Premier Doug Ford faced some tough questions from reporters today after word got out yesterday that the government is considering some sort of legislated protection from lawsuits related to COVID 19. The legislation Civil liability protection is a necessary measure,’ says Ontario Long-Term Care Association CEO Donna Duncan.
The Ontario’s Recovery Act, 2020, that if passed, will provide liability protection for workers, volunteers and organizations that “make an honest effort to follow public health guidelines and laws relating to exposure to COVID-19. At the same time, it will maintain the right of Ontarians to take legal action against those who willfully, or with gross negligence, endanger others.”
The issue for the courts then will be to determine the difference between negligence and “gross negligence”.
“After listening to the concerns of Ontarians, we want to ensure people can seek redress against gross negligence, intentional misconduct and bad actors who fail to make an honest effort to follow COVID-19 guidance and laws,” said Attorney General Doug Downey. “We are also providing protection to the hard-working women and men who make essential contributions to our communities, from frontline health care workers to people coaching minor sports teams, to those keeping our supply chain moving, to people volunteering at the local food bank or those simply showing up for work each day despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.”
If passed, the Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act, 2020 will provide targeted protection for those who are making an honest effort to follow public health guidelines and laws, including:
Healthcare workers and institutions;
Frontline workers who serve the public everywhere from grocery stores to restaurants and retail stores;
Businesses and their employees;
Charities, non-profit organizations; and
Coaches, volunteers and minor sports associations.
“Good faith” is the standard commonly used in existing Ontario immunity provisions, meaning an honest effort to act in accordance with applicable public health guidance and laws relating to COVID-19.
The proposed legislation also includes changes to the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 that would remove the option to use ranked ballots for municipal council elections, making the electoral process consistent across municipal, provincial and federal elections.
A source close to the government said a key purpose of the legislation would be to prevent lawsuits against companies whose staff unwittingly infect customers or other workers as the province allows more non-essential businesses to resume operating.
Premier Ford was asked today if he is protecting his friends who operate Long Term Care homes, including former Premier Mike Harris who sits as chairman of the board for Chartwell—a major owner of Long Term Care facilities.