Ontario legislators to return to Queen's Park for emergency one-day session
QUEEN'S PARK -- The Ontario legislature is being recalled for an emergency session on Thursday, to allow the province to pass two pieces of legislation designed to give Ontarians relief during the provincial state of emergency.
The one-day sitting of the legislature will only be attended by a handful of MPPs including 12 members from the government, eight New Democratic Party MPPs, two Liberal MPPs and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner.
“After lengthy discussions with the opposition parties weexpect to receive unanimous consent to debate and vote on these items in an expedited manner,” Government House Leader Paul Calandra said in a statement.
Premier Doug Ford’s office said the government has been working on emergency legislation that would remove an employers’ ability to ask for sick notes for people who are in self-isolation and ensure that workers who self-isolate would have protected leave.
The proposed legislation, according to the government, would provide job protection for employees unable to work for the following reasons:
· The employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19.
· The employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
· The employee is in isolation or quarantine.
· The employee is acting in accordance with public health information or direction.
· The employer directs the employee not to work.
· The employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or day-care closure.
The government said the measures would be retroactive to Jan. 25 2020, the date of the first presumptive COVID-19 case in Ontario.
"While everyone's concerns about their health and safety is top of mind, the last thing we need is anyone worrying about job security as the COVID-19 situation evolves," Ford said earlier this week.
During the emergency session of the legislature, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.. on Mar. 19, MPPs will also be allowed to sit at any desk inside the legislative chamber in keeping with social distancing practices.
After the one-day sitting, the legislature will resume on Mar. 25, when Finance Minister Rod Phillips is expected to deliver a pared down version of the 2020 Ontario budget, which will include a fiscal and economic update.
Phillps said the fiscal update will be based on “our best understanding of the current situation” and will provide a one-year outlook based on current economic projections.
“ It will provide certainty to hospitals, schools, municipalities, and other partners for the year to come. Our approach will include increased resources for our healthcare system, direct support for people, and action to protect jobs and our economy,” Phillips said earlier this week.
The Ford government is also spending $300 million in surge funding to help the fight against COVID-19.
Here’s a breakdown of spending as outlined by the government.
• $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 health care professionals and the distribution of critical supplies.