Ontario Keeping Province Open for Business
New measures proposed to protect movement of people and goods at international borders
March 21, 2022
|MISSISSAUGA — The Ontario government is introducing a suite of new measures to protect international border crossings from unlawful disruptions that hurt people and businesses. These new measures include legislation that, if passed, would enable law enforcement to better protect jobs that rely on international trade and shield the economy from future disruptions like the recent illegal blockade of Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge, which led to factory closures, shift reductions and halted billions of dollars worth of trade.
“Ontario is a strong, reliable trading partner, and we are signalling to the world that we continue to be open for business,” said Premier Doug Ford. “We will do everything in our power to protect our workers, job creators and international trade relationships from any future attempts to block our borders. The world can be confident that Ontario is open for business.”
The Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, 2022 would, if passed, better enable the province to respond immediately to future disruptions to international border crossings such as bridges and airports when those disruptions interfere with public safety, the economy and international trade.
The proposed legislation would provide police officers with additional enforcement tools to impose roadside suspension of drivers’ licences and vehicle permits, seize licence plates when a vehicle is used in an illegal blockade and remove and store objects making up an illegal blockade.
The government is also investing nearly $96 million in new measures and tools to support province-wide responses during unlawful demonstrations and illegal blockades that impede international borders and airports. These include:
“Our government is focused on public safety and ensuring that people and goods can move across our international borders unimpeded,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “That’s why we are taking the steps necessary to protect international border crossings, which are critical to the public. These measures are narrow in scope and will not impact the right to peaceful, lawful and temporary protests.”
“We are taking swift action to provide police and prosecutors with new tools to keep people safe and protect the vital economic lifelines that drive the prosperity of our communities,” said Attorney General Doug Downey. “We will never hesitate to protect people’s jobs and prioritize public safety.”
“Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of essential goods for people and businesses pass across our international borders every day,” said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation. “Taking steps to ensure our border crossings can continue to operate regularly in the event of disruptions like those experienced earlier this year is vital to the ongoing safety and security of the people of Ontario and our economy.”
Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act
March 21, 2022
The Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, 2022 includes legislative measures to enable police officers to better protect international border crossings, which are important to Ontario’s economy and international trade. The intent of this act is to protect critical transportation infrastructure such as international bridges and airports from unlawful disruptions that, as demonstrated by recent events in Windsor, hurt people and businesses. Proposed measures include:
Prohibiting the Obstruction of Border Infrastructure
The proposed legislation would make it illegal to obstruct certain transportation infrastructure if the blockage disrupts economic activity or interferes with the safety, health or well-being of members of the public. Protected infrastructure is narrowly scoped to mean international borders, prescribed international airports and other prescribed transportation infrastructure that is of significance to international trade.
Removal of Objects
The proposed legislation would grant police officers the power to remove, maintain possession of and store objects, including vehicles, for 30 days.
The maximum punishment for breaching any offence under the new legislation, except a failure to identify oneself, is one-year imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $100,000 for an individual. Directors and officers of corporations can face up to $500,000 in fines or up to one year imprisonment or both. Corporations can face up to $10,000,000 in fines. Failure to comply with the proposed requirement to identify oneself would result in a fine of up to $5,000, which is the default penalty under the Provincial Offences Act.
The legislation provides the authority for police to impose roadside suspension of drivers’ licences and vehicle permits or to seize licence plates for 14 days when a vehicle is used in an illegal blockade of protected transportation infrastructure. These provisions would also apply if a vehicle were used to illegally assist a person who was illegally impeding access to protected transportation infrastructure. Currently, police have a range of tools available to support enforcement where protest activities involve unsafe use of vehicles or blocking roadways. However, these need to be supplemented with additional tools to quickly address serious interference of infrastructure used in international trade. Enabling police to take immediate action provides the required tools to clear road blockages more quickly and effectively.
Suspension of Certificates and Permits
Ontario is proposing additional powers for the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to suspend or cancel the plate portion of a commercial motor vehicle or trailer permit or a Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR) certificate. Permit suspensions or cancellations would apply to trucks, buses and commercial trailers. These powers provide significant consequences for the misuse of a commercial vehicle or trailer to interfere with protected transportation infrastructure.
A suspension or cancellation of a CVOR certificate has significant impacts to Ontario-based companies:
- The suspension is not only in effect for the vehicle identified as being involved in the protest but is in effect for the entire company’s fleet associated with that CVOR holder.
Where there is a vehicle permit suspension or cancellation ordered by the Registrar, police officers and MTO transportation enforcement officers can seize the licence plates for all affected vehicles registered to that company.
Suspensions for Individuals Convicted
The proposed legislation would allow a provincial offences court to direct the Registrar to suspend the driver’s licence and deny vehicle permit renewals for people who are convicted of violating the new legislation and do not pay their fines. This would help ensure that an individual pays the fine(s) for offences they have committed under the proposed legislation. The person convicted of violating the legislation would not be able to renew their vehicle permit and therefore legally operate their vehicle if they have not paid fines owed.
Review of the Act
To ensure accountability and transparency, the minister responsible for the Act would be required to conduct a review of the Act once it has been in force for one year. The minister would have to prepare a written report, publish it online and table it in the Legislative Assembly. The review would have to be published and tabled within 18 months of the Act coming into force.