The Ontario government introduced proposed legislation that, if passed, would give the province the flexibility to address the ongoing risks and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proposed legislation is part of the government’s plan for the continued “safe and gradual” reopening of the province once the declaration of emergency ends.
On Tuesday, the Solicitor General Sylvia Jones introduced the bill at the provincial legislature. The proposed law would allow the government to extend or amend some emergency orders each month, with the law expiring a year after it’s passed.
Under current legislation, the province can only issue emergency orders while the state of emergency is in place.
“If passed, the proposed legislation would allow us to chart a responsible path to economic reopening and recovery without putting all the progress we’ve made in fighting this virus at risk,” said Premier Doug Ford.
“Even as we continue certain emergency orders under the proposed legislation to protect public health, we will always be a government accountable to the people of Ontario. That’s why I will ensure ongoing updates are provided and that a report is tabled within four months of the anniversary of this proposed act coming into force.”
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The Reopening Ontario Act, 2020 would ensure 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.
It would also allow the Lieutenant Governor in Council to further extend these orders for up to 30 days at a time, as required to keep Ontario residents safe.
The Lieutenant Governor in Council would be allowed to amend certain emergency orders continued under the EMCPA 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.
The Reopening Ontario Act, 2020 does not allow new emergency orders to be created, but does permit emergency orders to be rescinded when it is safe to do so.
It is important to note that 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 that provides the rationale for the extension of any emergency order,” the province says.
And, the legislation would include the same types of provisions on offences and penalties as set out under the EMCPA to address non-compliance with orders.
“While the declaration of emergency may come to an end shortly, the risk posed by COVID-19 is likely to be with us for some time to come,” said Jones.
“This new legislation would provide the government with the necessary flexibility to ensure select tools remain in place to protect vulnerable populations, such as seniors, and respond to this deadly virus.”
On June 27, the province extended its emergency orders until July 10, although it has removed certain restrictions for Stage 2 indoor sports and recreational fitness facilities.
Ontario has also extended its state of emergency until July 15.
But, the motion would be introduced on Wednesday to extend the state of emergency until July 24 to ensure there is no gap between the provincial declaration and when the new bill takes effect.