Analysis of Bill 197:
COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act
COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act
On Wednesday, June 8, 2020 Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Steve Clark, tabled the much anticipated COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 (Bill 197). The government’s omnibus bill, includes items across government that will help Ontario safely get back to work. The bill can be broken down in three parts:
- Restarting Jobs & Development
- Strengthening Communities
- Creating Opportunity for People
Upon analysis, Bill 197 uses the government’s stalwart policy priorities – “Open for Business”, reducing red-tape regulatory burdens, modernization of government – to shape their economic recovery measures.
Regulatory burdens that would otherwise slow down the economic recovery process have been removed for a variety of portfolios and files, such as transit and infrastructure projects. This should help speed up the process of getting shovels in the ground, complete construction in a shorter timeline, help create jobs so that people can get back to work and help Ontario businesses avoid mounting additional costs that come with frequent delays. Part of this would include development of integrated subway and transit stations; Premier Ford has previously mentioned his hope for more use of the air space above stations in prime real estate. The bill also introduces the first couple of steps to streamline the building code as part of the mandate of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to remove the redundancies and burdens between the Ontario and Federal building codes.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced all of Ontario move to online for business and personal reasons. The government has introduced schedules in Bill 197 to promote the adoption of modern digital solutions so that everyone from municipalities to their citizens can conduct their business virtually. Municipalities have also been given greater responsibilities and oversight for development and planning in their communities. They will also be able to recover 100 per cent of the costs associated with building critical community services like long-term care, child care, public health facilities, playgrounds, libraries and affordable housing.
Some of the temporary regulations made during the pandemic, such as alcohol and cannabis delivery sales from private businesses, using streets and parking lots for patios, are not included in this bill. However, it is likely those out-of-the-box ideas will be included in the fall legislation.
Reducing Regulatory Burdens
The Ontario government is taking long promised action to modernize how it operates. The province is proposing to merge the Reducing Regulatory Costs for Business Act, 2017 with the Burden Reduction Reporting Act so that all burden reduction requirements would now be in a single law – the Modernizing Ontario for People and Businesses Act. This new Act would enshrine the government’s seven burden reduction principles into legislation, so that businesses can count on clear, focused and effective rules that maintain or enhance protections for peoples’ health, safety, and the environment. These proposed changes will broaden the reach of burden reduction requirements to encompass legislation, regulation, policies and forms – and to include additional stakeholder groups like for-profit and not-for-profit businesses. This will ensure the government is doing everything it can to communicate clearly, ensure digital rather than paper pathways where possible and deliver on the province’s commitment to be a modern regulator. This is one of the five main priority commitments the Ford Government announced during their 2017 election and re-highlighted as part of their subsequent majority government mandate.
Premier Ford has repeatedly mentioned throughout the past few months that he wants Ontario to be able to be a manufacturing powerhouse again. This was reiterated again on Friday, July 10, 2020 with the launch of the Ontario Made program. The Ford Government is taking the $500,000 Ontario Together Fund program and using it to fund the new proudly Ontario plan. The Ontario Together program was launched in March 2020 to help manufacturing companies in the province that were able to shift from their current operations to produce much needed personal protective equipment (PPE).
The launch and creation of the new investment attraction agency, Invest Ontario, will position the province as a top tier destination for investment, domestic growth, and job creation. The agency’s mandate will be to promote the province as a key investment destination, making Ontario more competitive while sending a strong signal to investors that the province is open for business. It will be a “one stop shop” for businesses and investors. It will move at the speed of business and drive greater economic growth, support strategic domestic firms and attract business from around the world to create good jobs in Ontario. Bill 197 includes the regulations to establish the agency but the legislation around mandate and support ($) will be introduced in the Fall. As of right now, specific details on the agency’s function and operations is unavailable. CHG will continue to liaise with our contacts to provide more details as they become available.
Based on the government’s announcement we do know that the government will initially focus on three important sectors for COVID-19 recovery where Ontario has a globally competitive advantage: advanced manufacturing, life sciences and technology. This is in line with the previous funding allocation announcements made throughout Ontario’s state of emergency, with investments in manufacturing of PPE and the creation of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Invest Ontario will include “greater business development and deal structuring expertise and build on the many benefits of investing in Ontario, including: a good quality of life, a highly skilled talent pool, a strong and growing innovation sector, and a pro-job creation jurisdiction that can help businesses thrive.”
A couple other things to note:
- Mandates have been broadened for TVO and TFO for French second language to support teacher-led online learning
- Appointments of Justices of the Peace in order to address the growing court backlog
- Payday Loans Act will be amended to limit the interest rates
- Overall reduction in regulation processes to streamline standards, appeals, and registrations for agriculture, environment, and planning.
The COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 will come into effect once it receives Royal Ascent from the Lieutenant Governor. The Bill passed First Reading on Wednesday, June 8, 2020.
Ontario Expanding Access to the Modern Digital Economy
The Ontario government is expanding access to reliable broadband and cellular service in underserved and unserved parts of the province. The application intake for the $150 million Improving Connectivity for Ontario program (ICON) opened this week.
“By making these investments we will help to ensure every region in the province can participate in the modern digital economy, and contribute to Ontario’s economic recovery.” – Premier Ford
Telecommunication service providers, municipalities, Indigenous communities and non-profits are invited to submit innovative proposals and lend their investment, expertise and experience to improve connectivity in communities across Ontario. The preliminary application deadline for the first intake of the ICON program is August 21, 2020.
Ontario proposes legislation to protect health while reopening the economy
As part of the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020. The legislation is part of the government’s plan for the continued safe and gradual reopening of the province once the declaration of emergency ends. (extended to July 22). Its purpose is to ensure important measures remain in place to address the threat of COVID-19 once the provincial declaration of emergency has ended. Specifically, the legislation:
- 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 to keep Ontarians safe.
- 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 allow new emergency orders to be created.
- Allow emergency orders to be rescinded when it is safe to do so.
Sourced from the Government of Ontario
Mandatory Mask use takes Effect in Toronto and Ottawa
This week, the wearing of masks was made a bylaw in Toronto and Ottawa. Masks are now required in all indoor public spaces, until further notice.
Where do you need to wear a mask?
- convenience stores
- malls and shopping plazas
- enclosed areas of grocery stores, bakeries and farmer’s markets
- restaurants and bars when permitted to open for indoor service
- indoor recreational facilities, gyms, and swimming pools when permitted to open
- community centres
- community service agencies
- personal service settings
- churches, mosque, synagogue, temples and faith settings
- art galleries, museums, aquariums and zoos
- banquet halls, convention centres, arenas, stadiums and other event spaces
- real estate facilities such as open houses, presentation centres
- common areas in hotels, motels and short-term rentals
- entertainment facilities including concert venues, theatres, cinemas and casinos
- business offices open to the public
New Testing Strategy for up-coming flu season
Ontario’s Minister of Health, Christine Elliott has stated that the province is averaging around 25,000 COVID-19 tests per day but is prepared to lift number up to 50,000 tests. The Province needs to increase testing volumes in anticipation for increased demand starting in September which will coincide with the very preliminary stages of flu season. Symptoms of the flu and COVID can and will be mistaken for each other as people will start to fall ill and larger groups will be attending assessment centers. Minister Elliot said the province has a plan in place to get the testing numbers up to 50,000 per day by the start of flu season.