On March 28, 2020 Premier Doug Ford announced that the Ontario government has approved an emergency order which will drastically increase penalties for individuals and businesses that raise prices significantly on the necessary goods Ontarians need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Premier Ford was jointed by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Minister of Finance Rod Phillips.
Premier Ford also mentioned that Cabinet will be meeting later today to discuss additional measures to protect Ontarians from COVID-19, including reducing the maximum size of non-essential gatherings.
Earlier today, the Ontario government announced that it would be enacting the Supply Chain Management Act, which will enable the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and the Ministry of Health to centrally manage public sector supply chains.
New Penalties to Combat Price Gouging
Premier Ford today announced the Cabinet approval of an emergency order which introduces new penalties to combat price gouging and hold offenders accountable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective immediately, retail businesses and individuals in Ontario cannot charge unfair prices for necessary goods, including:
- Masks and gloves used as personal protective equipment (PPE);
- Non-prescription medications for the treatment of the symptoms of COVID-19;
- Disinfecting agents intended for cleaning and disinfecting objects or humans, and;
- Personal hygiene products, including soap and paper products.
This order will be in effect for the duration of the declared provincial emergency and prohibits persons and retailers from selling necessary goods for a price that “grossly exceeds the price at which similar goods are readily available to like consumers.”
Individual offenders can face a ticket of $750, or, if summoned to court and convicted, could face a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and one year in jail. Company directors, if convicted, could face fines of up to $500,000 and up to one year in jail. Corporations could face fines of up to $10 million.
By-law enforcement officers will be used to investigate reports of price gouging on a case-by-case basis. Premier Ford confirmed that reports of price gouging from wholesalers and manufacturers will also be considered.
Starting Monday morning consumers will be able to report price gouging activities by filing a complaint at 1-800-889-9768, or by filing a report online.
Emergency Orders to be Considered by Cabinet
Premier Ford also announced that Cabinet will be meeting later today to consider additional measures to protect Ontarians during the COVID-19 pandemic. He indicated that Cabinet would be considering another emergency order which would reduce the maximum size of non-essential gatherings from 50 people to five people. The limit on gatherings would not apply to families with more than five members or to essential small businesses.
When asked whether he would consider imposing a curfew or full lockdown, Premier Ford said he would continue to take advice from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams.
In response to questions about the federal government’s announcement of barring individuals with COVID-19 symptoms from domestic travel by plane or train, Premier Ford confirmed he would be speaking to Metrolinx to determine next steps. He reiterated that anyone feeling unwell or displaying symptoms of COVID-19 should remain isolated.
Premier Ford also confirmed that Minister of Education Stephen Lecce will be making an announcement on Monday in response to questions about parents being charged for daycares that remain closed as a result of the provincial State of Emergency.
When asked about his government’s plans for the economy in light of a probable unemployment spike in Ontario, Premier Ford assured reporters that the government is sticking to their recently unveiled economic plan and will take whatever action is necessary. He again commended the federal government for increasing the small business wage subsidy.
Enactment of the Supply Chain Management Act
Earlier today, the Ontario government also announced the enactment of the Supply Chain Management Act. This Act will allow for the collection of key data on inventories, orders and supply constraints by the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and the Ministry of Health. It will also allow for the development of a virtual inventory tool so that demand for crucial supplies is visible and trackable. These measures will enable the government to concentrate on the procurement of supplies that are needed most, and to deploy these supplies on the basis of priority.