On April 11, 2020, Premier Doug Ford provided an update on the response of Ontario’s business community to help combat COVID-19. Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Minister of Finance Rod Phillips.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Minister Elliott took questions from media about measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term care homes.
Earlier today, the Ontario government extended all emergency orders that have been put in place under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act until April 23, 2020.
Yesterday afternoon, the Ontario government also announced that it would temporarily prevent child care centres from collecting payments from parents, while ensuring that their child care spaces are protected.
Business Community Response to COVID-19
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that over 14,000 submissions from business and private citizens have been received through the Ontario Together portal to date. More than 7,500 emergency supply submissions have generated nearly $90 million in purchases of critical equipment and supplies including gloves, masks, face shields and hand sanitizer.
Premier Ford commended the response of Ontarians who have stepped up to help the province in its efforts to combat COVID-19.
The next challenge posted to the Ontario Together portal will call for ideas on how to support remote learning.
Protecting Ontario’s Long-Term Care Sector
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Minister Elliott responded to questions about measures being taken to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term care (LTC) homes and ensure the continuity of care in these facilities.
In response to questions about staffing shortages in the LTC sector, Minister Elliott acknowledged the need for more on-the-ground support in LTC homes and said that staff will be supplemented by volunteers who have expressed a desire to help. Calling in military aid is not an option at the moment as thousands of medical professionals have come forward. Minister Elliott explained that the most pressing priority is ensuring that LTC staff have the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed in order to continue to do their jobs.
When asked what steps the government is taking to prevent LTC providers from working at multiple homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister Elliott admitted that she is aware of a number of workers in this situation. She emphasized that this is a liability and raises the risk of spreading COVID-19 from one LTC facility to another. While the government has asked LTC workers to only work at one facility during the pandemic, Minister Elliott acknowledged that this may not be a reality for employees unable to secure full-time work at a single facility. The government is examining ways to help ensure that LTC staff have the employment they need in a single home so that they are not required to work in several facilities at once.
Extension of Emergency Orders until April 23
Earlier today, the Ontario government extended all emergency orders that have been put in place to date under s,7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act until April 23, 2020. As a result, the government has extended the closure of outdoor amenities in parks and recreational areas, non-essential workplaces, public places and bars and restaurants. The extended emergency orders also apply to the restrictions on the size of social gatherings and the prohibition of price gouging by businesses.
In addition to extending the existing emergency orders, the Ontario government has introduced the following new measures:
- Making it easier to repurpose existing buildings and put up temporary structures. This will allow communities to meet local needs quickly and will reduce pressure on shelters, as well as health care facilities, where necessary.
- Temporarily enabling hospitals to increase their capacity by using the beds and services of retirement homes without certain labour relations implications.
- Prohibiting recreational camping on Crown land.
- Supporting construction workers and businesses with emergency action to help improve cash flow in the construction industry. This will lift the suspension of limitation periods and procedural time periods under the Construction Act and allow the release of holdback payments to contractors and subcontractors.
Measures to Prevent Operators from Charging Fees while Child Care Centres are Closed
Yesterday, the Ontario government also issued a new emergency order to prevent operators from charging fees for childcare centres while these facilities are closed. The order also ensures that parents cannot lose their childcare space because they are not paying fees during this period.
The government acknowledged that the childcare sector is facing significant financial pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic and directed providers to seek supports under the federal government’s Economic Response Plan.