Premier Doug Ford’s crusade against rising retailer prices for coronaviruses has led to about 200 police investigations in Ontario, according to new data available.
At the same time, some 500 companies have received warnings against the sale of “necessary goods at prices that greatly exceed” the usual cost of these items.
The news comes as MPs return to Queen’s Park on Tuesday to officially extend Ontario’s state of emergency – effective March 17 – until June 2. MPs last sat on April 14.
Ford told reporters on Monday that he does not expect a spiteful partisan debate because “we have more fish to fry than to (argue)” before the legislature in the context of a pandemic.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath appeared to agree, saying she would seek “thoughtful and respectful” responses from the Progressive Conservative government on Tuesday on the response to COVID-19.
“I hope the Prime Minister will respond in the same thoughtful and respectful manner and answer these questions. Ontarians deserve nothing less than this, “said Horwath.
Earlier Monday, the Star revealed that more than 22,500 complaints and price requests had been filed with the government since March 28. Of these, 8,500 have so far been reviewed by Consumer Protection Ontario.
“About 200 of the most egregious cases have been referred to law enforcement in the province,” said the office of Minister of Government and Consumer Services, Lisa Thompson.
This means that local police and municipal law enforcement officers are looking into them to determine if charges will be laid.
“In addition, over 500 businesses across the province have received notification that they are selling necessary products at prices that greatly exceed the price of similar products available to… consumers and urging them to take appropriate action,” said The Minister. office added.
“The ministry could take further action on these companies, if necessary.”
The government has not publicly identified the companies being investigated or having received written warnings.
Ontario’s Emergency Management and Emergency Preparedness Act makes it illegal for businesses and individuals to “set prices (or) to charge unreasonable prices for necessary goods, services and resources” .
These products include masks and gloves used as personal protective equipment (PPE), over the counter medications for the treatment of coronavirus symptoms, disinfectants for cleaning, and personal hygiene products such as soap and toilet paper.
Scofflaws face hefty fines ranging from $ 750 to $ 100,000 plus one year in prison for individuals, $ 500,000 and incarceration for directors and officers, and $ 10 million for corporations.
Although some complainants have cited soaring prices for certain food products, they are not classified as “necessary” under provincial law.
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Ontario has stepped up its efforts to tackle the problem after a “furious” Ford expressed outrage at a chic Toronto supermarket selling Lysol disinfectant wipes for $ 29.99. They usually retail for a fraction of that.
In the meantime, only 42 of 124 MPs will be in the Legislative Chamber in the meantime to maintain a safe physical distance.
Liberals Stephan Blais (Orleans) and Lucille Collard (Ottawa-Vanier) will be there for the first time since winning the February 27 by-elections.
After the morning question period – limited to opposition questions, the Conservatives having given up their daily friendly questions – the House will rise until May 19. She will sit on that day and on May 20, then again on May 26-27 and June 2-3. .
There will be much to debate: the independent financial accountability office warned on Monday that Ontario’s $ 20.5 billion deficit could climb to $ 41 billion due to COVID-19.
The budget watchdog forecasts a record net debt-to-GDP ratio of 49.7%, an increase of around 10 percentage points from last year.
It is obvious that Ford would not rule out having to raise taxes at some point before the 2022 election.
“There is nothing absolute about politics,” said the Premier, adding, “I will make sure that we take care of the people of Ontario no matter what. “
But discussions of the deficit can be overshadowed by more pressing health concerns.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said his party would urge Ford to further help frontline health care workers and urged him to “immediately cancel all cuts to Ontario’s regional public health units following the budget for 2019…. ”
This spending plan – the cornerstone of which were the new double blue license plates that the Conservatives finally canceled last week because they are defective – was so badly received that Ford demoted its treasurer barely 10 weeks later.