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Ontario economic recovery bill proposes sweeping legislative changes

Thursday, July 09, 2020 @ 4:04 PM | By John Schofield

In its second major legislative initiative in as many days, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government introduced a wide-ranging omnibus bill July 8 designed to stimulate the province’s pandemic-depressed economy while making changes to 20 pieces of legislation.

The government’s proposed COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act comes on the heels of its Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, unveiled July 7.

And once again, NDP Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath raised a red flag about legislative overreach.

“I’m worried Doug Ford is using COVID-19 recovery as cover to plow ahead with changes that have nothing at all to do with recovering from this pandemic,” Horwath said in a written statement. “We’ll be taking time to closely comb through this massive bill to evaluate the damage it may do, but off the bat, we can see that this does nothing at all to help everyday families and small businesses in Ontario.”

Touting the bill as a bid to “restart jobs and development, strengthen communities, and create opportunity for people in every region of the province,” the government is proposing changes to some legislation with no apparent connection to the economy, including the Justices of the Peace Act and the Marriage Act.

If passed, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act would also impact more significant regulatory legislation, including the Environmental Assessment Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Planning Act, the Building Code Act, the Drainage Act, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Act, and the Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has touched all Ontarians and created significant hardship for individuals, families and businesses,” Ford said in a news release. “People are relying on our government to help rebuild the province and get people back to work ― and that’s exactly what we’re doing, starting with this new legislation.”

The government news release states that the proposed legislation will facilitate and expedite the development of key infrastructure projects by, among other things, “cutting red tape” and allowing municipalities to put in place a new “community benefits charge” to help them pay for new infrastructure and services.

The news release notes that the Ford government is spending $2.6 billion this year on highway and bridge projects.

The Ford government says the new law will also protect consumers, modernize services, improve the education system and remove “the social and economic barriers that stand in the way of success for young people.”

“Making Ontario a modern regulator — one that communicates clearly and operates effectively — will free up our people and businesses to focus on what’s important: recovering and re-emerging stronger than before,” Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Prabmeet Sarkaria said in the release. “By improving digital access to government and incorporating best practices, we’re empowering businesses to rebuild, rehire, and return to a period where their success fuels our economic growth.”

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