Ontario introduces COVID-19 recovery bill that changes 20 laws

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TORONTO — Premier Doug Ford’s government has introduced a sweeping new piece of legislation it says will help the province’s economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The omnibus bill — dubbed the COVID-19 Recovery Act — proposes to change 20 pieces of current legislation that govern the province’s schools, municipalities, and justice system.

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark says if passed, the bill would speed up environmental assessments, offer new consumer protections and help address unemployment.

Clark says the bill would also create an economic agency — Invest Ontario — to help attract more international investment to the province.

The bill also includes measures announced by Education Minister Stephen Lecce this week to end school suspensions for students in junior kindergarten to Grade 3.

NDP House leader Peggy Sattler says the bill is an abuse of the government’s power under the current state of emergency in the province.

Liberal House leader John Fraser says some parts of it, such as changes to how justices of the peace are appointed, have nothing to do with pandemic recovery.

The government was also expected to table a motion on Wednesday to extend the province’s state of emergency until July 24.

The current state of emergency declared at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is set to expire July 15.

Ford’s office said the government wants to extend the measure to ensure there is no gap between that declaration ending and a new bill extending Ontario’s emergency measures taking effect.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones introduced that bill on Tuesday, saying the province will need to keep some emergency measures in place in the months ahead.

Ontario reported 118 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and nine new deaths due to the novel coronavirus.

The total number of cases now stands at 36,178, which includes 31,805 marked as resolved and 2,700 deaths.

The province also reported 202 newly resolved cases, and completed more than 22,832 tests for the novel coronavirus over the previous 24 hours.

The number of people in hospital because of the virus, in intensive care units and on ventilators all slightly decreased.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 30 of the province’s 34 public health units reported five or fewer new cases, with 18 reporting none.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2020.

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