COVID-19: Government Introduces New COVID-19 Response Legislation

Yesterday the government gave us a sense of what Ontario’s response to COVID-19 will look like in the coming months, indicating a new law will be passed to take over the state of emergency and provide for a flexible toolbox to keep managing the COVID_19 threat.

This new law is the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 that would, if passed, create a number of ongoing powers to address COVID-19 once the declared state of emergency is over. The government also indicated that the declared state of emergency may end soon, though they didn’t provide a date or make a firm commitment.

So what’s in this new law?

    • The first thing to note is that the declared emergency will end when this law comes into effect, if the emergency hasn’t been ended already. Just note, the bill doesn’t come into effect when it passes the legislature and receives royal assent, but when the Lieutenant Governor (on the advice of the Government) proclaims it into law. That can be at any later date.
    • The emergency orders (including orders related to re-deployment and staffing and single-employer restrictions) passed under the emergency declaration will continue for an initial 30 days, then can be extended every 30 days thereafter if the Lieutenant Governor in Council (basically Ford’s Cabinet) sign on. They can be continually extended up to one year, and after that they would need the legislature to sanction the extension.
    • The Government can amend the existing emergency orders if they need to do so to address:
        • Labour relations issues;
        • Business and public closures and rules to address provision of goods and services in a safe way;
        • To comply with public health advice, and
        • To make rules for gathers and organized public events.

However, the new bill will not permit amendment of certain listed orders, including the orders on Special Rules Re Temporary Pandemic Pay, Management of Retirement Homes in Outbreak, or Management of Long-Term Care Homes in Outbreak.  The government will also not be able to make new emergency orders under this new law.  The government will rescind the existing emergency orders when its safe to do so.

The bill will still impose the same types of penalties for breach of emergency orders as we saw under the declaration of emergency.

The proposed reasoning for this new law is to move Ontario away from an emergency footing and to provide proper oversight and transparency. There will be regular reporting under the law to provide rational for the extensions.

The full text of the law can be found here.

If you require legal assistance, we encourage you to reach out to your regular PooranLaw lawyer, or any member of our team.

Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and the article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation.