In another emergency session of the Ontario Legislature today, a representative sample of Ontario’s political leaders approved an extension of the state or emergency and other measures to assist Ontario schools and municipalities weather the crisis. The government said they’re using every tool at their disposal to protect the health and safety of Ontarians.
The first piece of legislation passed Tuesday was the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which extended the declared state of emergency until May 12. This will allow the Government of Ontario to enforce current emergency orders like the the closure of all non-essential workplaces and outdoor amenities, plus the ban on social gatherings bigger than five people, for another 28 days.
“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 Doug Ford in a statement. “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.”
One of the MPPs in the Legislature today is Guelph representative Mike Schreiner, who said in a statement afterwards that he supports the measures passed today, but they still don’t go far enough.
“Extending the state of emergency ensures that we do not ease off physical distancing, which saves lives. This bill also gives some relief to students and municipalities,” Schreiner said. “But sadly, this bill leaves a lot of Ontarians waiting for help that doesn’t seem to be on the way.”
Schreiner said that the Province needs to address how to help Ontarians with disabilities who do not qualify for Federal relief, as well as rent subsidies, mental health support, and extra provincial aid to maintain vital services at the municipal level. “The government had a month to come up with a comprehensive relief plan, and yet they are allowing too many people to fall through the cracks,” he added.
The Ontario government also passed the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act, which amended a number of pieces of legislation, including the Education Act. The new changes will allow school boards to continue to collect the educational development charge, even if the existing bylaw is about to expire. This money is used in the construction of new schools, like how development charges are used to fund new infrastructure at the municipal level.
Another announced change to the Education Act is an amendment to put a hold on all expulsion hearings and investigations in the interest of social distancing, and to allow school administration 20 days after schools have re-opened to do that work. Seems important, but Schreiner said in a statement that these changes are not among the primary concerns when it comes to education in Ontario.
“Parents, teachers and school administrators are all wondering what comes next,” Schreiner said. “They want transparency about the different scenarios and how the government will decide whether to extend classes into the summer or cancel the school year altogether.
“The government owes them a roadmap of when and how these decisions will be made,” he added.
Other acts affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act include:
Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act – OSAP payments are temporarily suspended, and there’s been a six-month moratorium on interest fees enacted. This applies to current OSAP loans, and past borrowers.
Planning Act – To focus on the immediate task of battling the pandemic, the Government of Ontario is allowing cities to postpone planning decision timelines during the declared state of emergency period. What this means is that developers will not be able to file an appeal with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) if a municipal council misses a deadline to hear a planning application or approval decision.
Development Charges Act – The Province will let municipalities with DC bylaws about to expire to continue using their current frameworks for up to six months after the end of the state of emergency.
Police Services Act – Municipalities were meant to prepare and adopt a community safety and well-being plan by January 1, 2021. The solicitor general will extend that deadline to a date that will be announced later so that local governments can focus on combating COVID-19.