COVID-19 Updates and Resources

Updated: 27 October, 2020

27 October, 2020 - WeirFoulds: Fixed Fee Contract and Employment Legal Services – Fall 2020

9 September, 2020 - Financial Update - Impacts of COVID-19 on ARIDO

COVID-19 and Your ARIDO Membership
ARIDO Membership Support
What has been deemed an essential service or workplace? How does this impact the Interior Design Profession?
City of Toronto Services Disruption
WeirFolds COVID-19 Resource Portal
Canada’s Economic Response
Information on Financial Measures from Kriens-LaRose
HR Resources for Small Business
Contracts and Force Majeure
Additional Resources: Public Health Ontario, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Health Canada, WHO, Infrastructure Health and Safety Association

WeirFoulds: Fixed Fee Contract and Employment Legal Services – Fall 2020
A personal note from Faren Bogach Partner, WeirFoulds LLP

As 2020 comes to an end, it is hard not to reflect on the unprecedented business challenges the pandemic has posed. Disruptions in operations, delays, increased costs, workplace health and safety, employment and other contractual issues have transformed how we do business. Helping Canadian businesses adapt, plan and thrive during and beyond the pandemic is our goal and commitment to ARIDO members.

In June 2020, WeirFoulds LLP, a law firm in Toronto partnered with ARIDO and produced a five week series of tailored educational webinars designed to help ARIDO members stay informed of your legal rights, obligations and to provide members with the tools needed to equip you for future success.
The webinar series covered a wide range of hot topics including employment issues, updates to changes to Ontario’s Construction Act, site safety considerations, getting paid, succession planning and corporate structures, and commercial lease clauses.

A recent report from IBISWorld discussing the anticipated growth of the interior designers’ industry in Canada highlights a very positive outlook over the next 5 years. To support your business through this period of high demand, WeirFoulds has created a custom, fixed fee legal services solution designed specifically for ARIDO members. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be prepared for all scenarios, whether positive or a pandemic – making sure that your business comes out on top is where we can help.

Our package of reduced cost offerings covers everything from employment issues to agreements and policies, construction contracts, disputes and collections, risk management and incorporating your business. This fixed fee offering is valid until September 30, 2021.

I would like to personally thank ARIDO and its members for tuning into our series. We hope you review our offering and consider our legal services with respect to any of your future needs.

For more information, please visit our website or contact me directly.
Sincerely, Faren Bogach


Update from the Finance Committee
On September 8th ARIDO released an update on the association's financial health. Click here to read the complete update from the ARIDO Finance Committee.


WeirFoulds: Planning Ahead in a COVID-19 World: Short and Long Term Considerations for Returning to an Office Workplace
Although Ontario’s state of emergency has been extended until June 2, 2020, Premier Doug Ford has announced that Ontario is entering stage one of a three-step plan to reopen the province. In light of this new development, businesses have turned their focus to preparing for the reopening of their physical workplaces, implementing the necessary precautions and adapting their operations to the “new normal”. Click here to read the complete article.

Osler: Addressing COVID-19 in future contracts for your construction project
Law firm Osler has an article on addressing COVID-19 in future projects, "Based on lessons learned to date, and given the need for the construction industry to move forward, it makes sense for parties to address the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic for forthcoming projects." Click here to read the article in full.

WeirFoulds: Update on Construction Projects During COVID-19
On May 1, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced an expanded list of essential businesses and workplaces, including certain types of construction projects. This expanded list took effect May 4, 2020 at 12:01 a.m.
Our legal partners at WeirFoulds have provided an updated primer based upon their interpretation of the recent amendments to the orders. You can view the document at this link.

In reviewing the attached, please pay attention to the list enclosed of types of construction projects that may re-open.
Please also note, that included within the May 4, 2020 changes, the following is now listed under Construction:
30.1 Construction to prepare a site for an institutional, commercial, industrial or residential development, including any necessary excavation, grading, roads or utilities infrastructure.
Legal counsel has identified that “site preparation” likely means that interior designers may attend on-site to perform preparation tasks such as assessments and inspections, and take measurements of a space. While this applies to any type of construction project, it remains that actual construction may not be able to commence unless the project falls into one of the categories of essential projects.


WeirFoulds: Some Interior Design Services May be Considered an Essential Service
Our partners at WeirFoulds have developed a legal primer to assist ARIDO members in understanding when Interior Design Services may be considered an essential service following the amendments made by Ontario Government which took effect April 4, 2020. Click here to read the document.
We encourage all members to review this document to assist in your understanding of the current changes and how they may impact your services offered and existing projects.

Changes to List of Essential Services

On April 3, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced changes to the original list of essential services which was originally released on March 23, 2020. To view the updated list, click here.
This list does not preclude the provision of work and services by entities not on this list either operating online, by telephone or by mail/delivery. Teleworking and online commerce are permitted at all times for all businesses.
Therefore, those design firms and organizations that have moved to and continue to deploy a Work from Home policy where employees are working remotely, can continue operating.

Removal of Professional Services
The list of Essential Services no longer lists professional services as an essential service as a separate category. Professional and social services that support the legal and justice system are now the only professional services that have been identified as essential services.
Therefore, any business offering professional services should not keep their physical offices open. However, as mentioned above, those design firms that are working remotely can continue operating.
Permits
The following is listed as essential services:
Government services including but not limited to policing and law enforcement, fire and emergency services, paramedics, coroner and pathology services, corrections and court services, licences and permits.

While permits is listed, please check the websites for municipalities in order to stay updated on any continuing, disrupted, altered or suspended services, along with changes to project related activities such as inspections. See below for additional updates.
Construction
Changes have been made by Ontario Government related to which Construction sites will remain operational. WeirFoulds, our legal partners, has released the following communication that outlines how these changes will impact which construction projects in Ontario may remain open and which ones will be shut down. You can view the communication here.

Municipality Updates The following Municipalities have released updates to their continued and suspended services lists. We encourage members to visit Municipality websites as needed to stay updated on what services are continued, what has been suspended and any changes that may impact how your projects continue.
City of Toronto – See Permits and Building Inspections on their website. City of Mississauga – See Planning and Building on their website.
Region of Halton – See Permits on their website.
City of Ottawa – See Planning, Development and Construction on their website.

For all other Municipalities, visit their website and visit their COVID-19 update section which will provide information to continued, disrupted or suspended services.

COVID-19 and Your ARIDO Membership
The ARIDO Offices will be closed and our staff will continue to work from home until further notice. We will continue to monitor developments in order to comply with government direction. ARIDO will continue offering membership support services remotely.

ARIDO Membership Support

We continue to take the following measures in order to keep ARIDO’s daily operations running:

  • The ARIDO offices will remain closed to the membership and public during this period.
  • ARIDO staff will continue working online from home to continue to carry out the organization’s daily operations and maintain our normal business hours.
  • Staff will be responding to emails daily and will check voicemails at the end of every business day. Our goal continues to be a response by the next business day.
  • All meetings will be held via teleconference or video-conference. We will not be holding meetings or appointments in person during this period.
  • We have ceased all non-essential travel across the organization.
  • With the exception of the AGM (streaming virtually), we are cancelling all upcoming events for the months of March, April and May. We will continue to monitor developments in order to determine if events beyond May should also be cancelled. Currently, this includes Chapter events.

Following the 2020 AGM on March 26, 2020, the ARIDO Board of Management will regroup in April to discuss ways in which the organization can support our members and the profession during this time. We will review our 2020/2021 Strategic Plan and operating budget to determine which priorities, which have been identified for 2020, can be adjusted to support the membership and the profession in Ontario. We will report back to you with updates on additional support services within the coming month.

City of Toronto Services Disruption

While the Government of Ontario listed Municipal Services, including permits, as an “Essential Service”, please note the city of Toronto has cancelled most city-operated programs and have closed a number of City facilities.

These service disruptions are intended to support in slowing the rate of COVID-19 infection in Toronto.
Please visit the city’s webpage here for more information.

Services Impacting Interior Designers - PERMITS

Current services which will continue:

  • 24/7 emergency building inspections services.
  • Building permit inspection reports can now be conducted by a qualified professional in lieu of a City inspector.
  • Issuing building permits that were ready to be issued prior to March 16

Suspended services:

  • There will be no new Building, Sign Permit and Zoning intake, review and issuance.
  • No building inspection services by City inspectors other than emergency inspections.
  • Not currently addressing information requests or complaints.

The City is actively evaluating its needs and capability to safely allow for the following activities:

  • Providing occupancy inspections
  • Issuing building permits for critical projects that were received prior to March 16 that are ready to issue
  • Issuing critical building permits to allow construction to continue to the next phase of work

We will continue to monitor developments and keep the membership informed. Members are encouraged to check the City’s website for any updates.

Should you have any questions or wish to report similar closures in other municipalities, please reach out to Sharon Portelli, Executive Director at sportelli@arido.ca.

WeirFolds COVID-19 Resource Portal
This is an unprecedented time for every person and business in Canada and around the world. WeirFolds is a law firm in Toronto that ARIDO has been working closely with over the last several years. More recent work with them was the ARIDO Best Practices Tool for the Construction Lien Act released in 2019. We are very pleased to report that WeirFolds has stepped up to be a resource to organizations such as ARIDO and our members

They have developed a COVID-19 Resources Portal which includes the latest articles from their lawyers to help people and businesses navigate the situation. They include information on changes to legislation and the impacts on various industries. Like all of us, they will continue to monitor these developments and publish timely updates.

They have also set up a dedicated COVID-19 email address ( covid19@weirfoulds.com ) where you can send questions about your specific challenges. We recommend turning to them for any advice related to a project and the Construction Lien Act, Prompt Payment or for advice on contractual obligations for a current project where the Force Majeure clause is impacted. They have promised to do their best to respond as quickly as possible.

Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response
Federal Government has addressed financial measures that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on March 18, 2020 including:

  • Income tax filing and payment deadline extensions
  • Emergency support benefits for workers that don’t qualify for EI or receive paid sick leave
  • Small business wage subsidy
  • Student loan re-payment moratorium

Click here for a full breakdown of the announcement.

Information on Financial Measures from Kriens-LaRose
Kriens-LaRose
, ARIDO’s auditor, has offered assistance to our members by providing general guidance and knowledge related to the financial measures identified by government above. This support is available to those members who are not already using the services of a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) for their personal or business matters. Thomas Kriens can be contacted by email at kriens@krienslarose.com.

Members currently engaged in services by a CPA for personal or business matters should continue to engage them for advice in this area.

HR Resources for Small Business
The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) has listed several resources on their website in response to COVID-19. Resources include Legal Updates, Employment Best Practices and Communicating with Employees, to name a few. You can view their list of free COVID-19 resources here.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has also released resources to serve as interim guidance for businesses and resources. You can access them here.

Contracts and Force Majeure
ARIDO has recently been in discussions with our partner construction and design associations and as part of the Construction and Design Alliance of Ontario, to which ARIDO has a seat. The CDAO recently wrote to Ontario government on behalf of the construction and design industry. Discussions amongst the associations focused on the need for practitioners to be aware of contractual and practical obligations entered for a project. Specifically, any Force Majeure clauses that may not explicitly list "diseases," "plagues," "quarantine restrictions," and/ or "epidemics" as triggering events. Force Majeure clauses are an essential tool for risk allocation and frequently amended to industry-specific and project-specific risks that render performance impossible (or in some contracts, imprudent, substantially more difficult, or considerably more expensive). With a suitable force majeure clause, parties are generally excused from penalties or damages due to failed or delayed performance. To view the CDAO letter to government, click here.
 
We encourage our members to seek legal advice on existing contracts or new contracts you may be currently negotiating to ensure you are protected considering COVID-19. Obtaining proper legal guidance will assist you in understanding your contractual and practical obligations. Please contact Sharon Portelli, Executive Director at sportelli@arido.ca if you are in need of a referral to a lawyer that specializes in design and construction contracts.
 
Additional Resources
We recommend staying informed through the various websites that are actively monitoring and releasing updated information.
 
Public Health Ontario: The provincial authority for the most up-to-date resources on COVID19, including evolving public health guidelines.
 
Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care: Includes ongoing updates on the provincial government response to the outbreak, including:

  • status of cases in Ontario;
  • current affected areas;
  • symptoms and treatments;
  • how to protect yourself and self-isolate; and,
  • updated Ontario news on the virus.

Health Canada: Outlines the actions being taken by the Government of Canada, including what is happening in provinces and communities across the country related to the virus.
 
World Health Organization: Updates the latest guidance and information related to the global outbreak and spread beyond Canadian borders.
 
Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA): An excellent source of Health and Safety information and tools.
 
ARIDO will continue to monitor developments as they occur and will keep the membership informed during the coming weeks. Should you have any questions please reach out to the ARIDO staff, your local Chapter representative, or members of the Board of Directors.