TORONTO ― Twenty-six of the province’s MPPs met today (March 19) in a special sitting of legislature to unanimously pass two pieces of legislation that are designed to protect jobs and keep store shelves stocked, and to give municipal councils flexibility to continue operating while observing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a press release, the province said that the number of MPPs present today was intentionally kept small to practice social distancing.
“I want to thank all parties for coming together to pass this important legislation so we can deliver immediate relief to Ontario workers and families,” said Premier Doug Ford in the release. “The health and safety of the people of Ontario is our number one priority and that’s why we are protecting the jobs of workers and making sure that essentials like groceries, household basics, and medicine can arrive on store shelves. We must work together as Team Ontario to slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve.”
The two pieces of legislation passed were the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020 and the Municipal Emergency Act, 2020.
The Employment Standards Amendment Act is designed to provide job protection for employees who are in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, or those who need to be away from work to care for children due to the school and day care closures or to care for other relatives. These measures are retroactive to Jan. 25, 2020, the date of the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Ontario.
The legislation also states that employees cannot be required to show a sick note from a doctor.
The Municipal Emergency Act allows for the delivery of goods to Ontario businesses and consumers 24 hours a day and overrides any existing municipal noise bylaws that may be unintentionally halting deliveries.
This piece of legislation also gives municipalities the ability to conduct council, local board and committee meetings electronically when faced with local and province-wide emergencies. The province says this will allow the municipalities to respond quickly when in-person meetings cannot be held.