On March 19, 2020, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Diane Thom, declared a territory-wide public health emergency under the Northwest Territories Public Health Act in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic to protect public health in the Northwest Territories.
The public health emergency can only be declared for 14 days and renewed when needed. This order is from March 18, 2020 to April 1, 2020.
The purpose of calling an emergency is to allow the Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Kami Kandola, to take strong, binding actions to protect all Northwest Territories residents, and swiftly respond to the daily evolving needs of the healthcare system as it tackles a pandemic.
At this time, Dr. Kandola is focusing efforts on controlling the spread over the next 60 days. This is the most crucial period as the territory works to slow the spread, flatten the curve and keep residents safe. The public health emergency covers the entirety of the Northwest Territories and will provide expanded powers to the Chief Public Health Officer to:
- authorize qualified people to provide additional aid and services as needed;
- expedite emergency licensing of additional health care providers;
- make orders and provide directions restricting or prohibiting travel to or from any area within the Northwest Territories;
- coordinate and provide for the delivery of medical services; and
- procure and provide for the distribution of medical supplies and equipment across the Northwest Territories.
No measures have yet been taken, however, the government also announced that the majority of government employees will be asked to work from home, starting on March 19, 2020. We will keep you up to date.
On March 26, 2020, the Northwest Territories Minister of Education announced that all schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year.
On March 31, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government announced a second wave of economic relief measures valued at a total of $8.26 million. Measures include $1.617 million in income assistance to create a one-time emergency allowance and $270,000 in additional benefits to income assistance clients by excluding “gifts or unearned income” from the calculation of earned income until June 30, 2020, among others. Details can be found here.
On April 1, 2020, the Northwest Territories extended the state of emergency for another 14 days. However, if the risk to public health remains, the Minister may extend a Public Health Emergency, as often as necessary, by a maximum of 14 days for each extension. Measures remain in place. On April 2, 2020, the Government of the Northwest Territories also extended the territory-wide state of emergency under the Emergency Management Act.
On April 2, 2020, the Government of Northwest Territories’ Driver and Vehicle Services extended expiration dates on driver’s licences, general identification cards and motor vehicle certificate of registrations. More information can be found here.
On April 3, 2020, the Government of Northwest Territories’ announced that due to a delay in renewing health care cards, those with recently expired cards will continue to receive physician and hospital services. Details can be found here.
On April 6, 2020, the state of emergency under the Emergency Management Act has been extended.
On April 8, 2020, the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) announced relief measures for employers who are unable to make their WSCC assessment payments as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Effective April 1, 2020, the WSCC has suspended late payment interest charges and further extended the assessment payment deadline to August 1, 2020. The purpose of these changes is to give extra time to employers to adjust their payroll estimates for 2020 and to make their payments later in the year without facing any penalties.
Employers who do not require an extended deadline are to continue with their planned payment schedule.
The deferral of employer assessment payment means that employers currently registered with the WSCC can move to two equal instalments paid in August and October 2020. The financial relief measures do not apply to the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Nunavut which remain on a standard four instalment schedule.
All employers with changes to their workforce as a result of COVID-19 are encouraged to look at their payroll and submit a revised estimate to the WSCC for their 2020 assessable payroll as soon as possible. Estimated payroll includes payroll for workers, casual labourers, and any contractors you are covering for work taking place in the Northwest Territories and/or Nunavut in the current calendar year.
Employer payroll estimates can be changed online through WSCC Connect.
On April 9, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government created a Compliance and Enforcement Taskforce of officers tasked with enforcing public health orders and investigating non-compliance. Officers will be supported by the RCMP and local bylaw officers. Penalties for a first contravention of any orders from the Chief Public Health Officer or requirements under the Public Health Act or its regulations can be fines of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for up to 6 months.
In the Northwest Territories, the Chief Public Health Officer announced two new binding public health orders:
The first order introduced mandatory measures for mines and oil and gas remote camps. The order applies to all companies, employers, and employees operating or working in these sectors. Details of the mandatory measures to be taken are available online.
The second order banned all indoor gatherings and required the closure of certain types of businesses that are unable or unlikely to maintain proper physical distancing. The order specifies that grocery stores, gas stations, banks, pharmacies and liquor stores can remain open, but that other types of businesses are to be closed down, with certain exceptions. Corner stores, large retail stores, and restaurants offering takeout, drive-thru or delivery may remain open if capable of enforcing and maintaining proper physical distancing and as long as their operations do not present a high-risk to public health. Details of the order are available online.
The government of the Northwest Territories also postponed the opening of its territorial parks until further notice.
On April 15, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the Public Health Emergency and the State of Emergency were both extended until April 28, 2020. No additional restrictions were announced as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on April 15, 2020.
On April 15, 2020The Government of Northwest Territories enacted the Residential Tenancies (COVID-19) Regulations, a new temporary regulation that offers tenants a mechanism to defer their rent if they have lost their job or have had a significant decline in their income. More information can be found here.
In the Northwest Territories, the government announced additional support for essential workers responding to COVID-19 to ensure access to child care.
On April 28, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the Public Health Emergency and State of Emergency were extended until May 12, 2020. Additional travel restrictions and self-isolation protocols for residents, non-residents, and several categories of workers coming into the territory were introduced through a freshly amended Public Health Order – Covid-19 Travel Restrictions and Self-Isolation Protocol (as amended April 27, 2020).
On May 1, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government announced new funding to support recycling operators and processing centres.
On May 6, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government announced $86,000 in funding for loan payment deferrals for clients of the Northwest Territories Community Futures Development Corporations. In addition, the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment confirmed that territorial income assistance benefits will not be reduced by the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or the Canada Emergency Student Benefit.
On May 8, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government closed Highway 8 (the Dempster Highway) to all traffic.
On May 9, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government announced that it will allocate $8.7-million in funding to support Northwest Territories’ passenger-based airlines providing service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 11, 2020, the Government of the Northwest Territories announced that it will waive rent on existing surface dispositions on public land for the fiscal year 2020-21. The rent relief will apply retroactively from April 1, 2020 until March 31, 2021.
On May 12, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government announced that the Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (SEED) program will be used to help the Territories’ businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding approvals will be made in accordance with new guidelines that are available online.
On May 13, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the public health emergency and the state of emergency were both extended until May 26, 2020.
The government has also launched their reopening plan for the economy. For details see Governments re-opening plan and workplace issues to think of.
Finally, the government announced that it will provide up to $6.2-million in funding for low-wage workers. Under the Northwest Territories’ Wage Top-up Program, businesses will receive funding to increase the wages of their employees earning less than $18 per hour, for a maximum of 16 weeks between April 1 and July 31, 2020. According to the government’s announcement, the wage top-up will be considered a taxable benefit for employees. Applications for employers are available online.
On May 14, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, notwithstanding that schools are permitted to reopen under the Territory’s reopening plan, the Education, Culture and Employment Minister and education stakeholders (including the Territory’s teachers’ union) agreed to keep schools closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
The government also announced that it is developing an inventory of local mask producers and sellers.
On May 27, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the Public Health Emergency and the state of emergency were both extended until June 9, 2020.
On May 29, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government announced that it will invest approximately $4.4-million in the tourism industry over the summer of 2020, and that it will waive tourism insurance requirements and licensing fees for the 2020-21 season.
Also, driver’s licences, general identification cards, and motor vehicle certificates of registration expiring between March 31, 2020 to July 31, 2020, will remain valid until August 1, 2020.
On June 1, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government announced support for businesses interested in manufacturing personal protective equipment and non-medical masks through the Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (SEED) program.
On June 10, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the Public Health Emergency and the State of Emergency were both extended until June 23, 2020.
On June 15, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government implemented a new system at the Fort Smith border. Residents of the Territory and of Alberta may apply to obtain an access pass.
On June 18, 2020, the Business Development and Investment Corporation (“BDIC”) announced that it is extending its payment deferral or reduction initiative until September 24, 2020. To reduce or defer up to three months of BDIC loan payments without penalty or additional interest charges, businesses need to apply online and will be approved without being required to show financial losses or hardship resulting from COVID-19.
On June 19, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government announced that exits will now be permitted twice a week on Highway 7. They must be scheduled in advance by email.
On June 24, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government announced that the Territorial Public Health Emergency and State of Emergency have been extended to July 8, 2020.
On June 30, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government announced changes to its policy of paying the costs for isolation centres. Starting July 1, 2020, non-residents will have to cover their own self-isolation costs.
On July 7, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government extended the Public Health Emergency but announced that it was not extending the State of Emergency which expires on July 8, 2020. In addition, the government extended a number of economic relief measures, including the following:
• funding for childcare operators for eligible fixed costs and enhanced cleaning; and
• waiving certain fees, including:
- the Deh Cho Bridge toll;
- truck permits;
- airport landing and concession fees; and
- airport leases and licences.
A summary of the Territory’s economic relief measures is available online.
On July 10, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government released the results of its survey on the economic impact of COVID-19 on tourism and business in the Territory.
For information on the Northwest Territories reopening plan and measures, see Governments re-opening plan and workplace issues to think of.