Since March 17, 2020, the province of Ontario has been in a continuous declared state of emergency as its government attempts to implement emergency measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health. On April 14, 2020, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and with the approval of the provincial legislature, Ontario premier Doug Ford announced that the declared state of emergency would continue for a further 28 days, until at least until May 12, 2020.
Practically speaking, the extension of the declared state of emergency will allow the government to continue enforcing current emergency orders. These include orders pertaining to, for example, the closure of non-essential workplaces, the closure of outdoor amenities such as parks and recreational areas, the closure of bars and restaurants, the prohibition of social gatherings of more than five (5) people, and the prohibition on price gouging. It can also make new emergency orders while the declared state of emergency is ongoing, if and as required.
On the same day, the provincial legislature also adopted Bill 189. Bill 189 – or the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act – amends a number of provincial laws in an effort to help various stakeholders cope with the effects of the ongoing pandemic and related declared state of emergency, particularly in the education and municipal sectors. More specifically, Bill 189 makes the following changes:
- To the Education Act – Allows school boards to continue charging fees on new construction for a period of six (6) months following the pandemic in order to ensure an ongoing source of revenue for new projects, and provides a fair and consistent province-wide approach to addressing student suspensions and expulsions upon the reopening of schools; See our Education Bulletin for more details.
- To the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act – Temporarily suspends student loan payments for OSAP borrowers (student loans and medical resident loans), and initiates a six (6) month interest-free moratorium on OSAP loans;
- To the Development Charges Act – Ensures municipalities can continue to charge fees on new construction in order to ensure an ongoing source of revenue for local infrastructure;
- To the Planning Act – Makes it possible to suspend certain municipal planning decision timelines; and
- To the Police Services Act – Permits municipalities to obtain an extension beyond January 1, 2021 from the Solicitor General to prepare and adopt a community safety and well-being plan.
It is important to note that all of the above-noted changes are temporary in nature and intended specifically to respond to the ongoing crisis situation in the province.
In Our View
The current state of emergency in Ontario will last for at least another four (4) weeks. However, given the speed at which the current situation is evolving, it remains impossible to determine whether it will persist to the end of May or beyond. Emond Harnden LLP will continue to monitor relevant information as it becomes available, including with respect to the ongoing state of emergency.
For further information or advice on your rights and obligations as an employer when dealing with COVID-19 and similar issues, please contact Paul Marshall at 613-940-2754, Sophie Gagnier at 613-940-2756, Lynn Harnden at 613-940-2731, Jennifer Birrell at 613-940-2740, Joël Rocque at 613-790-9285 or Sébastien Huard at 613-940-2744.