July 7, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones announced the Reopening Ontario Act (A Flexible Response to COVID-19), 2020. If passed, this act would allow emergency orders to remain in place once Ontario’s provincial declaration of emergency has ended.
Premier Ford and Solicitor General Jones were joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliot responded to questions from media regarding Ontario’s continued response to COVID-19.
Reopening Ontario Act
This afternoon, Premier Ford and Solicitor General Jones announced that the Ontario government is bringing forward legislation that would allow for the lifting of the provincial declaration of emergency in the near future, while also keeping COVID-19 emergency orders in place.
Currently, emergency orders can only remain in place while the provincial declaration of emergency is in effect. The Reopening Ontario Act would change this by allowing the provincial government to extend some emergency orders by a month at a time, even once the state of emergency has ended. If passed, the Reopening Ontario Act would give Ontario’s government continued flexibility to address ongoing risks and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability to extend and amend emergency orders under this legislation would be limited to one year, unless extended by the Ontario Legislature.
Specifically, the Reopening Ontario Act 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 to further extend these orders for up to 30 days at a time, as required to keep Ontarians safe.
- Allow the Lieutenant Governor in Council 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.
In addition, the Reopening Ontario Act would not allow for any new emergency orders to be created. The Act will also not bar the lifting of certain emergency orders that are no longer necessary as soon as it is safe to do so.
In response to questions about whether the Reopening Ontario Act could be characterized as government overreach, Premier Ford explained that the powers granted under the Act are necessary in order to keep Ontarians safe and to continue to give frontline health care providers the tools and powers they need to combat COVID-19. The Act will enable the government to continue to act quickly when necessary.
Specifically, Premier Ford mentioned keeping the following emergency orders in place:
- Limiting long-term care staff to working at a single facility in order to avoid spreading COVID-19 between homes;
- Allowing public health units to redeploy staff for contact tracing purposes;
- Enabling the construction of temporary health care facilities.
Premier Ford added that he is hopeful that Ontario’s provincial state of emergency will be lifted within the month of July.
Questions from Media – Response to COVID-19
Minister Elliott said that she was not concerned in response to questions about Ontario’s testing numbers, which have been below 20,000 for two straight days. She explained that testing numbers are generally low at the beginning of the week because fewer tests are typically performed on weekends. She added that the government has a plan to increase testing capacity to 50,000 tests per day by the beginning of flu season.
In response to questions about increasing the allowable size of social gatherings, Minister Elliott said that measures related to social gatherings can be expected to be further relaxed in stage three.
Air Conditioning in Long-Term Care Homes
When asked whether air conditioning should be mandatory in long-term care homes, both Premier Ford and Minister Elliott agreed. Premier Ford urged owners of long-term care facilities without air conditioning to install it and said he would consider amending the Long-Term Care Homes Act to mandate this. Minister Elliott added that the government’s priority is to ensure the safety and comfort of long-term care residents.