Ontario Introduces Legislation to Protect Public Health as Economy Reopens

Published on July 08, 2020

Proposed Bill Would Provide Flexibility to Address the Ongoing Threat of COVID-19

The government has recently introduced proposed legislation that, if passed, would give the province the necessary flexibility to address the ongoing risks and effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. 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.

Details about the proposed legislation were provided on July 7th by the Premier of Ontario, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and the Solicitor General of Ontario in tandem.

"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," the Premier of Ontario said. "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."

"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," the Solicitor General added. "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."

The Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 would, if passed, ensure important measures remain in place to address the threat of COVID-19 once the provincial declaration of emergency has ended. Specifically, the legislation would:

1. Continue emergency orders in effect under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) under the new legislation for an initial 30 days.

2. 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.

3.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.

Not allow new emergency orders to be created.

Allow emergency orders to be rescinded when it is safe to do so.

4. 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 legislation would include the same types of provisions on offences and penalties as set out under the EMCPA to address non-compliance with orders.

Quick Facts

-The termination of the provincial emergency declaration under the EMCPA, or the passage of the proposed Act, would not preclude a head of council of a municipality from declaring under the EMCPA that an emergency exists in any part of the municipality or from continuing such a declaration.

-The termination of the provincial emergency declaration under the EMCPA, or the passage of the proposed Act, would not preclude the exercise of the powers under the Health Protection and Promotion Act by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health or local medical officers of health.

-The Government of Ontario declared a provincial declaration of emergency under s.7.0.1 of the EMCPA on March 17, 2020. The declaration has been extended under s.7.0.7 of the EMCPA and is in place until July 15, 2020, allowing the province to continue to make new emergency orders or amend existing orders under the EMCPA until that date.

-On June 26, 2020, emergency orders then in effect that were made under section 7.0.2 of the EMCPA were extended to July 10.
A full list of current emergency orders in effect under the EMCPA can be found on the e-Laws website under the EMCPA and at Ontario.ca/alert.