State of emergency: How different levels of government can respond to coronavirus

As the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across Canada, some governments have declared a state of emergency.

Premier Doug Ford formally declared a state of emergency for Ontario on Tuesday, and so did municipalities like Red Deer, Leduc and Blood Tribe in Alberta. On the same day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a federal state of emergency was also being considered.

According to Canada’s Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, an emergency is a present or imminent event that requires quick action to protect the health, safety and welfare of people and to limit damage to property or the environment.

A state of emergency is “essentially a symbolic recognition that we’re in an extraordinary period,” said Daniel Henstra, associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo Ont.

Intended to be temporary, a state of emergency is both to “acknowledge that the government needs to take special measures but also to empower itself to take more executive actions to contain the emergency.”

Any level of government — federal, provincial, territorial or municipal — can call a state of emergency.

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