Coronavirus: Toronto is in a state of emergency. Here’s what that means

Mayor John Tory now has the power to make decisions without city council votes

As cases of COVID-19 rise in the city, Mayor John Tory declared a state of emergency in Toronto to help fight the pandemic.

But what does that mean, exactly?

“This gives me the authority to make any decision that council could make,” Tory said this afternoon in a news conference streamed from his home, where he’s currently in self-isolation following a trip to London, England.

Under the advice of city’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa and fire chief and general manager of emergency management, Matthew Pegg, Tory signed the declaration Monday afternoon.

The declaration comes in the wake of Toronto’s first COVID-19 death this past weekend and the increasing number of cases in the city. Today, de Villa confirmed there were now 239 positive cases in Toronto, up from 220 yesterday.

Tory also stressed the importance of maintaining physical distance in the next few days to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“This declaration sends the strongest possible message to our residents to stay home and to change their behaviour,” Tory said.

Tory said his new powers give him the flexibility to make decisions quickly, but added that he does not any measures specifically planned as of yet.

For example, he said he could impose measures to keep people apart at playgrounds or take down basketball hoops to discourage large pick-up games.  

Mississauga announced on Monday that it would be closing its parks, basketball courts, playgrounds and skate parks in an effort to curb physical contact. Tory’s emergency powers last 30 days, but city council an authorize an extension.

The mayor said any decisions he makes under the declaration will be made upon advice from city councillors, city staff and in consultation with the premier and other governments.

Several city councillors from across the political spectrum tweeted their support for the mayor’s declaration.

Earlier today, Premier Doug Ford announced that the mandatory closure of all non-essential businesses in Ontario by Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 pm for at least 14 days. Tomorrow the province will release a list of essential workplaces.

In the city’s daily afternoon press briefing, Pegg confirmed that the following city services would continue to operate:

  • Police, paramedics and fire services
  • Toronto Water
  • Garbage, recycling and recycling
  • Shelters and respite sites
  • Long-term health care centres
  • Toronto Hydro
  • TTC 
  • 311


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