Two local MPPs among 24 to pass pandemic legislation in Ontario

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Labour Minister and Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton introduces legislation in a session with only 24 members involved.

Lambton County was well represented when history was made in the Ontario Legislature.

Just 24 MPPs, 12 Conservatives, 8 NDPs, two Liberals and the leader of the Green Party were at Queen’s Park for an unprecedented sitting Thursday.

Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP and Ontario’s Labour Minister, Monte McNaughton, introduced a bill which ensures workers will keep their jobs if they need to self-isolate, quarantine or recover from the novel coronavirus. It also eliminates the need for a doctor’s note to be excused from work. The move is meant to free up time for medical professionals as the number of people infected with COVID-19 rises.

The slimmed-down legislature also passed a bill which would allow municipal councils to hold meetings via teleconferencing. It’s a measure which should allow municipal government to continue doing business if members are sick and minimizes contact with other people in a time public health officials are trying to stop the spread of the disease.

Both bills passed unanimously.

McNaughton tells The Independent it has been wonderful to see the level of cooperation at all levels of government to do what is best for Canadians during the pandemic. “It was mission critical to get this done,” he says noting the opposition parties had input before the bill was presented and passed. “We need to project calmness to everyone out there. We need to allow families to see the government will be with them every step of the way until COVID-19 is defeated.

“It is incredible to see the country united; the province is united; all levels of government are working together; every political party of every stripe is working together and it is vitally important it continues …because there is going to have to be a lot of action in the future.”

Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey was also a part of the one-day sitting where MPPs sat at least two or three seats away from each other. “It was very momentous to be there and to realize the importance of what we were doing.”

The legislature has recessed until the end of March, but both Bailey and McNaughton say the work will continue.

McNaughton says there are daily cabinet meetings and ‘command table’ meetings led by the Health Minister. He also has two calls a week with 100 union leaders and two calls a week with 100 business leaders to get their lay of the land during the pandemic. Everything is being done by phone right now.

Bailey is also fielding a lot of calls, mostly from constituents who are concerned and are looking for information. “A lot of people are uncertain; people are asking us questions and that gives us the opportunity to find the answer. But there are no face-to-face meetings; so far it seems to be working out pretty good.”

And while people are concerned, Bailey says he’s glad to see people visiting elderly neighbours and offering to help out.

“It is the worst of times, but in another way, it is the best of times because people are stepping up.”