Queen’s Park Update: New Provincial Legislation to Allow Virtual Municipal Council
During today’s emergency legislative session at Queen’s Park, the province introduced the Municipal Emergency Act, 2020 to assist municipal governments and local boards during the COVID-19 emergency. This legislation, and the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020, have received unanimous consent and are now in force as Royal Assent received.
Top of mind for municipal governments has been the ability to ensure councils, council committees and municipal boards can meet virtually to make key decisions without needing to meet physically- given societal necessity for social distancing and isolation.
The Municipal Act, 2001 and the City of Toronto Act, 2006, has been amended to provide that, during municipal or provincial emergencies, members of councils, local boards and committees who participate electronically in open and closed may be counted for the purposes of quorum. Use of this emergency provision will be at each municipal council’s discretion. At this point, today’s legislation has not been publicly posted
“Municipalities have a key role to play in COVID-19 response, management and recovery. If passed, this legislation will ensure municipal councils can continue to conduct the important business of municipal government and maintain the local and regional services Ontarians rely on most.” Jamie McGarvey, AMO President, and Mayor, Parry Sound.
AMO would like to thank the province and the three opposition parties for their leadership for today’s legislation which is needed at this time.
Also, under the Municipal Emergency Act, 2020 is an amendment to allow the Lieutenant Governor in Council (i.e. Cabinet) to make regulations imposing limits and conditions on the powers of a municipality with respect to s. 129 of the Municipal Act. This will allow the province to make a regulation that enables 24-hour delivery of critical goods throughout Ontario for up to 18 months. It is expected that this regulation will be revoked after the end of this COVID-19 emergency. This will support our grocery stores’ and pharmacies’ supply chains which will allow everyone to be less nervous about finding the supplies and goods they need to keep their families healthy at this time.
We also understand that many previously stated deadlines for current provincial consultations are being reconsidered in light of the COVID-19 emergency, such as an extension of the DC/CBC consultation. We know that most of the Ontario Public Service is working from home and those who are not involved directly in COVID-19 emergency activities, are continuing to work on their regular items. As AMO learns of consultation extensions of municipal interest, we will update members.
AMO will continue to work closely with the provincial government to make sure municipal governments have the ability to respond effectively to the COVID-19 and keep their communities safe and healthy. The province today has dealt with the priority municipal concern, and they are aware of other municipal concerns such as the need to pause the statutory clocks under some provincial legislation at this time. Please continue to make us aware of any provincial legislative or regulatory barriers municipalities may be encountering that inhibit your ability during this emergency.