19. Payments are paid based on 15 percent of a business’s monthly sales revenue, to a maximum of $5,000.

The province has also begun implementing Re-Open Saskatchewan, a plan built on a phased-in approach to slowly lift restrictions on businesses and services.

Manitoba

The Manitoba government is providing businesses with the ability to defer payment of payroll taxes and provincial PST remittance up to $10,000 for 60 days. The province will work with businesses of all sizes regarding flexible repayment options above the $10,000 cap.

Update 09/04/2020

Premier Brian Pallister said Manitoba crown corporations will waive penalties for unpaid bills and allocate $100 million for health equipment spending as part of its COVID-19 response measures. The $100 million investment is aimed to allow the province to support made-in-Manitoba products and solutions from local businesses. Manitoba businesses or manufacturers who can either scale up production or re-tool their manufacturing lines are eligible to receive some of this money.

Update 16/04/2020

Pallister said local company 24-7 Intouch will operate a call centre to reach out to local businesses and help them access the federal government’s 75 percent wage subsidy and Canada Emergency Business Account. Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief provincial public health officer, ordered non-essential businesses to stay closed until April 28 under the Public Health Act.

Updated 23/04/2020:

The Manitoba government is now giving $120 million to help small and medium-sized businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19. The Manitoba Gap Protection Program is aimed to provide about 120,000 businesses in the province who don’t qualify for federal government programs.

The province said it will give each eligible business a non-interest, forgivable loan of $6,000. It noted the loan will be forgiven on December 31 if the business says it hasn’t received any major non-repayable COVID-19 support from the federal government.

Updated 25/05/2020:

On May 4, Manitoba began its phased reopening of the province. Retail businesses and health care services are among the businesses that have reopened in the province.

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island has established a $25 million contingency fund to support resident workers impacted by COVID-19. The government has also established a toll-free support line for Island businesses: 1-866-222-1751.

Update 06/04/2020

The Workers Compensation Board (WCB) of Prince Edward Island will defer all assessment due dates related to 2020 employer payrolls until June 30, 2020.

The government announced Emergency Working Capital Financing to help small businesses maintain normal business operations. Each qualified company can receive up to $100,000. To qualify, applicants must be an existing small business located and operating in the province of PEI and have been generating revenue in PEI. The government specified that startups are not eligible for this loan.

The province is also deferring all scheduled loan payments for clients of Finance PEI, Island Investment Development Inc., and the PEI Century Fund for the next three months. The government is also providing $4.5 million to Community Business Development Corporations across the province to deliver financing to small business and entrepreneurs, and is creating a temporary allowance of $200 per week for anyone who has experienced a significant drop in their working hours.

Newfoundland & Labrador

On March 18, the province’s Minister of Health and Community Services declared COVID-19 a public health emergency under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act. Across the region, businesses like bars, gyms, arenas, and libraries have closed.

Update 06/04/2020

Loan payments on business loans administered by the Innovation and Business Investment Corporation are now deferred by three months. Workers’ safety training certificates that expired since February 28 have been extended to June 30, with workers having to recertify by August 30.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has yet to announce support for the self-employed, however, WorkplaceNL has also provided employers with a compensation premium payment deferral until June 30.

Yukon

The territory of Yukon has introduced a relief program aimed to help Yukon businesses and non-government organizations affected by the cancellation of major events due to COVID-19. Yukon organizations that face an irretrievable financial loss because of the cancellation of an eligible event can apply. Application to this program must be submitted on or before August 31.

Premier Sandy Silver announced the territory is developing the details of a stimulus package for businesses and workers. A business advisory council will monitor and advise the province on the economic impacts of COVID-19. The government will also offer a paid sick leave rebate to allow Yukon workers without sick leave to stay at home if they are sick or are required to self-isolate.

The province will also create an economic impact tracking mechanism with the Department of Tourism and Culture and industry organizations. There will also be monthly sectoral surveys to gather information on the business impacts of COVID-19 in Yukon.

Updated 23/04/2020:

Yukon businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can now receive non-repayable grants from the provincial government to cover certain fixed business costs, including rent, utilities, and business insurance.

Yukon businesses that have experienced at least 30 percent decline in revenue and require immediate relief can apply for up to $30,000 per month to cover eligible costs from March 23 to May 22.

Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories has put together an initial economic relief package valued at $13.2 million dollars. This package is intended to work in concert with the federal government’s COVID-19 plan.

The territory will also offer low-interest loans to businesses to help offset up to one month of COVID-19 impacts and will allow for the deferral of any Business Development and Investment Corporation loan payments for a period of up to three cumulative months.

The government is also allowing small businesses and individuals to access cash flow more quickly by shortening the payment terms on government invoices so that they are paid out as soon as possible. The government is pausing collections on payments to provide small businesses and individuals to further free up access to cash flow.

Finally, the government is also working to establish a business advisory council to help identify the economic impacts of the pandemic.

Update 30/04/2020

Northwest Territories businesses are being asked to complete a business survey aimed to help the Government of the Northwest Territories better understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses and what supports and measures will be needed for economic recovery.

Nunavut

Nunavut’s Department of Economic Development and Transportation is offering a one-time grant from the territorial government of up to $5,000. The grant is part of a government effort to provide relief to businesses suffering from the economic impacts of the pandemic. The money will be provided by the territory’s existing small business support program. The northern territory has not yet experienced a case of COVID-19.

Image source Unsplash. Photo by Cris DiNoto.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Writer, globetrotter, drone pilot & David Attenborough enthusiast