Commercial trucking exemption leads list of changes due to COVID-19 outbreak

Herald file photo.

The provincial government has granted a temporary hours-of-service exemption to commercial truck drivers in an effort to increase the flow of essential goods.

Premier Scott Moe said the decision will bring the province in line with national exemptions implemented by the federal government.

“It’s not a decision that came about lightly, but it is a decision that aligns us with the rest of Canada and ensures that we will get the supply chain goods into our community,” Moe said on Monday.

The exemption only applies to drivers transporting goods and supplies that meet “immediate needs related to COVID-19.” That list includes things like medical supplies, testing and diagnostic equipment, soap, hand sanitizer, food, fuel and raw materials required for the manufacturing of medical, sanitation and safety supplies.

Moe said the province is operating under “emergency measures” that have rarely been seen before. He thinks the situation is severe enough to merit an exemption.

“We are aligning with the Canadian regulations that have been relaxed for a short period of time,” he said. “We have done it for one reason and one reason only and that’s to ensure that we can have the supply of these essential goods into our communities.”

Moe added that he’s confident the exemptions will not make roads and highways unsafe for other Saskatchewan drivers.

Provincial regulations limit commercial truck drivers to 13 hours on duty after having eight consecutive hours off.

Drivers are still encouraged to monitor their own alertness level under the temporary guidelines to prevent driving while fatigued. The government has also recommended drivers take 24 hours off after 14 continuous days of work.

Drivers are still required to self-isolate should they develop any COVID-19 symptoms, but they are exempt from the 14-day isolation period after returning to Saskatchewan from out of province.

Saskatchewan Crop Insurance deadline extended to April 13

The federal and provincial governments have jointly extended the deadline to apply, reinstate, cancel or make changes to Crop Insurance contracts to April 13.

This gives producers an extra two weeks to prepare their final contracts

Saskatchewan’s Minister of Agriculture, David Marit, said they understood farmers faced considerable challenges even before the COVID-19 outbreak hit, and will likely face more uncertainty in the summer.

“It is critical for our government to continue to support Saskatchewan agriculture,” he said in a media release.

Federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau also released a statement, saying the deadline extension was necessary to give producers enough flexibility to be successful in challenging times.

WCB waives penalties and interest charges on March premiums

The Workers Compensation Board (WCB) will waive penalties and interest charges for late premium payments in the month of March.

It will also suspend all payroll audits until further notice, except in situations where an employer might receive a refund. They also pledged to prioritize employer payroll revisions to help reduce premiums.

WCB CEO Phil Germain said the move would give employers some much needed time to organize their business, while they revise their payroll estimates.

“We are dealing with extraordinary circumstances throughout the province of Saskatchewan,” Germain said in a media release. “Recognizing the economic challenges many employers are facing, we are introducing these relief measures for covered employers while balancing our financial obligations.”

He added that the WCB would continue to monitor the situation, and implement additional relief measures if necessary.

Any employers who have concerns about paying their 2020 premiums are asked to contact the WCB to discuss their options.

FCAA warns residents of fraudulent ‘work-from-home’ scam

A new scam offering residents work from home opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic is making the rounds in Saskatchewan.

The Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority (FCAA) says fake companies are running ads offering positions as work-from-home securities traders in exchange for payment fees. The ad states that traders do not need experience, or require a licence, and can keep a large percentage of their profits.

In reality, all securities traders must be registered with the FCAA, unless they have an exemption. The FCAA expects similar scams to continue during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Anyone with information about the scam is asked to call the FCAA securities division at 1-306-787-5936.

The FCAA is also warning residents about fake companies selling products that they claim can prevent, detect or cure COVID-19. At this time, there is no vaccine or natural health product that is authorized to treat or cure the virus.