Ford and his comrades-in-arms pass Bill 195 giving themselves indefinite emergency measure powers

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Agatha Farmer

Yesterday the majority status Ford government passed Bill 195. According to some including one former PC member of provincial parliament, who was kicked to the curb by the Premier, called the bill an overreaching piece of legislation. Let that be a lesson for anyone going into partisan politics with an authentic self; It's simply not allowed.

Last night following the vote Ford announced that Belinda Karahalios "will no longer be sitting as a member of the PC caucus." He alluded that Karahalios doesn't have peoples safety in mind when she voted against the bill by saying that the "governments first priority is the health and safety of all Ontarians, and Bill 195 is an important piece of legislation that protects each and every citizen during the pandemic."

Karahalios expressed during the vote that the bill is "an unnecessary overreach of our parliamentary democracy."

Following the news of her dismissal the MPP's husband Jim Karahalios tweeted that "the late great Rob Ford always used to tell me 'my brother Doug Ford is a pinko.' Boy was he right."

Karahalios isn't alone in the assumption that such a bill is unprecedented. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association rang alarm bells on July 10 stating in a release that "in essence, Bill 195 would give the Premier and Ministers the power to impose emergency orders that drastically curtail basic rights and freedoms without the need to engage in the legislative process or involve members of the Legislative Assembly.  This ability – to exercise emergency powers without the label of an “emergency” or the checks and balances that come with it – would last for at least a year and can be extended by the Legislative Assembly for a year at a time. Indefinitely. The powers governments have under emergency legislation are supposed to be exceptional – Bill 195 would make the exercise of those powers the “new normal”.    

Two days before the CCLA released their statement on July 8 CUPE said the Bill will give the province significant powers at the expense of front-line workers and the passing of the bill is an all-out attack on Ontarians that they will oppose.

“This new law will continue powers granted under the state of emergency that allow employers to force shift changes with no notice even when workers don’t have childcare lined up,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “These kinds of powers are unheard of, unprecedented and absolutely unacceptable in a modern democracy. This is absolutely a disrespectful and unnecessary attack on workers this government continues to call heroes.”

Now that it has passed Bill 195 will effectively allow the provincial government to continue its extraordinary powers – currently being exercised under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) – except without the need for an ongoing public health emergency and without the oversight and accountability mechanisms that are crucial when power is concentrated in the executive branch (the Premier and Cabinet). 

CCLA wrote that "right now, the government has to return to the Legislative Assembly every 28 days if it wants to extend the state of emergency. It’s a way to insert democratic control over the executive branch’s emergency powers and the orders the Premier and Ministers make in response to an emergency. Bill 195 eliminates this requirement – leaving no meaningful democratic check on the government’s power."

Bill 195, the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response toCOVID-19) Act, will also allow the government the power to institute emergency orders that have to do with closures and regulations; redeployment of front-line workers; and rules related to public gatherings. 

Lawyer Rocco Galati who has filed a lawsuit against the province, as well as Trudeau's federal government, John Tory and the CBC, and is seeking relief from Covid-19 measures which are infringing on Ontarian's constitutional rights said Bill 195 "belongs in 1930's Europe. Should have been called the return to dictatorial rule Act. It needs to and will be constitutionally challenged."

Last night the Ontario government also passed Bill 197, which scraps environmental protections; and does not require Directors of Education to be educators and according to CUPE is leaving room for fiscal managers who will craft an education system at the expense of equity-seekers. The government also passed Bill 184 which will now roll back protections for tenants facing eviction.

“People are worried about rent and mortgages, about putting food on the table, and about securing their quality of life in the future,” said Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario. “Rather than supporting Ontarians with comprehensive supports, this government has made the political decision to make it easier to evict struggling renters, weaken public education, and ignore the voices of front-line workers.”

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