U.S. Extends Border Restrictions With Canada Until September 21
Canada’s land border with the United States will remain closed until at least Sept. 21. In an order the U.S Department of Homeland Security cites the delta variant and case counts as the reason for keeping its land border closed.

The decision comes two weeks after Canada opened its land border to Americans who are fully vaccinated and have a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours.

The first week Canada’s land border was open again, Aug. 9-15, thousands of Americans crossed the border into Canada. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, 1.6 million travellers crossed the land border into Canada in that same time frame.

Aiming to contain delta variant
While Canada announced on July 19 that it would open its border, the U.S. decided to keep its land border closed until at least Aug. 21. Since then, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s map of community transmission across the country has grown redder by the day. The vast majority of counties that border Canada are now in the category of high or substantial COVID-19 community transmission.

Speaking to a conference earlier this week, Ted Sobel, homeland security attaché at the U.S. embassy in Canada, provided a glimpse into the American decision-making process, saying domestic public-health concerns played a large role in the decision in July to keep the border closed. “What really loomed large was the spread of the delta variant and all the unknowns about that, as well as trends on domestic public health dealing with things like vaccination rates, hospitalization rates, new infection rates,” Sobel told the annual summit meeting of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region.

Sobel said the U.S. government doesn’t want to make a decision that it will have to reverse. That said, the U.S government is analyzing the situation every day and has the flexibility to reopen the border at any time if the situation improves.

Source: Globe and Mail

Delta Variant Threat to the Global Economy Means Fiscal Prudence May Take an Election Back Seat
The world’s most influential central banker, U.S. Fed Chair Jerome Powell, called the delta variant a “wild card” for the global economy. While there are warning signs that the growing impact of this new, more contagious strain may play a role in the upcoming Canadian election, economic observers say that by itself, a slowdown during the campaign may not have the effect it might have had in the past.

As the health of Canadians takes centre stage in the minds of voters, and as parties take turns proposing their own stimulus measures, some say fiscal conservatives may have more trouble rousing voters this time around. That is not to say economic issues related to the pandemic — such as the cost of housing, a 10-year high for inflation, business shutdowns and the effect of school closings on working parents — won’t also become election issues.

Same goals, different methods
A lot of the difference between the federal parties is less in their economic goals — for each, that includes long-term pandemic recovery — than in the details of how they get there, said Michael Smart, a University of Toronto economist and founder of the think-tank Finances of the Nation.

Voters don’t always read the policy fine print. And in a global pandemic, it’s not only the virus and its variants coming from outside Canada — so too do many of its economic impacts.

A surge in Canadian inflation, caused by the kind of stimulus all the parties are supporting, is hard to separate from the even-higher inflation seen in the U.S., our southern neighbour and biggest trading partner. The Bank of Canada always insists it sets rates independently, based on the needs of the Canadian economy. But a sudden jump in rates to quell inflation would inevitably affect the loonie, leading to a potentially devastating effect on Canadian exports.

While Canada’s high vaccination rate may be helping the country avoid the worst of a delta-driven fourth wave,  there are already signs the variant’s spread in places such as the U.S. and China is affecting markets and supply lines. Reports from the U.S. blamed a sharp fall in retail sales on the spreading delta variant there. And the International Energy Agency has warned that a global slowdown caused by the contagious variant will lead to a decline in oil demand — a crucial measure for Canadian exporters.

Productions lags
The Wall Street Journal reported that “repercussions from the delta variant of COVID-19 are starting to ripple across companies,” from higher staff costs, to lower potato chip production and lower profits. And production and transportation bottlenecks are showing few signs of easing, leading to higher producer prices and thus higher consumer inflation.

One COVID-19-related economic issue that commentators say could well have an impact on how people vote is business shutdowns. While many small businesses have lobbied against some public health measures that they saw as preventing them from earning a living, a number of small business owners are particularly anxious to avoid new shutdowns at all costs, said Shadi McIsaac, CEO of RBC subsidiary Ownr, which helps new companies register and incorporate.

That may be why a growing number of businesses are now welcoming vaccine mandates and vaccination passports. “Almost every entrepreneur who lost a customer — and that was upwards of 90% — was still worried about further lockdowns and economic uncertainty that was looming ahead for them,” said McIsaac.

Rather than worrying about how the federal government will pay for all the bailouts so far, businesses are still focused on the danger of a fourth wave and whether they can survive it, she said. As Smart explained, there are broadly two considerations for the economy during this election — and both involve more stimulus. One is having a response ready in case the economic recovery falters, whether due to a new variant or some other cause; the other is to recharge the economy once the threat from the virus finally passes.

Sales tax holiday
Whether the stimulus is in new spending, or as the Conservatives have proposed, a sales tax holiday to drive immediate consumer spending, that stimulus will likely end up circulating in the Canadian economy and will pay for itself in higher future tax revenues, said Smart. David Macdonald, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, agrees that balancing the budget will be a very theoretical consideration in this election. “I think no matter which party you are, there’s no realistic way you’re going to get to a zero deficit, probably, in the next three years,” said Macdonald.

Beyond retail closures, Macdonald pointed to what could be an even more politically contentious kind of lockdown: Schools, which will open well before voting day on Sept. 20. Another round of school closures would not just annoy long-suffering parents, he said, but would have an important economic impact, as workers are forced to stay home to supervise kids, many of whom are unvaccinated. If that happens, he said, the question is where the blame will land for voters.

“I think really the biggest economic issue right now is how we get through the fourth wave,” said Macdonald. “How do we support workers and businesses, just the way we’ve been doing for a year-and-a-half?”

 Source: CBC

Nearly Two-Thirds of Small- and Medium-Sized Canadian Businesses Are Planning to Make Covid-19 Vaccinations Mandatory for Their Employees, Finds a Recent KPMG in Canada Survey
As many employers gear up to return employees to the workplace, 62% of Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses are making or plan to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for their employees, finds a new poll by KPMG in Canada.

“Businesses are grappling with how to navigate the issue of mandatory vaccination and determine whether or not they are legally permitted to require their employees and, in some cases, their customers, to provide proof of vaccination,” says Norm Keith, Partner, Employment and Labour Law, KPMG Law LLP, and a leading advisor in Canadian safety law. “Our poll found a wide consensus among employers that vaccination is the most effective way to protect workers and customers and key to avoiding a new wave of infections and lockdowns.”

The KPMG poll also found that the vast majority of businesses support mandatory vaccinations and vaccine passports to avoid another lock down.

“With so many different approaches across the country, Canadian companies are seeking legal guidance and advice on vaccination policies for their workplaces,” says Mr. Keith. “While some workplaces have taken steps to make proof of vaccination mandatory, others feel that unless mandated by government, it may be too onerous for them to make it a condition of continued employment. Overall, employers need to balance their health and safety legal duties with an employee’s privacy interests and human rights law protections.”

When implementing a mandatory proof of vaccination policy, a key legal consideration for employers is the actual safety risks in their workplace, particularly where there is close contact with co-workers or vulnerable people. As well, some workplaces are a higher safety risk, such as health care or long-term care for the elderly, education, childcare and emergency services.

Key Poll findings:

  • 62% are implementing or plan to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for employees
  • 84% agree that vaccines are key to avoiding another lockdown and should be mandatory
  • 84% support vaccine passports to perform certain jobs or enter certain places
  • 85% of male respondents support vaccine passports vs. 79% of women; Support for mandatory vaccination was also slightly higher among men (85%) vs. women (81%)
  • 90% feel they are well-prepared and organized in bringing employees back to the workplace safely

Workplace vaccine policies recommended
As Mr. Keith points out, a challenging situation may arise when an existing employee is unwilling to vaccinate or provide proof of their vaccination status. Employers have legal duties and responsibilities and, depending on their specific circumstances, need to exercise reasonableness to avoid constructive dismissal claims. Here are some key considerations for employers:

  • Employers have a legal obligation to keep workers safe;
  • Recognize and accommodate exemptions based on disability and religious beliefs protected by human rights law and the duty to accommodate;
  • Assess whether alternative measures such as rapid testing, social distancing, and minimizing time worked in close proximity to others should be considered;
  • Know that workers also have a legal duty to not work in a manner that may endanger others
  • Protect the confidentiality of employee vaccination data;
  • Be flexible, listen to employee concerns, and enlist workplace joint health and safety committees in developing and implementing policies.

“In general, we recommend that employers receive legal advice when putting in place any COVID-19 safety measures to reduce a wide range of risks. This includes implementation of a vaccination policy that clearly communicates employer commitments and expectations for employee safety.”

About the KPMG Business Outlook Poll
KPMG polled 505 Canadian small- and medium-sized owners and decision-makers between August 6 and August 15. The online survey of business owners and decision-makers were all drawn from Delvinia’s premier online research panel, Asking Canadians, through the Methodify platform.

 Source: Markets Insider