Spring 2020 Update
Our thoughts turn to the rituals of Spring as we emerge from the Great Lockdown
Social Distancing has Brought Us Closer Together than Ever
On March 6, 2020, we sent out our first blog on the coronavirus. At the time, Health Canada said the public health risk was low in Canada, but we were seeing a lot of our clients and contacts around the globe severely impacted by the spread of the virus. “Who knows what tomorrow may bring”, we wrote.
The following weeks brought an almost complete shutdown of the global economy, one which The Economist predicts will cause “the most brutal recession in living memory”. Ontario remains in a state of emergency with a long list of businesses ordered to be closed. Governments at all levels are announcing economic relief measures to help people and businesses in need. Many businesses will never reopen; virtually all will be changed in ways that we have yet to imagine. For now, we see through a glass, darkly.
As the days grow longer and warmer, our thoughts turn to the rituals of spring. So too the Ontario government, which recently announced a short list of businesses that would be permitted to reopen, including garden centres and golf courses (but only for maintenance, not for players). Yesterday provincial parks reopened, although social distancing will be enforced and all facilities within the parks will remain closed. As the Great Unlocking begins, we are seeing a pivot from daily crisis management to ambitious plans for renewal.
We would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has supported all of us and our families as we cope through this difficult time. In many ways, social distancing has brought us closer than ever. We are grateful and optimistic for what lies ahead.
What a Time to Be a Lawyer
Never before have we witnessed such a dizzying pace of regulatory activity. Almost daily there are new legal developments. Many of them provide relief in the face of difficulties posed by social distancing requirements, such as the extension for filing financial statements. Others impose new restrictions that a few months ago would have been inconceivable, such as the almost complete closing of the Canadian border and the mandatory quarantine of certain travellers. Virtually everything that is regulated is now subject to new and changing rules and policies.
One area of particular interest to our corporate clients is the changing landscape for making investments in Canada. As we wrote yesterday, Canada is open for business and the pace of activity is picking up, but advance planning is required.
The rules keep changing so check back often. Ontario issued an order on March 30 to provide flexibility to hold virtual shareholder and director meetings for OBCA corporations. The order was amended April 24 to provide some further clarity and address some gaps. The deadline for certain annual shareholder meetings has been extended to 90 days after the date the Ontario state of emergency terminates, but that date is not clear. Premier Ford announced yesterday that he would ask the legislature to extend the emergency order to June 2, 2020.
On a lighter note, there can be some tug-of-war between different levels of government when it comes to enforcing some of the rules, as was witnessed in Ottawa over the weekend. Ontario has restricted all gatherings of over five people everywhere in the province (with the exception of funerals, where there can be 10), so the National Capital Commission installed signs around the Tulip Festival telling people not to stop or take pictures at the tulip beds.
The prominent mayor of Ottawa Jim Watson expressed his disagreement, saying that sitting down to get “the best tulip picture ever and fiddling with your lens – that’s not permitted”, but people should be able to take a quick picture. The NCC relented and removed the signs to permit photography while continuing to encourage social distancing. You can also enjoy the famous Tulip Festival online this year until May 18 via the “Virtual Tulip Legacy Garden Tour“.
Where to Find Resources
There is no shortage of news and information on the crisis. Our favourite sources are listed below:
The Government of Canada’s COVID-19 page is here, including links to financial support.
The Government of Ontario’s coronavirus page is here, including a self-assessment tool.
- The Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP resource page is here.
The Economist’s coverage of the crisis and its consequences can be found here.
For entertainment and a thoughtful look at what is happening in the world, Trevor Noah’s Daily Social Distancing Show is a gem. You can check it out here.
For those who are dearly missing the Raptors and live sporting events, the Netflix documentary “The Last Dance” about Michael Jordan and the Bulls is captivating. The trailer can be found here.
Spotlight on Caring
For this update, rather than shining a spotlight on one of our valued clients as usual, we would like to take this opportunity to focus on the caring people and organizations who are making a difference during this difficult time of crisis.
The SkyLaw team is proud to support a number of local organizations assisting those in need during this unprecedented time. We would like in particular to acknowledge the hard work of a long-time friend of the firm and founder of Conduit Law, Peter Carayannis, co-creator of the charitable initiative called Sustain the Line (“STL”).
During the COVID-19 crisis, STL has been helping local food businesses to match with people who want to fund meals for frontline healthcare workers:
“Frontline health care workers have always been heroes. The COVID-19 crisis brought into focus their critical and meaningful work. The crisis has led them to unfathomably long, intense hours and they often lack the time or open shops to find the food necessary to sustain themselves… At the same time, there is another line that needs to be sustained. The commercial kitchen line. All small businesses are facing a struggle to survive in this crisis… So we decided to help sustain both lines.”
Sustain the Line is currently operational in 14 cities in Canada and the US, and they have served over 2,500 meals to frontline caregivers.
For more information or to get involved, visit their website at www.sustaintheline.com.
SkyLaw supported frontline healthcare workers at Sunnybrook and a local food business with a donation of lunch on April 21. Photo credit @santaguidafinefoods.
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