Toronto

Ford government tables sweeping 'economic recovery' bill that would change 20 pieces of legislation

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, as the province reports an additional 118 new cases of the novel coronavirus.

Premier Ford to move forward 'rapidly' on mandating A/C in long-term care residents' bedrooms

Ontario's Ministry of Long-term Care says it is tracking COVID-19 outbreaks in 30 facilities provincewide. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

The latest:

  • Ontario government introduced a sweeping new bill that it says will help the province's economic recovery, but some say it has little to do with the pandemic.
  • Premier Doug Ford says he is looking into 'rapidly' mandating air conditioning in long-term care residents' bedrooms.
  • Ontario reports 118 new cases on Wednesday, as province continues on a 5-week downward trend.
  • The province to table a motion to extend Ontario's state of emergency until July 24.

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, as the province reports an additional 118 cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday .

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, something opposition critics say have little to do with the pandemic itself.

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.

Call to mandate air conditioning in LTC homes

Meanwhile, Ford said he wants to 'rapidly' mandate air conditioning in long-term care residents' bedrooms during the province's daily briefing on Wednesday after CBC News first asked about the topic the day before. 

"We're going to move forward with this," Ford said on Wednesday. "We're looking into funds to support this."

WATCH: Premier Doug Ford gives a shout-out CBC's Lisa Xing for asking about mandating air conditioning at long-term care homes

Premier Doug Ford says he will make air conditioning mandatory in long-term care homes after CBC's Lisa Xing first asked about the topic on Tuesday. 1:21

Ford says he and Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton are already looking at how the legislation can be changed, and exploring the possibility of providing money to make it possible.

As it stands, the bill does not require air conditioning, but says homes without it must have a "cooling plan" in place.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says Ford should change the the legislation to mandate A/C in long-term care residents' bedrooms. Green party Leader Mike Schreiner says he would support such an amendment.

On Tuesday, Ford tore into long-term care homes without air conditioning, saying he'd speak to the owners directly about rectifying the situation.

He said he'd "like to stick them in the room for 24 hours at 30 C heat [and] see how they like it," but stopped short of suggesting any changes to law or regulations.

The Long-Term Care Association, an industry group, says its members follow all provincial legislation, and it hopes the province will offer funding to retrofit facilities without air conditioning — or rebuild them, if necessary.

Ontario reports 118 new cases on Wednesday

On Wednesday, Ontario reported an additional 118 cases of COVID-19, as the number of resolved infections of the novel coronavirus provincewide approaches 88 per cent of all cases.

The newly confirmed cases brings the total number in Ontario since the outbreak began to 36,178, a 0.3 per cent increase overall. Of those, 87.9 per cent are resolved, according to the Ministry of Health. 

Thirty of the province's 34 public health units reported five or fewer new cases as of 4 p.m. yesterday. Of those, 18 reported none at all. In yesterday's update, however, 23 health units confirmed no additional cases.

As has typically been the case in recent days, most of the new cases are concentrated in Toronto and Peel and York regions. The three health units account for 90 in today's update, with 50, 27 and 13, respectively.

The five-day rolling average of new daily cases, a measure that helps smoothes peaks and valley in data, has now been in consistent decline for five weeks. 

After a considerable drop in testing earlier this week, the province's network of labs processed 22,832 tests for the novel coronavirus yesterday. Another 17,116 were added to the queue to be completed.

The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 is now 123, five times fewer than just one month ago. Thirty-five people are being treated in intensive care units, while 26 are on ventilators. 

Ontario's official COVID-19 death toll grew by nine, and now sits at 2,700. A CBC News count based on data from public health units, however, puts the real toll at 2,735.

State of Emergency may extend until July 24

Ontario is 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.

Premier Doug 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.

Jones's bill gives the province the power to keep some pandemic measures in place for up to a year, even as the state of emergency ends.

While the motion to extend the declaration will be introduced today, the government does not expect to debate or vote on it until early next week.

With files from Lucas Powers and The Canadian Press

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