On March 17, 2020, the day following the announcement of the employment and labour law related measures, the Ontario government declared a state of emergency so that extraordinary measures can be put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In doing so, Ontario is using every power possible to continue to protect the health and safety of all individuals and families.
As a result of this declaration and its associated orders, the following establishments are legally required to close immediately:
- All facilities providing indoor recreational programs;
- All public libraries;
- All private schools as defined in the Education Act;
- All licensed child care centres;
- All bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery;
- All theatres including those offering live performances of music, dance and other art forms, as well as cinemas that show movies; and
- Concert venues.
Further, all organized public events of over 50 people are also prohibited, including parades and events and communal services within places of worship. These orders were approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and will remain in place until March 31, 2020, at which point they will be reassessed and considered for an extension, unless this order is terminated earlier.
Ontarians should be practising social distancing to reduce their exposure to other people like avoiding close contact (within 2 metres) with people outside of the person’s immediate family (when not self-isolating or ill).
Anyone who has travelled outside of Canada should:
- self-isolate for 14 days when they return. People who are self-isolating should not go to work.
- monitor themselves for symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus for 14 days after returning to Canada.
- contact their primary care provider or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 if they experience symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus.
- Workers who have travelled and are part of workplaces that are essential to daily living are able to return to work as long as they do not have symptoms. However, they should self-monitor for a period of 14 days and identify themselves to their employer so that a plan can be put into place to ensure the protection of those workplaces.
- Children under the age of 16 years who have travelled outside of Canada should also self-isolate for a period of 14 days. Parents should actively monitor their children’s symptoms. Children who are self-isolating should stay at home and avoid social gathering points such as community centres or parks.
These orders will remain in place until March 31, 2020, when the province will reassess for an extension or end the closures. The government has also:
- Provided an enhanced and interactive self-assessment tool at Ontario.ca/coronavirus
- Opened 58 COVID-19 assessment centres
- Provided help to frontline workers to access emergency child care
- Provided $200 million in social services funding to protect Ontario’s most vulnerable people
Ontario is also investing up to $304 million to enhance the province’s response to COVID-19 by providing the following:
- $100 million for increased capacity in hospitals to assist with the effective treatment of COVID-19 patients both in critical care and medicine beds.
- $50 million for more testing and screening through public health, including additional funding to support extraordinary costs incurred to monitor, detect and contain COVID-19 in the province. This includes contact tracing, increased laboratory testing capacity and home testing.
- $50 million to further protect frontline workers, first responders and patients by increasing the supply of personal protective equipment and other critical supplies and equipment to protect them.
- $25 million to support frontline workers working in COVID-19 assessment centres, including the creation of a new fund to provide respite care, child care services and other supports as they are needed.
- $50 million for long-term care homes to support 24/7 screening, additional staffing to support infection control and additional supplies.
- $20 million for residential facilities in developmental services, gender-based services and protective care for children and youth to support additional staffing, respite for caregivers impacted by school closures, personal protective equipment and supplies, and transportation costs to minimize client exposure and to support social distancing, as well as additional cleaning costs.
- $5 million to protect seniors in retirement homes through increased infection control and active screening procedures.
- $4 million for Indigenous communities to support transportation costs for healthcare professionals and the distribution of critical supplies.
On March 23, 2020, the Ontario government is ordering that effective March 24, 2020, all non-essential businesses in the province close to help deal with the spread of COVID-19. The order will be effective Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. and will be in place for at least 14 days.
Premier Ford says the next 36 hours will give non-essential businesses the chance to prepare. Note that teleworking and online commerce are permitted at all times for all businesses.
For information on statutory leaves, mandatory business closures, layoffs and some of the financial measures for employers and employees see 2. Employment/labour standards and HR management below.
On March 24, 2020, the Ontario government indicated that to support Ontarians through the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, the government, is providing immediate electricity rate relief for families, small businesses and farms paying time-of-use (TOU) rates.
For a 45-day period, the government is working to suspend time-of-use electricity rates, holding electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents-per-kilowatt-hour. This reduced price will be available 24 hours per day, seven days a week to all time-of-use customers, who make up the majority of electricity consumers in the province. By switching to a fixed off-peak rate, time-of-use customers will see rate reductions of over 50 percent compared to on-peak rates.
To deliver savings as quickly and conveniently as possible, this discount will be applied automatically to electricity bills without the need for customers to fill out an application form. Depending on billing cycles, some customers will see these changes on their next electricity bill. TOU customers whose billing cycle ended before their local distribution company implemented this change will receive the reduced rate as a credit on a future bill. The Ontario Electricity Rebate (OER) will continue to provide a 31.8 per cent rebate on the sub-total bill amount for all existing Regulated Price Plan (RPP) consumers.
On March 25, 2020, as part of its March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update, the government also announced the details of Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, including the following $17-billion in spending and relief which includes:
- $3.3 billion for additional healthcare resources, including establishing a dedicated $1-billion COVID-19 contingency fund, $100-million in increased public health funding, $341 million to improve hospital capacity, and $75-million to provide personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies to front-line staff to deal with COVID-19;
- $3.7-billion for direct relief to people, including a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, energy and tax-related relief, and increased funding for charitable and social services; and
- $10-billion to support businesses, including through tax-related relief and deferral of WSIB payments for up to 6 months, until August 31, 2020. All employers covered by the WSIB’s workplace insurance are automatically eligible for this relief. Employers are not required to opt-in or apply to receive this benefit. Employers who continue to operate may choose whether to continue to report and pay as usual or to report premiums and defer payment until later. No interest will accrue.
Effective March 28, 2020, the Ontario government has issued an emergency order that retail businesses and individuals in Ontario cannot charge unfair prices for necessary goods. Individual offenders can face a ticket of $750, or, if summoned to court and convicted, could face a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and one year in jail. If convicted, a company director or officer could face a fine of up to $500,000 and up to a year in jail, and a corporation could face a fine of up to $10 million.
Necessary goods include:
- Masks and gloves used as personal protective equipment in relation to infections.
- Non-prescription medications for the treatment of the symptoms of the coronavirus.
- Disinfecting agents intended for cleaning and disinfecting objects or humans.
- Personal hygiene products, including soap products and paper products.
Consumers can report an individual who is price gouging by filing a complaint at 1-800-889-9768 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, or by filing a report online.
On March 29, 2020, the Ontario government is issuing a new emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to prohibit organized public events and social gatherings of more than five people, effective March 29, 2020. This order would not apply to private households with five people or more. It would also not apply to operating child care centres supporting frontline health care workers and first responders provided the number of persons at each centre does not exceed 50 people. Funerals would be permitted to proceed with up to 10 people at one time.
Organized public events include parades, events including weddings, social gatherings and communal services within places of worship. This order replaces a previous emergency order which prohibits organized public events of over 50 people.
March 30, 2020: Premier Doug Ford announced that the state of emergency which is set to expire on March 31, 2020, will be extended for another two weeks.
March 31, 2020: The Government of Ontario implemented an Emergency Order to provide flexibility to corporate meetings. The Emergency Order allows all corporations under the Corporations Act and Business Corporations Act to hold meetings of directors, shareholders, and members virtually (i.e., electronically or by telephone). The timeframes by which corporations under both pieces of legislation must hold Annual General Meetings in certain circumstances related to the emergency have been extended.
Public schools will remain closed to teachers until at least May 1, 2020, and students until May 4, 2020. Private schools, child care centres and EarlyON programs will remain closed until April 13, 2020. The second phase of Learn at Home to help reconnect students and teachers will also commence
Payments for Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loans will be temporarily deferred, and there will be an interest-free moratorium until September 30, 2020. The Government of Ontario will also make online learning supports, including year-end exams, available to post-secondary institutions.
People who are being charged with an offence under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) will be required to identify themselves if asked by a provincial offences officer, which includes police officers, First Nations constables, special constables and municipal by-law enforcement officers. This temporary power was approved by the Ontario government today through an emergency order to better protect people during this COVID-19 outbreak.
Emergency orders currently in place to address the COVID-19 outbreak include the closure of non-essential businesses, prohibiting organized public events and social gatherings of more than five people and stopping price gouging on necessary goods such as disinfectant products. Failing to comply with any of these emergency orders is an offence under the EMCPA and so is the failure to identify oneself accurately.
Failing to correctly identify oneself carries a fine of $750 for failure to comply with an order made under the EMCPA or $1,000 for obstructing any person in exercising a power if a provincial offences officer issues a ticket. In addition, failure to comply with an emergency order could carry punishments of up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000 for an individual, $500,000 for a director of a corporation, or $10,000,000 for a corporation itself if a provincial offences officer charges the individual by issuing a summons. These penalties apply in addition to the penalties for breaching other emergency orders.
On April 1, 2020, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health indicated that she is looking at making certain orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act affecting workplaces that are still operating.
On April 2, 2020, the Ontario government took several measures and financial investments to support mental health programs and the judicial system. It also called upon Ontario businesses to support truck drivers when they are stopping to rest, get gas or use washrooms, by providing facilities for drivers. For employers operating in the trucking industry, the government announced that it is “providing more safe places for truck drivers to stop and rest across the province and are keeping all 23 ONroute travel plazas open for take-out, grab and go and drive-through services, including washrooms with enhanced cleaning. We are also providing portable washrooms at 32 truck inspection stations so trucks have a place to stop and rest safely.”
On April 3, 2020, the Ontario government announced reductions and revisions to its list of essential workplaces following advice from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. According to the government’s press release, the changes are to be effective as of Saturday April 4, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. EDT and will be in effect for 14 days, unless extended. Those that can continue to operate remotely are still permitted and encouraged to do so.
The government also announced increases to public health units’ workforce planning flexibility. This includes a new emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, effective April 3, 2020, in order to “provide public health units the authority and flexibility they need to make staffing decisions that support their ongoing fight against the outbreak of COVID-19, despite any collective agreements.”
The government announcement indicates that its changes will allow public health units to “significantly expand their capacity to implement critical public health functions, such as case and contact management, through the use of volunteers, including the thousands of retired nurses and medical students.” This emergency order is similar to those announced in the long-term care and hospital sectors.
On April 6, 2020, the Ontario government announced that with first responders safety and health in mind, an emergency order has been put in place that allows police, firefighters and paramedics to obtain COVID-19 positive status information about individuals with whom they are coming into contact. The government said, “during this pandemic, it is crucial that our first responders have access to this critical information when they are preparing to respond to an emergency in order to protect themselves and the public and help stop the spread of this virus.”
The information disclosed will be limited to an individual’s name, address, date of birth, and whether the individual has had a positive COVID-19 test result. Strict protocols will be enforced to limit access to this information and will only be used to allow first responders to take appropriate safety precautions to protect themselves and the communities they serve. Once the declaration of emergency is lifted, this data will be made inaccessible to first responders.
In addition, during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Ontario government is deferring $15 million in property taxes for people and businesses in parts of Northern Ontario located outside of municipal boundaries. This tax deferral builds on the $10 billion in cash flow supports made available to people and businesses as part of Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19. Taxpayers will have 90 extra days to pay without incurring interest or penalties. For example, taxpayers who would be required to pay the April 7 property tax installment will have until July 6 to pay without interest or penalties. This action is complementary to new support for municipalities that was announced in Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19. In this plan, the Province announced it is deferring the upcoming quarterly (June 30) remittance of education property tax to school boards by 90 days. This will provide municipalities with the flexibility to, in turn, provide property tax deferrals of over $1.8 billion to local residents and businesses.
Furthermore, the Ontario government is offering direct financial support to parents while Ontario schools and child care centres remain closed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The new Support for Families initiative offers a one-time payment of $200 per child 0 to 12 years of age, and $250 for those 0 to 21 years of age with special needs. Families can complete a simple online application at Ontario’s Support for Families web page to access this financial support. Parents already receiving Support for Parents payments through direct deposit will be automatically eligible for this financial support and do not need to submit a new application.
On April 7, 2020, the government introduced a new emergency regulation permitting authorized cannabis retail stores to operate for a period of 14 days from the date of the order, notwithstanding the earlier removal of cannabis stores from the government’s list of essential workplaces. Products must either be delivered or picked up in outdoor areas in close proximity to the retail store, subject to certain conditions. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario authorized the delivery and curbside pick-up of cannabis from authorized retail stores.
April 7, 2020: The Lieutenant Governor in Council made an order permitting the virtual witnessing for wills and powers of attorney.
On April 8, 2020, the government announced the extension of construction hours for essential construction projects (e.g., construction projects in the health care sector). Such construction is now permitted 24 hours a day, overriding local noise bylaws effective April 7, 2020.
This is intended to expedite construction on key facilities (e.g., new hospital builds, expansions, temporary COVID-19 response units, and COVID-19 assessment centres). It is also intended to enhance worker safety by providing more flexibility to stagger shifts, limit the number of people in one place.
On April 9, 2020, the government also announced that it is partnering with SPARK Ontario, a volunteer hub, to help seniors and other vulnerable persons to stay healthy and connected during the COVID-19 outbreak. The hub will allow volunteer organizations to post opportunities and will allow volunteers to see opportunities available in their local communities. More information can be found here.
On April 9, 2020, the government announced the launch of a new Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee. According to a government press release, the Committee will “focus on getting businesses up and running and people back to work after the COVID-19 pandemic is over” and will consult with a variety of stakeholders, “including business associations, chambers of commerce, municipal leaders, corporate leaders, small business owners, and entrepreneurs.”
On April 10, 2020, the government announced that during the COVID-19 outbreak, it is temporarily preventing child care centres from collecting payments from parents, while also ensuring that their child care spaces are protected. Child care centres, with the exception of those accommodating health care and other frontline workers, were ordered closed to help prevent the spread of the virus and keep the children and child care staff safe. An emergency order has been issued, and immediately prevents any child care operator from charging parent fees where care is not being provided. The order also means that parents cannot lose their child care space because they are not paying fees during this period. This will help provide much needed relief for parents during the outbreak.
April 11, 2020: To help stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of people across the province, the Ontario government has extended all emergency orders that have been put in place to-date under s.7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act until April 23, 2020, including the closure of outdoor amenities in parks and recreational areas, non-essential workplaces, public places and bars and restaurants, along with restrictions on social gatherings and the prohibition of price gouging. In addition, new measures have been introduced to address surge capacity in retirement homes, restrict recreational camping on Crown land, and allow the repurposing of existing buildings and temporary structures. All of these actions are based on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Ontario introduced the following new steps to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The government is:
- Making it easier to repurpose existing buildings and put up temporary structures, like tents, so communities can meet their local needs quickly. This will reduce pressure on health care facilities, where needed, and help shelters provide more space for sleeping to maintain the physical distancing requirements to reduce the spread of the virus.
- Temporarily enabling hospitals to increase their capacity by using the beds and services of retirement homes without certain labour relations implications during the declared provincial emergency.
- Prohibiting recreational camping on Crown land as of April 9, 2020. Under the emergency order, no individual can camp on Crown land, including the placement of tents or other camping structures, while the order is in effect. The government will continue to monitor the situation and re-evaluate if further actions are required.
- Supporting construction workers and businesses with emergency action to help improve cash flow in the construction industry during the COVID-19 outbreak. This will lift the suspension of limitation periods and procedural time periods under the Construction Act and allow the release of holdback payments to contractors and subcontractors.
On April 12, 2020, the Ontario government announced that it is taking steps to better detect, plan and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. In consultation with the Ontario Privacy Commissioner, the province is developing a new health data platform called the Pandemic Threat Response (PANTHR). This new platform will hold secure health data that will allow researchers to better support health system planning and responsiveness, including the immediate need to analyze the current COVID-19 outbreak. Ontario will appoint a PANTHR special advisor and form a roundtable to provide recommendations about the data and policies to support and help overcome barriers while developing this platform. PANTHR will also contain clinical data from special registry collections, such as the Critical Care Information System (CCIS), which reports on critical care capacity in the province, and clinical data extracted from public health, hospital, laboratory and diagnostic imaging information systems. Other supporting data may also be added based on needs of researchers in achieving COVID-19 objectives.
On April 13, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced that the province’s state of emergency will be extended through May 12, 2020. The government announced that it had secured critical medical equipment and supplies, including more than 13 million surgical and procedural masks, 200,000 N95 respirator masks, and 38 ventilators. The government announcement indicates that these supplies are being sent by same-day delivery to hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes, and other facilities to support essential workers.
On April 14, 2020, the Government of Ontario 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. Changes to the Education Act allow school boards to continue charging fees on new construction and provides a province-wide approach to school suspensions and expulsions. Changes to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act will temporarily suspend student loan payments for OSAP borrowers and initiate a six-month interest-free moratorium on OSAP loans. Changes to the Development Charges Act suspend certain municipal planning timelines.
On April 15, 2020, the government announced an action plan and a new emergency regulation relating to long-term care homes. According to the government press release, the COVID-19 Action Plan: Long-Term Care Homes “adds critical new measures to prevent further outbreaks and deaths from COVID-19 in long-term care homes, including:
- Aggressive Testing, Screening, and Surveillance: enhancing testing for symptomatic residents and staff and those who have been in contact with persons confirmed to have COVID-19; expanding screening to include more asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases; and leveraging surveillance tools to enable care providers to move proactively against the disease.
- Managing Outbreaks and Spread of the Disease: supporting long-term care homes with public health and infection control expertise to contain and prevent outbreaks; providing additional training and support for current staff working in outbreak conditions.
- Growing our Heroic Long-Term Care Workforce: redeploying staff from hospitals and home and community care to support the long-term care home workforce and respond to outbreaks, alongside intensive on-going recruitment initiatives.
The new emergency regulation requires long-term care employers to ensure that their employees only work in one long-term care facility, effective 12:01 a.m. E.D.T. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The order applies broadly to any employee who performs work as an employee of a long-term care provider, and includes registered nurses, registered practical nurses, personal support workers, kitchen and cleaning staff. The order must be posted by employers in the long-term care facility.
A government press release regarding the emergency order indicates that “long-term care workers who must temporarily give up a job in another care setting are protected from losing their job as they are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence”, encourages long-term care employers to help employees make up lost wages resulting from these leaves of absences, and announced the availability of emergency funds “to help long-term care homes cover the incremental costs of increasing hours for part-time staff to help those staff limit their work locations.”
On April 16, 2020, the government issued an emergency order allowing municipalities to take redeployment and staffing measures for certain municipal services to respond to the pandemic.
On April 16, 2020, the government announced the expansion of hospital capacity, including a number of new acute care and critical care beds, and pandemic staffing plans. According to the press release, pandemic staffing plan “measures include:
- redeploying surgical nursing staff who can now work with medicine units;
- sharing highly trained emergency department and intensive care unit nursing staffs across units;
- sharing physician resources across hospitals in a given region;
- recruiting family doctors to complete shifts within the hospital; and
- recruiting retirees, including nursing and support services.”
On April 17, 2020, the government announced $1-million in new funding to connect workers with jobs in the agri-food sector. According to the province’s press release, the funding will “help primary agriculture, food processing companies and grocery retail to recruit and train workers who are important to keeping the essential food supply chain functioning.”
The government also announced new emergency orders intended to protect vulnerable people from COVID-19 and allow employers to re-assign staff for this purpose. According to the government press release, those new orders include:
“Providing Local Health Integration Networks with the ability to direct home care service provider organizations to safely reassign frontline staff to areas where they are most needed, including home and community care settings, long-term care homes, supportive housing, retirement homes and hospitals.”
“Providing municipalities and District Social Service Administration Boards with the flexibility to offer reassignments to certain staff to where there is local need during the outbreak, including child care, by-law enforcement, and public health services.”
The Ontario government also announced a new emergency order which expands the list of essential workers eligible to receive emergency child care during the pandemic. According to the government press release, such services are now also accessible to the following frontline workers:
“Staff working in developmental services, victim services, violence against women services, anti-human trafficking services and child welfare services (children’s aid societies) and in children’s residential settings; Additional staff identified by the Ministry of the Solicitor General, including: First Nations constables; Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management fire investigators; Select critical staff in community corrections, such as probation and parole officers; Contractors in institutional corrections services; Frontline staff at the Provincial Forensic Pathology Unit; Critical staff at the Centre of Forensic Sciences; and Critical staff operating the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.
Staff working in shelters (e.g., serving homeless populations; Power workers; Pharmaceutical and medical supplies and device manufacturing workers; Non-municipal water and waste-water employees; and Federally employed staff including Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers and Canada Post employees.”
On April 20, 2020, the Ontario government announced that updated COVID-19 modelling (PDF) shows that social distancing and the public health measures in place are assisting in “flattening the curve.” According to a government press release, while health experts believe that “the wave of new community spread cases of COVID-19 in Ontario appears to have peaked,” the government is still calling for physical distancing to continue and its emergency orders to be respected.
On April 21, 2020, the Ontario government announced $11-million dollars in funding to help deliver meals, medicines and other essentials to seniors and persons with disabilities during the pandemic. It also announced a doubling of payments under the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS), which will assist seniors for a period of 6 months at an estimated cost of $75-million.
On April 23, 2020, the government announced the extension of all emergency orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act until May 6, 2020. The government extension order can be found here.
The government also announced a new action plan for vulnerable people. According to the government press release, the COVID-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People “builds on the government’s previous actions to protect people living in high-risk settings, including homes serving those with developmental disabilities, shelters for survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking, children’s residential settings, and those residential settings supporting vulnerable Indigenous individuals and families both on and off reserve.” The action plan includes, among other things, enhanced screening of staff, enhanced testing of staff, limiting staff working at more than one congregate care setting during an outbreak, additional training, and sustainable staffing measures.
On April 24, 2020, the government announced $241-million in rent assistance for small business and landlords, in conjunction with the federal government. Eligible commercial property owners experiencing rent shortfalls related to COVID-19 will receive forgivable loans if they meet certain requirements to provide relief to their tenants.
The government also issued a new emergency regulation on April 22, 2020 regarding work deployment measures for mental health and addictions agencies. The order is similar to those issued for long-term care homes, hospitals, and public health units, and provides mental health and addictions agencies with flexibility in making staffing decisions, irrespective of any collective agreements.
On April 24, 2020, the government announced an Agri-Food Open for E-Business initiative, including $2.5-million in funding to assist the agri-food sector to expand online. According to the government press release, the “initiative will help food producers, farmers markets, retailers, garden centres, greenhouses, nurseries, and agricultural associations develop online business, providing consumers with greater access to a wide variety of food and agriculture products.”
On April 25, 2020, the government announced temporary funding to top up certain front line employees’ existing hourly wages by $4, regardless of their rate of pay, and by providing each employee working over 100 hours monthly a lump sum of $250 per month for the next four months. According to the government press release, these temporary payments are being provided “[in] recognition of the dedication, long hours and increased risk of working to contain the COVID-19 outbreak” and will be available to “staff working in long-term care homes, retirement homes, emergency shelters, supportive housing, social services congregate care settings, corrections institutions and youth justice facilities, as well as those providing home and community care and some staff in hospitals.” More information is available here.
The government also announced new emergency orders amending regulations under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act relating to, among other things,long-term care homes and the deafblind community.
On April 26, the Ontario government released its framework for re-opening the province. More information is provide below under Governments re-opening plan and workplace issues to think of.
On April 26, 2020, the government announced that publicly-funded schools will remain closed until at least May 31, 2020.
On April 28, 2020, the government announced a new website: COVID-19: Tackling the Barriers. According to a government press release, the website will allow businesses to submit proposals about “temporary changes to provincial rules and regulations in order to remove any barriers that are hindering business and negatively impacting Ontario’s supply chain.”
On April 29, 2020, the government announced a further expansion of the list of essential workers eligible to receive free emergency childcare during the pandemic to include “people who work in the food supply chain, retirement homes, grocery stores and pharmacies, and certain federal employees, including the military.” Further information regarding emergency child care can be found here.
On April 30, 2020, the government announced the publication of workplace safety guidance in preparation for the reopening of the provincial economy. The guidance documents, available here, are technical and sector-specific, providing guidance to the following industries: transportation, construction, utilities, health care, offices settings, police, fire, mining, forestry, retail, food retail, agriculture, auto, tourism, hospitality, film and television, funeral, maintenance, and manufacturing, as well as general guidance for sales and customer service representatives, executives and management, and curbside pick-up and delivery services.
The government is also offering a new 511 app free of charge to truck drivers to help support the transportation of goods. The app provides highway information on construction, collisions and road closures. It also identifies open rest areas and locations throughout the province that offer food and fuel.
On May 1, 2020, the Ontario government announced that, effective May 4, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. EDT, certain businesses will be permitted to reopen operations while following health and safety guidelines. The list of businesses and how to access those guidelines can be found below under Governments re-opening plan and workplace issues to think of.
The government also announced new temporary emergency orders applicable to hospitals and health care works under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. According to a government press release, the new orders will:
- “Give hospitals the authority and flexibility to more quickly appoint, re-appoint and grant privileges to medical and other professional staff, in order to address potential surge volumes due to COVID-19. This emergency order will allow for the reduction of administrative processes and better enable hospitals to focus operational resources on providing frontline services.” This order is available here.
- “Authorize coroners, registered nurses appointed as coroner investigators, and public health units to access the provincial electronic health record to help reduce demands on clinicians’ time related to death investigations, reduce exposure to COVID-19 related death investigations, and improve the ability to monitor the spread of the virus.” This order is available here.
- “Allow registered nurses appointed as coroner investigators to complete medical certificates of death instead of a physician or nurse practitioner, giving these medical professionals more time to focus on patient care.” This order is available here.
During the weekend of May 2 to 3rd, the government published the regulation required for the previously announced reopening of certain businesses on May 4, 2020.
On May 5, 2020, the Ontario government announced the expansion of virtual mental health services for, among others, frontline healthcare workers experiencing anxiety and depression during the pandemic.
The government also issued a new temporary emergency order on May 4, 2020. The order retroactively exempts certain public sector compensation increases related to COVID-19 from counting towards the maximum compensation increases permissible under the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2000. The exemption applies to specific workplaces, such as long-term care homes, and to certain frontline workers whom the government will support with additional COVID-19 pay.
On May 6, 2020, the Ontario government announced a new list of more businesses than can open, with strict guidelines in place, as the province moves with “cautious optimism” to restart the economy. See Governments re-opening plan and workplace issues to think of for more details.
In addition, the government announced the extension of all emergency regulations currently in place under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act until May 19, 2020. A list of the regulations can be found here.
The government also announced the extension of emergency electrical rate relief to families, farms and small businesses until May 31, 2020.
On May 7, 2020, the Ontario government announced funding for protective measures in the tree planting sector. According to a government press release, the funding will be used for “larger camp facilities and additional kitchens to provide more space, as well as extra personal protective equipment, plastic partitions for transporting workers and more wash stations.”
On May 8, 2020, the Ontario government announced investments in technology to modernize processes and expand access to justice in courts across the province.
On May 9, 2020, the Ontario government announced a new emergency regulation which, subject to conditions, will allow school boards to redeploy employees to congregate care settings during the pandemic. According to a government press release, these care settings include hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, and women’s shelters, many of which are in need of custodial and maintenance workers.
The Legislative Assembly also passed the COVID-19 Response and Reforms to Modernize Ontario Act, 2020, which, among other things, enacted or made changes to the following legislation to provide for certain remote activities and/or delays as a result of COVID-19:
- Alternative Filing Methods for Business Act, 2020;
- Business Corporations Act;
- Business Names Act;
- Commissioners for Taking Affidavits Act;
- Condominium Act, 1998;
- Co-operative Corporations Act;
- Corporations Act;
- Corporations Information Act;
- Education Act;
- Extra-Provincial Corporations Act;
- Limited Partnerships Act;
- Métis Nation of Ontario Secretariat Act, 2015;
- Notaries Act;
- Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010; and
- Succession Law Reform Act.
Premier Ford also announced that the government will unveil the next stage of its reopening plan on Thursday, May 14, 2020. See Governments re-opening plan and workplace issues to think of for more details when that happens.
On May 13, 2020, the Ontario government announced a new emergency order that permits the government to intervene in the management of long-term care homes with any cases of COVID-19. According to a government press release, the government may intervene when “a long-term care home may require management assistance if they face challenges like a high number of cases among residents or staff, a high number of deaths, an outbreak that has not yet been resolved, significant staffing issues or outstanding requirements from infection prevention and control assessments.”
The government also announced that it is working with the education sector to match and redeploy certain education workers to congregate care settings (e.g., hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, women’s shelters, and homes serving those with developmental disabilities) to address staffing shortages. According to a government press release, “starting later this week, subject to a local agreement of the framework, eligible education sector staff who volunteer will be able to register through an online portal and to be matched with congregate settings that are facing staffing shortages. Positions available may include custodial, maintenance, food preparation, children and youth service workers, social workers, and educational assistants.” Further information is available here.
The government also announced $1-million in funding for frontline agencies supporting victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking for the purposes of remote service delivery.
On May 20, 2020, the Ontario government recommended that individuals wear face coverings when physical distancing is not possible, including in workplaces and on public transit. The Ministry of Health published guidance and a poster on the wearing of face coverings.
On May 22, 2020, the Ontario government announced new assistance for:
- laid off and unemployed hospitality workers through the creation of an online counselling and training portal called the Virtual Action Centre; and
- apprentices by providing grants to apprentices to purchase tools, protective equipment and clothing for their trade, along with forgiving previous loans to purchase tools.
On May 27, 2020, the Ontario government says it is extending all current emergency orders under s.7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, that were set to expire May 29 until June 9 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Current emergency orders include the closure of playgrounds, play structures and equipment, public swimming pools and outdoor water facilities. It also includes bars and restaurants, which are closed except for takeout and delivery. The government said that under the emergency order, there continue to be restrictions on social gatherings of more than five people. Staff redeployment rules remain in place for long-term care homes and other congregate settings such as retirement homes and women’s shelters. To build on the progress we have made to contain COVID-19, people should continue to follow these simple public health guidelines, practise physical distancing, wear a mask when it is a challenge to physical distance, and wash their hands regularly. If you think you have COVID-19 or may have been exposed to the virus, go to an assessment centre and get tested.
The following emergency orders have been extended until June 9, 2020:
- Closure of Establishments
- Prohibiting Organized Public Events, Certain Gatherings
- Work Deployment Measures for Health Care Workers
- Drinking Water Systems and Sewage Works
- Electronic Service
- Work Deployment Measures in Long -Term Care Homes
- Closure of Places of Non-Essential Businesses
- Traffic Management
- Streamlining Requirements for Long-Term Care Homes
- Prohibition on Certain Persons Charging Unconscionable Prices for Necessary Goods
- Closure of Outdoor Recreational Amenities
- Enforcement of Orders
- Work Deployment Measures for Boards of Health
- Work Deployment Measures in Retirement Homes
- Access to COVID-19 Status Information by Specified Persons
- Service Agencies Providing Services and Supports to Adults with Developmental Disabilities
- Pickup and Delivery of Cannabis
- Signatures in Wills and Powers of Attorney
- Use of Force and Firearms in Policing Services
- Child Care Fees
- Agreements Between Health Service Providers and Retirement Homes
- Temporary Health or Residential Facilities
- Closure of Public Lands for Recreational Camping
- Work Deployment Measures for Service Agencies Providing Violence Against Women Residential Services and Crisis Line Services
- Limiting Work to a Single Long-Term Care Home
- Work Deployment Measures for District Social Services Administration Boards
- Deployment of Employees of Service Provider Organizations
- Work Deployment Measures for Municipalities
- Limiting Work to a Single Retirement Home
- Work Deployment Measures for Mental Health and Addictions Agencies
- Congregate Care Settings
- Access to Personal Health Information by Means of the Electronic Health Record
- Certain Persons Enabled to Issue Medical Certificates of Death
- Hospital Credentialing Processes
- Education Sector
- Management of Long-term Care Homes in Outbreak
- Electricity Price for RPP Consumers (until May 31, 2020)
- Global Adjustment for Market Participants and Consumers (until June 1, 2020)
The government also announced additional actions relating to long-term care homes, including the deployment of inspection teams to conduct investigations over the next 21 days.
On May 28, 2020, the Ontario government announced that it is extending the mandate of the Incident Management System Long-Term Care Table to coordinate operational support to long-term care homes.
On May 29, 2020, the Ontario government announced that it is expanding testing, including targeted testing and outbreak testing at certain workplaces, including hospitals, long-term care homes, group homes, shelters, emergency child care centres, correctional facilities and other shared living spaces.
The government published a regulation which, among other things, deems temporary reductions or cessations in hours due to COVID-19, or any temporary layoffs due to COVID-19, which began on or after March 1, 2020 not to trigger constructive dismissal claims or the deemed termination and severance provisions under the Employment Standards Act, 2000. For more see What temporarily layoff measures governments have put in place due to COVID-19? (updated May 29, 2020) on this page.
Furthermore, all commercial landlords in Ontario can now apply for rental assistance to help their small business tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This initiative will keep more small businesses in operation and more people employed as the province gradually and safely restarts the economy. The Ontario government, in partnership with the federal government, has launched the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses. The province is committing $241 million to the program, which will provide more than $900 million in support for small businesses across Ontario during this difficult time. To find out how much rent support you may be eligible for, visit Ontario.ca/rentassistance.
On May 30, 2020, the Ontario government announced amendments to the Retirement Homes Act, 2010 regulation, enabling the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) to better support seniors living in retirement homes during the COVID-19 outbreak. The regulation change increases the emergency payment the RHRA can pay to eligible retirement home residents from $2,000 to $3,500. In the event of an emergency, such as an outbreak, this funding can be used to support residents to cover costs for transportation, alternative accommodation or temporary care. The regulation change also requires retirement homes to report infectious disease outbreaks to the RHRA during COVID-19 and beyond.
In addition, the government extended an emergency order to provide electricity bill relief for industrial and commercial consumers during COVID-19. The order was first introduced on May 1, 2020 to defer a portion of the Global Adjustment charges from April and May 2020. Through the extended emergency order and a related regulatory amendment, this support is now being extended through to the end of June 2020.
On May 30, 2020, the Ontario government Issued an emergency order eliminating barriers to eligible frontline workers receiving pandemic pay. It will allow employers with unionized workforces to provide pandemic pay to eligible employees without the need to negotiate separate terms or conditions with their bargaining agents.
On June 2, 2020, the Ontario Legislative Assembly approved the extension of the provincial declaration of emergency until June 30, 2020. This extension follows the government’s announcement on May 26, 2020, to extend most of the emergency orders currently in force.
On June 6, 2020, the Ontario government announced the extension and amendment of a number of emergency regulations, including those governing:
- the closure of non-essential businesses and the prohibition on public events and certain gatherings, which have been extended to June 19, 2020. A copy of the order extending the regulations is available here; and
- the suspension of limitation periods and procedural time periods in legal proceedings, which have been extended until September 11, 2020. The relevant orders extending and amending the regulation are available here and here.
On June 8, 2020, the Ontario government announced forthcoming legislation which would temporarily prohibit the eviction of commercial tenants eligible for the federal Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program. The proposed changes to the Commercial Tenancies Act would, if passed, temporarily halt evictions of businesses that are eligible for federal/provincial rent assistance. If passed, the legislation would reverse evictions that occurred on or after June 3, 2020. The government intends to bring this legislation forward as soon as possible.
On June 12, 2020, the Ontario government announced $15-million in supplemental Agri-food Workplace Protection Program funding for health and safety measures on farms and in food processing facilities. According to a government press release, this funding will help farmers purchase personal protective equipment and implement workplace modifications and other measures to improve health and safety for their workers.
On June 15, 2020, the Ontario government announced that it is proposing a regulatory change to require the reporting of data on race, income, language and household size for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. According to a government press release, these changes will allow for more complete data collection.
The Ontario government, in partnership with Science North and the Ontario Science Centre, is creating additional educational content for students and teachers during the school closures resulting from COVID-19. The province is providing up to $1.5 million to create made-in-Ontario videos and resources to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning. The resources will align with the four science strands in the curriculum and will help students from Kindergarten to Grade 12.
The Ontario government continues to take steps to ensure the province is self-sufficient and prepared for the future by providing CSA Group Testing & Certification Inc. with $526,200 from the Ontario Together Fund to increase capacity for testing and certifying personal protective equipment (PPE).
On June 17, 2020, the Ontario government announced the extension of all emergency orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act until June 30, 2020. While current emergency orders will remain in place until the end of the month, the government will continue to review each one on an ongoing, case-by-case basis to determine when and if they can safely be adjusted or lifted, as part of the province’s framework to safely reopen the province.
In addition, the government announced up to $10-million in emergency assistance available for beef and hog farmers. According to a government press release, the funding is intended to help cover the increased costs of feeding market ready cattle and hogs due to COVID-19 related processing delays.
Further, the Ontario government passed the Protecting Small Business Act, temporarily halting or reversing evictions of commercial tenants and protecting them from being locked out or having their assets seized during COVID-19. The legislation applies to businesses that are eligible for federal/provincial rent assistance for evictions from May 1, 2020 until August 31, 2020. See the press release here.
On June 18, 2020, the Ontario government announced the launch on July 2 of a contact tracing app called COVID Alert in partnership with the federal government. Users will be able to voluntarily download the app and be notified anonymously if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days. In Ontario, the app will also provide users with quick access to Ontario’s public health advice and resources, and recommend any necessary actions, such as monitoring for symptoms, self-isolation or appropriate next steps on getting tested.
On June 24, 2020, the Ontario government announced that Ontario’s Declaration of Emergency is being extended until July 15. This provides the government with additional time and the necessary tools to maintain the fight against COVID-19 as more Ontario businesses, services and amenities reopen. A full list of emergency orders can be found on the e-Laws website under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and at Ontario.ca/alert.
On June 30, 2020, the City of Toronto approved a bylaw requiring masks or face coverings in all enclosed public places as of July 7, 2020. Subject to certain individual exceptions, businesses will be required to adopt a policy ensuring masks or face coverings are worn in publicly accessible indoor spaces under their control. For more information, please see the full Council decision.
On July 6, 2020, Ottawa Public Health followed suit by mandating the use of masks in many indoor public spaces. Effective as of 12:01 a.m. on July 7, 2020, Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health for Ottawa Public Health, has instructed every operator of an enclosed public space within the City of Ottawa to:
- Adopt a policy to ensure that no member of the public is permitted to enter or remain in the public areas of the enclosed public space unless he or she is wearing a mask in a manner that covers their nose, mouth and chin.
- Exempt from wearing a mask individuals who are: Children under two years of age, or children under five years of age, either chronologically or developmentally, who refuse to wear a mask and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver; Individuals with medical conditions rendering them unable to safely wear a mask, including breathing difficulties or cognitive difficulties; Individuals who are unable to apply or remove a mask without assistance, including those who are accommodated under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) or who have protections under the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c.H.19, as amended; A person who is employed by or is an agent of the operator of an enclosed public space and: is within or behind a physical barrier (e.g., plexiglass); or is in an area of the premises that is not designated for public access;
- Ensure the availability of alcohol-based hand rub at all entrances and exits for the use of all persons entering or exiting the establishment.
Refer to the full Instruction Letter to Businesses and Operators for more detailed information.
On July 7, 2020, the Ontario government announced proposed legislation that, if passed, would ensure certain emergency measures continue once the provincial declaration of emergency has ended. According to a government press release, Bill 195 Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, available here, 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;
• 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 permit new emergency orders to be introduced through the legislation; and
• allow emergency orders to be rescinded when safe to do so.
The ability to extend and amend orders under the new proposed legislation would be limited to 1 year, unless extended by the legislature. The current declaration of emergency is in place until July 15, 2020, subject to further extension by the government.
On July 8, 2020, the Ontario government announced proposed legislation, Bill 197, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020. According to a government press release, the proposed legislation “lays the foundation to restart jobs and development, strengthen communities, and create opportunity for people in every region of the province” and, among other things, will “restart jobs and development to get Ontario’s economic engine roaring again by getting key infrastructure projects built faster, attracting more jobs and investment, and cutting red tape to help businesses adapt to the new environment.” The government’s summary of the proposed legislation is available here.
The government also announced a pilot program to give truck drivers access to voluntary COVID-19 testing at locations where there is high volume truck traffic or through a mobile option.
On July 9, 2020, the Ontario government, in consultation with Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, has extended all emergency orders currently in force that were made under s.7.0.2(4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to July 22, 2020. The extension was made to ensure the province maintains the necessary flexibility to protect public health and safety as more businesses reopen and people go back to work.
The government intends to extend emergency orders to align with the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, if passed. This proposed legislation is part of the government’s plan to cautiously reopen Ontario in a way that recognizes the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 even after the provincial declaration of emergency has ended. The bill, if passed, would allow Ontario to continue its path to recovery by easing restrictions where appropriate, while maintaining important select tools to address the ongoing threat of this deadly virus and protect Ontarians.
The government brought forward a motion in the Ontario legislature that, if passed, would extend the provincial declaration of emergency until July 24, 2020. The current state of emergency is schedule to end on July 15. This means that the deemed Infectious Disease Emergency Leave for those employees previously on temporary layoff would be extended to six weeks after July 24th.
In addition, the government also announced increased support for farmers through enhanced insurance protections for crop losses, including in the event of labour shortages due to COVID-19.
On July 16, 2020, the Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, has extended most emergency orders currently in force under s.7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) until July 29, 2020. According to the government, keeping the emergency orders in place provides the government with the necessary flexibility to ensure the protection of vulnerable populations, such as seniors, while continuing to implement its Framework for Reopening the Province with many regions entering Stage 3 on Friday July 17, 2020.
The Government of Ontario declared a provincial emergency on March 17, 2020 under the EMCPA. The declaration of emergency is currently in effect until July 24, 2020.
For information on Ontario’s reopening plan and measures see Governments re-opening plan and workplace issues to think of.