News

COVID-19 Resources for Municipalities

Jul 9, 2020

 

Municipalities of Saskatchewan has created a COVID-19 Update to help keep municipalities informed of provincial updates and new resources. If you or your municipality would like to receive weekly updates, email communications@munisask.ca.

 

 

The COVID-19 outbreak is a challenge to public health in our hometowns. Find information and resources below to help keep your residents safe. Click on a focus area below to go directly to that information or browse all the resources.

Provincial Update
In Your Municipality
As an Employer
Resource links

 

 

Provincial Update

 

A $150 million special warrant for the Municipal Economic Enhancement Program 2020 (MEEP) has been approved meaning Saskatchewan municipalities that have submitted and had their project plans approved by the Ministry of Government Relations can now access funds within MEEP.

MEEP supports projects including:

  • Connectivity
  • Disaster Mitigation
  • Drinking Water
  • Engineering and Feasibility Studies
  • Green Energy
  • Local Roads and Bridges
  • Municipal Equipment
  • Municipally-Owned Buildings and Assets
  • Planning and Development
  • Protective Services
  • Public Health
  • Solid Waste
  • Recreation, Culture, Tourism and Sport
  • Wastewater and Storm Water

Funding cannot be used by municipalities to pay down debt, purchase land, lease property or finance administration costs.

All MEEP 2020 funding must be used by March 31, 2022.

For more information, visit www.saskatchewan.ca/municipal-economic-enhancement

 

 In Your Municipality

Social gatherings

Effective June 22, indoor gatherings increased to a maximum of 30 people while maintaining a two-metre separation. Outdoor gatherings remain at a maximum of 30 people with a two-metre separation. The current exception is the northwest region, where indoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings limited to 20 people, with a two-metre separation to be maintained both indoors and outdoors.

Council meetings

Council meetings still need to happen, and still need to be public, but efforts should be made to allow distance between people of two metres where possibleIf a municipality's council procedure bylaw allows for it, council could hold regular and special council meetings electronically.

If a muncipality's council procedure bylaw does not address meeting electronically, but council would like to, council can pass a resolution at the beginning of the meeting indicating the reason for, and approval of, the use of electronic means for the meeting. If council chooses to meet through electronic means and prohibit the public from attending in person, alternative methods for the public to have access to meetings needs to be considered. Options include live streaming, conference calling, or video calling. 

When meeting electronically, it is important for each council member to be aware of confidentiality - as a requirement of the Code of Ethics bylaw and Oath of Office, it is the responsibility of each council member to ensure confidentiality of municipal business. Councils may hold in-camera meetings or portions of meetings, in accordance with legislation and its council procedure bylaw. 

Financial statements, tax notices, and audit deadlines

A municipality, through a bylaw, can extend the time for up to 90 days for things such as financial statements, tax notices, and audit deadlines. 

Tax deferrals

As municipalities establish property tax payment deadlines, municipalities have the authority to change property tax payment dates and defer payments and penalties within the tax year. This also applies to education property tax - municipalities are only required to remit school taxes to the province once it is collected.

By-elections

Municipalities planning to hold by-elections need to determine what preventative measures, if any, need to be taken. Any changes to scheduled by-elections need to be clearly communicated to the public. This should include posting in the same places as the original notices and any additional places such as a website or putting up posters in public locations. 

Assessment appeals

A minister's order relating to assessment appeals came into effect on April 14. The government has created a question and answer document for municipalities.  

Development Appeals Board hearings

Developement appeals board matters can be handled through written submissions or delayed by mutual consent with the applicant. If an appeal will be delayed, the length of the delay should be reasonable and can always be revisited. 

Oversight of drinking water systems

Provided by the Ministry of Government Relations March 30

Safe water is essential to ensure good sanitation and hygienic conditions to best protect people against COVID-19.

Waterworks operators must maintain adequate filtration, treatment, and disinfection at the water treatment plant, as well as adequate disinfectant residual through the distribution system. The Water Security Agency (WSA) is communicating to ensure municipalities are aware of maintaining their regular oversight of their drinking water systems and are designating waterworks operators as essential staff during this situation.

During this time of physical distancing, waterworks operators must continue their normal schedules. If the operators are unavailable or not performing the necessary tasks to guarantee a safe drinking water supply, or for any reason proper operation is interrupted, the municipality, the permittee, employees, and contractors must notify the WSA via the 24-hour upset Reporting Line at 1-844-536-9494 of any disruption, so that alternate certified operators can ensure that water is safe.

The permittee, employees, and contractors also must ensure the proper operation and monitoring of wastewater systems and proper treatment in accordance with the permit and must notify WSA if operations are interrupted or upset for any reason.

WSA is also advising that its Environmental Project Officers (EPOs) must be allowed on site as needed to conduct inspections and monitor the proper functioning of both water and wastewater systems. EPOs are present to assist in ensuring a safe water supply for the public.

See the COVID-19 and water issues question and answer for more information.

Personal protective equipment 

Fire departments responding to motor vehicle collisions should have personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect against viral transmission. If your community needs PPE for its first responders, please email the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency. Your information will be collated and PPE will be prioritized based on provincial needs and priorities. 

Emergency Evacuations During COVID-19

In the event of an evacuation, the Ministry of Social Services is responsible for securing evacuation accommodations for communities and coordinates its efforts with the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) during events. When an event occurs requiring evacuations; hotels are always the first option considered. If no near by centre is available, the province looks at the closest viable option. In cases where a large population is evacuated a congregate facility may be considered; however given the restrictions in these during pandemic conditions, it will likely not be an option. 

Plans to safely house evacuated persons under pandemic conditions are being prepared. Every community should have an emergency plan that identifies a muster point or registration location in the event the community is impacted by any threat. 

Concerned communities are encouraged to work directly with their regional Emergency Services Officer to ensure their plans are adequate.

With dry conditions in some parts of the province and restrictions related to the pandemic, the SPSA is asking municipalities to share a fact sheet with residents.

Municipalities are also being asked to:

  • Review their community's emergency plans to ensure that information and contacts are up-to-date.
  • Monitor the fire risk in their area and consider implementing burning bans, if needed.

 

As an Employer

Employment information is provided by Miller Thomson LLP. Have questions? Contact Troy Baril or Amy Groothius. Miller Thomson has created a page of COVID-19 employment resources at millerthomson.com

On March 17, the provincial government introduced and passed legislation that will provide job protected leave in light of the novel coronavirus. The primary points of the amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act are:

  • The Public Health Emergency Leave provision applies where Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer (“Officer”) orders that people must take measures to reduce the spread of disease, including through isolating themselves. On March 17, 2020, the Chief Medical Health Officer issued an order limiting public gatherings, restricting access to long-term care homes, personal care homes, group homes and hospitals, and indefinitely suspending classes in all primary and secondary educational initiatives, so we consider this condition precedent to be met and if it is not, that a further order will be forthcoming. 
  • Employees are entitled to the Public Health Emergency Leave if any of: (a) their employer, (b) a medical practitioner, (c) the Government or (d) the Officer directs them to isolate themselves to reduce the spread of disease. They are also entitled to the Leave if they must care for a child family member who is affected by a direction or order of the Government or the Officer (such as school closures).
  • Note that employees may be entitled to this unpaid leave from their first day of work, and do not need to provide a written note in support from a medical practitioner – there is no exception for probationary employees in their first 13 weeks of work.
  • That is, if an employer directs their employees to isolate themselves to prevent or reduce the spread of the disease, then the employees are placed on unpaid Public Health Emergency Leave.  Effectively, this places an employee on protected, unpaid leave that does not result in a temporary layoff or termination, and which does not trigger payment of severance.  As with all employment leaves, employees are entitled to remain on their benefit plan, if the terms of the plan permit, and so long as the employee continues to pay the required benefit plan contributions.
  • Employees are entitled to their regular wages and benefits during the leave so long as they are authorized to work at home, follow the Officer’s order, and follow any additional regulations passed by Government. Conversely, if an employee on leave is not authorized to work from home, or does not follow the Officer’s order, they are not entitled to their regular wages.     
  • Employers must reinstate employees returning from a Public Health Emergency Leave, which would occur when the Officer rescinds the public health order.  That is, there is no recall provisions and there is no limit (at this time) on how long this leave can last.
  • The amendments are retroactive to March 6, 2020.

 

Resources

Municipalities of Saskatchewan

 

Government of Saskatchewan

 

Government of Canada

 

As an Employer

 

Municipal Services

 

Economic Development

 

Funding

 

Mental Health

 

Other

 

 

Group Benefits Subscribers: Short Term Disability Claims and Canada Life

If you are affected by the novel Coronavirus, Canada Life will assess your claim based on your plan coverage, as normal. Out-of-country medical emergency, travel assistance, and disability coverage is probably the most concerning. Claims related to the novel Coronavirus or claims that occurred during travel to a country with travel advisory warnings will be treated like any other claim under your plan.

For short-term disability claims, Canada Life will consider paying benefits from the start of the quarantine period if you’re under quarantine directed by a medical doctor or public health official, and you’re unable to work from home.

The following forms need to be completed to claim short-term diability:

For more detailed information from Canada Life, or if you have questions about your plan coverage, contact Group Benefits at 306-525-4390.