Ontario Legislature Adjourns after Significant Sitting in Response to COVID-19
July 22, 2020
The Ontario Legislature adjourned after an unprecedented session that saw cross-partisan collaboration in the fight against COVID-19. Since reconvening in February, the legislature passed 18 pieces of legislation, including emergency measures needed to protect public health and prepare for economic recovery. The legislature has now risen until September 14, 2020.
Premier Doug Ford and Paul Calandra, Government House Leader, thanked the Members of the Provincial Parliament (MPPs) for coming together during a time of crisis to support individuals, families and businesses across the province.
"In our hour of greatest need, MPPs stood shoulder to shoulder as Team Ontario to protect the public during the COVID-19 outbreak," said Premier Ford. "The people of this province expected us to work together and we reached across party lines to quickly introduce and pass critical legislation. We will continue to work for the people of Ontario to help them get back on their feet as we chart a path to recovery for every region in the province."
After authorizing safe, limited sittings of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to allow for the passage of emergency legislation and in cooperation with the opposition parties and independent Members, the government charted a path to the responsible resumption of legislative business in May. The resumption of business facilitated the passage of 18 important pieces of legislation, including the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 and the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020.
"In the last five months, working through an unprecedented global public health crisis, our government adapted and innovated to ensure that all MPPs could be fully engaged in legislative business," said Minister Calandra. "From the passage of 18 bills, one-third by unanimous consent of all parties, to the ground-breaking study into the economic and fiscal impacts of COVID-19 by the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, our government has been working cooperatively to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians."
The Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 ensures important measures remain in place to address the threat of COVID-19 once the provincial declaration of emergency has ended. These measures will provide the province with the necessary flexibility to address the ongoing risks and effects of the COVID-19 outbreak as Ontario moves towards recovery. The Act will come into force on July 24, 2020 to coincide with the termination of the declared provincial emergency.
The COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 will help create jobs and generate development by getting key infrastructure projects built faster. It will also strengthen communities by ensuring municipalities are equipped with the tools they need to continue to provide critical services, along with protecting consumers, modernizing services, improving the education system and removing social and economic barriers for young people.
"Ontario's municipalities are the backbone of this province and their success is our success," said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. "We are helping to ensure our municipal partners across the province are well-positioned to play their critical role in our economic recovery."
Additional emergency legislation introduced and passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic includes:
Economic and Fiscal Update Act, 2020: The government's first steps in its response to COVID-19 were set out in the March economic and fiscal update, which included $7 billion in additional resources for the health care system and direct support for students, families and seniors, and made available $10 billion for people and businesses through interest and penalty relief measures and other deferrals to improve their cash flow, protecting jobs and household budgets.
COVID-19 Response and Reforms to Modernize Ontario Act, 2020: Legislative changes that made it easier for people to conduct business and practise physical distancing by providing Ontario corporations temporary flexibility to hold meetings virtually, defer certain annual meetings and allow the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services to accept copies of documents, electronic signatures on documents, and electronic filing of documents.
COVID-19 Support & Protection Act, 2020: The second phase of the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which included temporary relief for repayment of student loans, extending expiring development charge by-laws, suspending time limits for planning matters, and extending deadlines for municipal Community Safety Plans.
Protecting Small Business Act, 2020: To support small businesses that experienced a significant decline in revenue during COVID-19, the government temporarily halted or reversed evictions of commercial tenants and protected them from being locked out or having their assets seized if they are eligible for federal/provincial rent assistance.
Since the Ontario Legislature reconvened in February 2020, the government has passed 17 Government Bills and one Private Member’s Bill. Of the 17 Government Bills passed, six received unanimous consent of all parties for expedited passage.
The legislature met for extended emergency sittings since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March with nearly 220 hours of committee study to date and input from nearly 500 witnesses.
The legislature debated and extended the provincial Declaration of Emergency five times.
The government took steps to implement unprecedented measures to allow the full participation of all MPPs, while respecting public health guidance, including: permitting Members to vote from the public galleries and in the lobbies adjacent to the Chamber; permitting Members to sit at, speak from, or vote from any desk in the Chamber; limiting the number of Members present in the Chamber at any given time; mandating the use of virtual technology for meetings of Legislative Committees; allocating additional Question Period questions to the Official Opposition and Independent Members; and ordering an in-depth sectoral-based study at an expanded Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs to be conducted virtually to study the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and measures contributing to economic recovery.