Premier Doug Ford announced on April 14 that the Emergency Declaration Order will be extended by another 28 days – until May 12th – after a special sitting of the Ontario legislature. All parties were in agreement. The extension will allow the government to continue to use every tool at its disposal to protect the health and safety of the people of Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What does this mean for Ontarians? Schools will not re-open on May 4 as was hoped, business closures and physical distancing will remain in place. “But just to confirm students, will not be going back on May the 4th. That does not mean the year is cancelled,” stated Ford. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, is expected to talk further about this in the coming days. The closure of all non-essential workplaces, outdoor amenities such as parks and recreational areas, public places and bars and restaurants, as well as restrictions on social gatherings of more than five people, and prohibitions against price-gouging also continue. A full list of emergency orders can be found on the e-Laws website under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
“During these unprecedented times, we cannot let our guard down. The actions being taken by everyone to stay home and practice physical distancing are making a difference, but we are not out of the woods yet,” said Premier Ford. “With the support of every Ontario MPP, we continue to take any and all actions necessary to support our frontline health care workers and respond rapidly and decisively to slow the spread of this deadly virus.”
The legislature also passed the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act to amend the Education Act, Planning Act, Development Charges Act, Police Services Act and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act. This new legislation demonstrates that the government is actively listening to the concerns of education and municipal stakeholders during this COVID-19 emergency.
The government is making it possible to suspend certain municipal planning decision timelines during the state of emergency, and change the Development Charges Act to ensure municipalities can continue to count on a vital source of revenue that helps pay for local growth-related infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewers as well as fire and police services. The amendments to the Police Services Act also allow the Solicitor General to give municipalities an extension beyond January 1, 2021 to prepare and adopt a community safety and well-being plan.
“Nothing is more important than protecting the health and well-being of all individuals and families,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “We have listened to our municipal partners and made these changes to help them better manage staff time and resources so they can focus on the COVID-19 outbreak.”