COVID-19 Update – July 7, 2020

Today the provincial government introduced proposed legislation to lift the provincial declaration of emergency while maintaining some existing orders to address the ongoing risks and effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In order to allow time for the Bill to be debated and passed, the government is poised to introduce a motion in the Legislature tomorrow to extend the emergency declaration set to expire July 15 (for the seventh and last time, they hope) to July 24.

The Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, if passed, would ensure important measures remain in place to address the threat of COVID-19 once the provincial declaration of emergency has ended. Specifically, the legislation would:

      • Continue emergency orders in effect under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) under the new legislation for an initial 30 days.
      • Allow the Lieutenant Governor in Council (Cabinet) to further extend these orders for up to 30 days at a time, as required to keep Ontarians safe. The power to extend and amend orders can also be designated to a minister.
      • Allow the Lieutenant Governor in Council, or the designated minister, to amend certain emergency orders continued under the EMCPA only if the amendment relates to:
            • labour redeployment or workplace and management rules;
            • closure of places and spaces or regulation of how businesses and establishments can be open to provide goods or services in a safe manner;
            • compliance with public health advice; or
            • rules related to gatherings and organized public events.
      • Continue but prevent the amendment of enumerated orders, including the provisions for Pandemic Pay for workers in hospitals, long-term care homes, residential care facilities and other designated settings and mandatory management orders for long-term care and retirement homes.
      • Not allow new emergency orders to be created.
      • Allow emergency orders to be rescinded when it is safe to do so.

The ability to extend and amend orders under the new legislation would be limited to one year, unless extended by the Ontario legislature. Appropriate oversight and transparency would be ensured through regular, mandated reporting to provides the rationale for the extension of any emergency order.

With long-term care homes the area of greatest concern during the pandemic, some important restrictions would remain in place, such as the ban on care providers working in more than one home.

The provincial changes would not prohibit municipalities from creating, extending and amending their own emergency orders. 

Media reports have said that the government will not extend measures allowing pickup and delivery of cannabis products or restrictions on price gouging for essential goods. Revoking these orders is not in the Bill but they could simply not be extended at the first renewal.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones expressed that the provincial government “will not hesitate to explore, and exhaust all options necessary to protect Ontarians”, including issuing a new declaration of emergency.

In a related announcement, with the last two regions in Ontario entering Stage 2 of the province’s Framework for Reopening our Economy allowing for all designated businesses to reopen, the province is shifting focus to Stage 3. Minister Elliott said that Stage 3 will include an increase in gathering limits, though no details were provided on timing.