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Ontario Chamber of Commerce update: COVID-19

The health, safety, and well-being of our staff, members and community are of the utmost importance to us. We have therefore made some changes to how we work until the public health risk related to COVID-19 reduces.

We have decided to opt for virtual meetings and suspend in-person activities for the time being.  This means we are suspending outside visitors to our offices and we will not participate in in-person events or activities. Our senior management team will continue to assess this position based on the best advice of public health officials and partners.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) team is deeply committed to providing the highest levels of service to all our members and these changes only reflect how we work. Our services to our members, availability, and responsiveness remain unchanged. Contact information for all OCC staff is available here.

We will continue to monitor and assess new developments pertaining to COVID-19 closely and work with our members, partners and all levels of government to provide support to Ontario business.

We are all in this together

Tell us how we can best support you. We are taking concerns from the business community and communicating them to all levels of government. We are also preparing a business continuity toolkit which includes prevention techniques to limit the spread of disease and an explanation of legislation governing business continuity and staffing obligations.

Please contact Michelle Eaton, Vice President, Public Affairs, with any issues you are currently facing due to challenges related to COVID-19. She will work closely with our government partners to ensure your voice is heard.

If your company is working on any pandemic related initiatives to support public health efforts or your employees, please also let Michelle know.

If you or your employees are experiencing symptoms, I call upon Ontario businesses to heed expert advice and not overwhelm our medical system. The COVID-19 self asssement tool can be used if you are experiencing symptoms. Our emergency rooms should not be used as a first response. The Ontario Ministry of Health is asking the public to first contact Telehealth Ontario or their local public health unit if individuals are experiencing symptoms.

A Note on Non-Essential Travel

The Governments of Canada and Ontario have advised to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.

Many countries have put in place travel or border restrictions and other measures such as movement restrictions and quarantines. Airlines have cancelled flights. Additional screening measures are being implemented at airports. While Canada has not closed its borders, new restrictions may be imposed with little warning. For more information, please see: https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories.

Government of Ontario Response

The Government of Ontario has announced it will introduce legislation that will include protected leave and remove the requirement for employees to obtain sick notes prior to taking time off for self-isolation or quarantine.

Based on advice from Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and the experts at the COVID-19 Command Table, the Minister of Education has issued a Ministerial Order to close all publicly funded schools in Ontario for two weeks following March break, in response to the emergence in Ontario of COVID-19. This means that Ontario schools have been ordered to remain closed from March 14 through to April 5, 2020.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a memo last week detailing Enhanced Public Health measures for COVID-19. Similar to recent guidance for long-term care and retirement homes, all licensed child-care centres are asked to actively screen children, parents, staff and visitors for any symptoms and travel history that may be related to COVID-19 based on the ministry’s case definition. The government has also recommended the immediate suspension of all large events and public gatherings of over 250 people. In addition, the Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a memo to Long-Term Care Homes, Retirement Homes, Supportive Housing, Hospices and other congregate care settings on allowing only essential visitors.

The Government of Ontario is also working with its postsecondary institutions to ensure each campus has a COVID-19 response plan for academic continuity for students and faculty that does not put their health or personal well-being at risk, while ensuring students can continue to receive the world-class education our institutions provide.

Legislators at Queen’s Park will resume for an emergency session today. Last week, they unanimously passed a motion that would allow them to avoid returning to the legislature if the COVID-19 outbreak worsens.

The March 25 provincial budget will be reduced to a fiscal update with the full budget to be released at a later date.

Government of Canada Response

The Government of Canada is set to make announcement at 1:00 pm today.

Last week, the Government of Canada announced $10 billion available through the Credit Facility Program to the BDC and EDC for Canadian businesses. This is in addition to the $1 billion COVID-19 Response Fund announced on March 11th.

On Friday, March 13th, the Bank of Canada announced it has lowered its target for the overnight rate by 50 basis points to ¾ percent. The Bank will provide a full update of its outlook for the Canadian and global economies on April 15. As the situation evolves, the Governing Council of the Bank of Canada stands ready to adjust monetary policy further if required to support economic growth and keep inflation on target.

In addition, the Office of Superintendent of Financial Institutions announced it is lowering the Domestic Stability Buffer by 1.25%. This means an increase of lending capacity, resulting in an additional $300 billion for bank loans.

The House of Commons and Senate and their related committees will adjourn until mid-April. They will continue to work virtually to take additional actions and may be recalled together on an emergency basis as required.

We will continue to provide updates as they become available and please let us know how else we can support you.

All my best,

Rocco Rossi
on behalf of the entire OCC Team