It seems Ontarians are confused. With so much talk of COVID-19 restrictions giving way to reopening frameworks, you might have come up with some questions yourself. And it seems like the one thing plenty of residents are asking is "what does a state of emergency mean in Ontario?

Back on March 17, Premier Doug Ford announced a State of Emergency over the province, closing several businesses and advising many people to stay indoors.

According to the government of Ontario Ministry of the
Solicitor General site, the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act defines an emergency as a situation or something we expect to occur that would cause a danger of major proportions.

This "danger" could result in serious harm to people or property and is caused by nature, a disease (yep) or another health risk, an accident or even an act that wasn't intentional.

The act also states that only the head of a council of a municipality, the Lieutenant Governor in Council, or the Premier has the authority to declare an emergency.

The initial two-week declaration can only be extended once for another 14 days before it has to be ratified by the legislature, as Ford has had to seek this week.

One thing it doesn't mean is that all regions within the province must follow the same rules at the same pace.

The government site notes that an emergency declaration "may extend to all or any part of the geographical area under the jurisdiction of the municipality."

So that's why, for example, Toronto has its own state of emergency which it declared a week after Ontario did.

And Kingston was able to vote to reopen walking trails a while before Ontario granted access to provincial parks and other trails.

There are examples outside Ontario, too.

The Globe and Mail reported in late March that both Vancouver and Calgary declared their own states of emergency to facilitate a faster response than their respective provinces allowed for.

It also doesn't mean no progress can be made.

In Ontario, despite the rolling emergency order still being in place, the province has unleashed a framework for how Ontario plans to reopen as things progress.

 

This past weekend, we have already seen a few store openings as curbside pickup becomes an option.

For what it's worth, Ford seems to believe things are getting to a stage in the province where we're able to loosen restrictions. He said on Tuesday he will be sharing details on Thursday for how stage one of the reopening will work.

It's just a shame Ontario's Medical Officer of Health disagrees with the Premier that we're ready for that.

It seems emergencies in a province of 144 municipalities aren't easy to navigate.

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