Ministry of the
Solicitor General

Emergency Management Review



In the 2014 Mandate letter from the Premier, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services was asked to conduct a review of Ontario’s emergency management systems, with the goals of ongoing improvement, protecting public safety and adapting to the growing impacts of climate change.

An independent consultant, Lansdowne Technologies Inc., conducted the review and delivered its final report in August 2017.

The Ministry tasked Lansdowne with exploring the following five key components as part of their review:

  1. Describe and assess what emergency management in Ontario is right now and how it works
  2. Identify gaps and challenges in Ontario’s emergency management program
  3. Identify best practices adopted by other jurisdictions and agencies
  4. Describe what the emergency management  program in Ontario should look like — and make recommendations to get there
  5. Draw a roadmap to where emergency management should be.

The review recommended action in the following areas:

  • Increasing focus on supporting ministry and local emergency managers in adapting to the implications of climate change as it relates to emergencies (e.g., increased flooding, fires, wind storms, etc.)
  • Strengthening emergency management governance, including a review of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and revitalizing the Cabinet Committee on Emergency Management
  • Improving emergency management services available to First Nations to ensure a comparable level of services to those offered to municipalities.
  • Increasing focus on prevention and recovery programs
  • Updating and improving provincial-level emergency response plans and procedures
  • Developing mutual assistance arrangements with contiguous states and provinces
  • Increasing resources to improve and expand existing emergency management programs

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services will continue to respond to the report’s 52 formal recommendations as part of Ontario’s Emergency Management Action Plan.


  1. Full Transformation – Culture Change: It is recommended, in the long term, through an All-Province approach highlighted in the Premier’s Mandate letters to ALL Ministers, that EMO, when it is rebuilt and strong, be transferred to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MMA), while maintaining strong ties with MCSCS such that the challenges that confront the Strategy for Safer Ontario are resolved in whole of government fashion. The oversight and steering of EM and decision-making in EM would emanate from an Enterprise view with a tiered structure. 

  2. Adopt an all-hazards risk approach and encourage pre-emptive investment. The shift from Disaster Management to Risk Management implies that the stakeholder base must be broadened because it is necessary to focus across all pillars of EM. This suggests collaboration with ensuing cost efficiencies, alignment through tailored standards, and integration when possible for cost effectiveness. This collaboration would nurture a partnership that would make EM, preparedness, and community safety a joint priority rather than a compliance exercise. It is recommended to review and refresh performance standards and reporting metrics as part of the move from compliance to collaboration. 

  3. Utilize Climate Change as the driver for change for EM. In doing so, stay closely aligned to the Ontario government’s (MOECC and MNRF) climate change adaptation priorities.  Climate change represents an opportunity to find innovative ways to assist communities, starting with showing leadership and addressing their thirst for knowledge. To this end, make an early investment in a climate change subject matter expert (SME) and work with the MOECC climate change modelling collaborative team who will translate climate change risk information and bring it to CEMCs in an understandable and executable manner

  4. In the short to medium term (2-3 years), appoint an Associate Deputy Minister in MCSCS who is singly responsible for EM and links MMA (Recovery – Disaster Assistance) to MCSCS (Preparedness and EM) in matters of EM. This Associate Deputy Minister could bridge the gap (facilitating a transition from one Ministry to another) by having a foot in each camp and would be ideally suited to become the future Champion of EM.

  5. Re-energize the Cabinet Committee on EM (CCEM) and alter its mandate to make it more active and participative in the advancing of the EM Program interests, at all times (not just during major emergencies or major events). The CCEM should have standing regular meetings that steer a transformation of the EM Program in Ontario. The Commissioner of EM and Director of Communications would report directly to this committee.

  6. EM should be integrated into the current development of the Strategy for a Safer Ontario as a key pillar. The Hub Model which brings together communities of practice who are concerned about the safety and well-being of the community needs to include Emergency Managers who can inform and assist.

  7. Designate an EM Champion who has formal status in governance -- a voice at the higher levels of government (DM and Cabinet levels) that can make gains for this program. This champion could be either a Deputy Minister or an Associate Deputy Minister, who is an active, focused, and engaged supporter with a single focus on the EM Program. The Commissioner of Emergency Management (CEM) would be well-placed to be the EM Champion

  8. Acknowledge the differences in culture and consider separating the EMO and Fire Marshal’s offices. While combining these offices can work (Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec only), it is not working in Ontario. A number (4) of proactive provinces have decided that EM and Fire should be separated due to inherent challenges from cultural differences and to ensure visibility in the Ministry in which they reside. 

  9. Select and maintain a Chief, EMO who is not from the “enforcement culture,” is a visionary leader, and is educated/experienced in EM. This Chief, EMO would be Provincial Coordinating Officer at the ADM-level in a multi-tiered, enterprise system. 

  10. While PEOC has the requirement in the EMCPA to assist communities in responding to a major nuclear/radiological emergency by providing protective-action direction, advice, assistance and support in coordinating the provision of additional resources, the current expectation of CEMCs in Ontario (result of EM Survey – Annex F) includes the uncomfortable CEMC expectation for EMO and PEOC to take the “lead coordinating role” during Response to nuclear emergencies. This expectation could cause friction with first responders when leadership at the incident requires unity of command. It is recommended that EMO places special focus on this friction point; they will have to make it clear to their teams that there can be no overlap for asserting command (the “lead”) during local responder-led incidents and emergencies. 

  11. Review and renew EMCPA legislation when achievable. The main gaps have been listed in Chapter 3 (with gaps from Elliot Lake treated in Section 1.2 – Elliot Lake and Annex C of this report). Findings in Section 3.1 indicate a number of important areas for updating, clarifying, and improving the EMCPA. However, the most important items for change in the short to medium term lie in the following articles (suggested changes for these are included in Annex B in a tracked version of the Act). Here are the most important recommendations for legislative change:

    • Article 1 - Definitions – update and gather all definitions at the beginning and add EM terms that are germane. A logical ordering (top to bottom levels of government) of governance which is in accordance with the current EM Doctrine and Program (including an update of “Solicitor General” in order to provide flexibility. The definition for Minister may be left open in a fashion similar to this: “the Minister responsible for Emergency Management in Ontario,” (or words to that effect)).  Also borrow definitions from the Municipal Act for pertaining to municipalities. (Sect 2.1, pp. 36-38; Sect 3.1, pp. 101-103, LF 1 and LF 6; Annex B – Suggested changes to EMCPA). 
    • Article 2.1 (3) -- Include climate change adaptation, critical infrastructure protection considerations, and cyber security considerations in the Hazard and Risk Assessment article 2.1 (3) and the Emergency Plans article 6.2 (1). (Sect 3.1, LF 2; Sect 2, BPF 10).
    • Article 4 (1) - Declaration of emergency: Include clarification for municipalities by adding the requirement to report emergencies. Include to whom and when emergencies should be declared in article 4. (1) of the EMCPA; (Sect 3.1, LF 3; Sect 4.2, BPF 6).
    • Article 6.1 - Guidance concerning the scope of authority of the Chief, Emergency Management Ontario (CEMO) should be added to the Act with respect to coordination authority, authority to set standards for Municipalities and Ministries (Plans, Exercises, etc.), and authority to promote interoperability; in article 6.1 (1-4); (Sect 1.2, p. 19; Sect 2.1, p. 37; Sect 2.2, p. 51; Sect 2.3, SF2, SF 3; Sect 3.1, LF 4; Sect 3.2, pp. 106-107).
    • Article 6.2 (1): The contents listed for Emergency Plans in the EMCPA are out of date and should be amended to include: impact of climate change and adaptation; critical infrastructure protection; First Nations linkages; disaster recovery plans; and vulnerable populations, article 6.2 (1); (Sect 2.1, pp. 37-38 and pp. 42-43; Sect 2.2, pp. 49-51; Sect 2.4 – First Nations, p. 74 FNF 8 and FNF 9; Sect 3.1, LF 2 and LF 5; Sect 4.2, BPF 9 and BPF 11; Sect 4.4, BPFs 26 and 29).
    • Article 7.0.11 (1) - Offences: Offences are focused on consumer protections and do not actually specify any penalties to enforce municipal compliance. Thus the values seem too high and out of alignment with other provinces. Quebec’s law shows it to have various municipal compliance penalties and extensive associated regulations that are valued at more modest levels. As found from stakeholder engagement, it is felt that the current fines and penalties mean very little because they are not relevant to communities. (Sect 2.1, p. 37; Sect 2.3, p. 57; Sect 3.1, LF 7; Sect 4.2, BPF 8).
    • Article 14 (1) - In accordance with the Elliot Lake Inquiry report Recommendation 2.12, a regulation should be enacted under subsection 14(1) of the EMCPA making specific provisions for the needs of family members (specifically, the provision of private space and regular updates) mandatory in emergency response plans. (Sect 1.2, pp. 24-25; Sect 2.6, p. 96)
    • EMCPA Ontario. Regulation 380/04: In accordance with the Elliot Lake Inquiry report Recommendation 2.9, the following article should be added to O. Reg. 380/04: “The incident commander, the senior person in the chain of command, in a municipally declared emergency should be the person in charge of the initial agency that responds, unless and until that person delegates that authority in writing to another person.” (Sect 1.2, pp. 24-25; Annex C).
  12. Review and renew the Order in Council 1157/2009. The OIC 1157 assigns 13 Provincial Ministers responsibility for the formulation of plans for specific types of emergencies.  The unintended outcome of the OIC is a stove-piped approach to EM. Rewrite the OIC to include a RASCI table in order to break down the existing silos and clarify leading, supporting, and consulting roles and responsibilities amongst the OIC Ministries. Bolster this assignment of responsibilities through an All-Province approach in the Premier’s Mandate letters to Ministers.

  13. Consider the practice of conducting regular and periodic performance audits to keep track of transformation progress and alert decision-makers to vulnerabilities.

  14. Evolve provincial governance to include cross-government, multi-functional teams of experienced emergency managers and technical specialists (including Ministries). At the upper levels of government, governance should include collaborative, cross-government, multi-functional provincial ADM and DM-level committees to ensure EM awareness, concerns, and messaging are brought to the attention of the elected officials. And at the tactical level, consider the Elliot Lake Inquiry recommendation (#2.4) to train and make available “incident support teams” to incident commanders. Cost efficiencies could stem from the examination of volunteer–based emergency response teams as mentioned in Recommendation #2.5 of Part Two of the Elliot Lake Inquiry report (as cited in Germany, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador).

  15. Work with the federal government to establish improved EM programs for First Nations in Ontario in order to update the focus of the 1992 Agreement towards the EM pillar of Preparedness, wherein First Nations communities are treated in “comparable fashion to surrounding communities” in EM considerations (this is an INAC phrase, not used in Ontario policy). A dialogue should be opened with MIRR to arrange for them to become one of the OIC Ministries in OIC 1157 in order to have formal authority and responsibilities at the provincial level (working with INAC at the federal level) for emergency management issues with First Nations. 

  16. Work towards integrating EMO and MMA efforts (mutual support) across all EM pillars. Review Recovery Plans and work towards alignment between ODRAP and this EM Review with cross-government participation. Disaster Assistance Programs (ODRAP) provide the municipalities with a longer timeframe by which to submit disaster assistance claims and on what costs will be covered. Work with First Nations communities on recovery and continue the policy of “building back smarter.”

  17. Re-invigorate the Province of Ontario’s participation in SOREM (FPT) and NEMAC (Northern Emergency Management Assistance Compact - agreement facilitates cross-border emergency management assistance through mutual aid). CEM and Chief EMO should be strong and consistent participants in both of these important EM committees. Aim towards a leadership position in SOREM once fully transformed.

  18. The job specifications for the Director of Communications for MCSCS (or the eventual home ministry of EMO) should include the requirement for competency in both EM and the political machinery he/she is informing. This position is linked closely to the DM of the Ministry responsible for EM, the CEMO (as provincial coordinating officer at the ADM level), the CEM, and the Cabinet and Premier’s Offices. Therefore, the Director of Communications for MCSCS would eventually have to link with the Director of Communications for MMA.  At end-state, this position would work lock-step with the CEM, CEMO, and PEOC in order to bring elected decision-makers awareness and EM advice from an enterprise level.

  19. Define the roles and responsibilities of EMO and Chief, EMO and resource them accordingly for a new era of EM with a broader mandate with Preparedness and Recovery as the main focus. Undertake a resourcing Needs Analysis and Plan within the Detail Implementation Plan to invest in order to bring sections of EMO to a functional strength (PEOC Surge Capacity, Duty Officers, Field Officers, Climate Change Adaptation SME, Program Development unit, Planning, Training and Exercises, Analysis and Lessons Learned, Knowledge Transfer, Executive and Strategic Support, etc.). Sustainment through collaboration and resource-sharing with experts in Ministries and outside government is key for future cost efficiencies.

  20. It needs to be recognized that the southern and northern First Nations communities have different needs when it comes to EM and policies and plans for these communities. This should form part of the ongoing dialogue between First Nations and government.

  21. Work with First Nations to reassert JEMS such that it continues to define and refine First Nations emergency management on behalf of First Nations communities in Ontario. 

  22. Encourage provincial EM stakeholders to procure and exploit Geographic Information System (GIS) overlays to enable decision making and assist in asset management, information sharing, and communications to disseminate alerts and warnings. The Emergency Management Information System (EMIS) and other EM systems are germane.

  23. Develop a Government of Ontario Emergency Management Framework (or Concept of Operations) to describe the vision for the Province’s role in EM. This can be separate from the high-level framework described in Doctrine. According to the EM Framework, evolve EMO to adopt the role to focus the efforts of EM practitioners on Preparedness and Recovery through collaboration and knowledge transfer; once EM capability in these first foundation pillars is strong, EM efforts focus on Mitigation and Prevention, particularly with respect to adaptation to climate change, incorporated through collaboration and education. During Response to emergencies, the task is to provide appropriate situational awareness to the government and general public, to offer enterprise-level advice to government’s elected officials, and to assist first responders and communities through the coordination of additional support.

  24. Update and improve EM Doctrine. Align it more closely to federal doctrine and plans. In particular include only 4 pillars of EM and create an interagency structure which houses the EM program and that links top decision-makers to EM experts. Consider distinguishing between grades of emergencies (based on scope and scale), providing guidance on grading criteria and triggers, and linking these to EM plans and EOC activation levels. 

  25. Replace the Incident Management System (IMS) with the Incident Command System (ICS) in order to be aligned with the federal government and most other provinces. The findings of the Elliott Lake Inquiry report found (in Recommendations 2.8, 2.9, and 2.10) that, in its present form, IMS is difficult to use (needs to be simplified), the use of “unified command” should be avoided (review team does not agree – there is a need to educate), and without broad, mandatory joint-training, it will cause confusion at the incident level. At the same time, allow ICS by alternate service delivery – which would be cost efficient.

  26. Update and improve the Provincial Emergency Response Plan (PERP). Many of the Elliot Lake recommendations have been dormant while OFMEM builds itself back to the required capability level. A reassessment of the Elliot Lake recommendations should take place in the short term and the action plans should be implemented as soon as feasible in order to learn from that incident and improve policy and plans. Consider changing this plan to be named the Provincial Emergency Management Plan (which, of course, would include Response, but would also explain the other pillars and their relationships to one another). It would also specify roles and responsibilities of the main stakeholders and include a RASCI model for Ministry-relationships in EM across the province.

  27. Clarify the role of PEOC (example given in Table 2, Sect 2.2). PEOC is a Provincial asset. Review and clarify the role of MEOCs in relation to the PEOC. Consider co-locating ministry EOCs (or staff teams) and/or coordinating Emergency Support Function (ESF) responsibilities from the PEOC. This can be supported by advocating an All-Province approach to EM in the Premier’s Mandate letters to Ministers. Review PEOC’s activation levels in doctrine and policy recognizing that PEOC’s role and manning may change as emergencies escalate or de-escalate. Consider the New Zealand model as a strong best practice example: “Monitor, Engage, Assist, and Manage.” When there is an emergency people from all Ministries responsible for functions in PEOC should respond. As they enter the OFMEM building they should remove their Ministry hat and put on the Province of Ontario hat as they are now working for the Province to deal with the issue. Consideration should be given to each ministry providing some funding to PEOC.

  28. Establish a provincial emergency Exercise Program aligned to HIRA (Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment) and schedule in cooperation with municipal first responders and key provincial ministries. Focus assistance from Field Officers at target communities who need their help. 

  29. Encourage Ministries and Municipalities to examine and adopt third party supply chain dependencies and service level agreements. Immediate action should be taken to implement collaborative action plans to fulfill the recommendations of the 2013 Ice Storm Audit report for OFMEM policies and procedures during an incident requiring a provincial coordination of response and an enhanced provincial logistics framework. Interviews revealed that MTO, MCSS, and MNRF were particularly advanced in this area in Ontario. As required, pre-qualify vendors and establish standing offers to assure timely supply of emergency stocks and services. Investigate Nova Scotia’s successful arrangement with the Canadian Retail Council who identifies suppliers and expedites procurement.

  30. Invest in an early and significant increase in highly educated professionals dedicated to program and plan development. Also, an investment will be required in increases in capability for response operations in the PEOC that stem from core documents, assumptions, and extensive preparations that must be built through effective project management done by skilled relationship and project managers. Equally urgent is the requirement for renewed investment in Field Officers (FO) in EMO to bolster capability in the Preparedness pillar as the link to the CEMCs. Deliberately reduce the number of communities that each FO is responsible for and improve the FO tool box for training materials and exercises. Consider concentrating FO effort on the Municipalities who are struggling to improve to meet the basic standard set.

  31. Work with First Nations communities to train, appoint, and employ a First Nations Program Manager and First Nations EM Field Officers as the link and liaison to EMO for a First Nations EM Program. There are opportunities to create a capability of young, specific First Nations emergency management expertise. The review team spoke to several impressive qualified First Nations CEMCs during interviews. Work with the Chiefs and Councils to help First Nations scholars into college or university courses. Alberta is a good example.

  32. It is recommended that governments arrange a means of direct funding to First Nations communities who are advanced in EM capability to help cover infrastructure, salaries, and training costs of their EM programs. The 2013 Audit of Emergency Management on First Nations Reserves recommended the institution of a means of negotiating for direct EM funding to assist First Nations communities who meet required criteria.

  33. Build the capacity and technical capability of EMO/PEOC to have expert “Situational Awareness” and a clear “Common Operating Picture” in order to coordinate, facilitate, and communicate while others (first responders) lead in Response.

  34. In EM interactions, particularly for setting standards, favour collaboration over compliance. Acknowledge requirement to “tailor” standards to the level of community capability. Consider using population as a criterion for assigning specific standards to municipalities. When setting standards and metrics for Municipalities and Ministries, consider leaving the achievement of standards to the stakeholder and collaborate with those stakeholders who need training and education the most.

  35. Aggressively continue to pursue and promote establishment of mutual aid agreements (MAA) between governments, between communities, and between critical infrastructure (CI) owners and operators so they can be used to complement and supplement resident capabilities.

  36. Given that Preparedness is the main focus in the province’s role in emergency management, evolve to position the Community EM Coordinators (CEMC) to be the focal point of the provincial EM Program. With support from MMA, enable municipal EM programs through enhanced support mechanisms guided by the CEMCs. There should be a strong collaborative link between CEMCs and EMO Field Officers.

  37. Continue the development of curricula for required courses and outsource to training experts in academia, colleges and private industry, thereby divesting responsibility to deliver training. On-line education and distance learning, as well as community college courses and private industry training offerings, provide opportunities for cost efficiencies and sharing of this responsibility.

  38. Collaborate closely with the newly formed NGO Alliance in Ontario. Build on solid relationships with the Canadian Red Cross and Salvation Army to include the broader resource that the Alliance represents. Provide for a one-stop shopping office for advice, registration, and claims for impacted victims.

  39. Re-activate and align the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Program with the national 10 sector model. Pre-identify critical infrastructure and dependencies and include critical infrastructure considerations in risk assessments and emergency plans. Establishing ties with private sector critical infrastructure owners and operators i.e. a Critical Infrastructure Advisory Network increases opportunities to learn and interact smoothly as a team.

  40. Recognize the pivotal role the insurance industry plays in EM, in particular concerning Recovery and Disaster Assistance. Work with insurers to promote and manage transition to a more balanced (province/municipality/individual) risk informed approach to disaster mitigation/prevention in this era of climate change. Work closely with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) to provide the fairest coverage as possible.

  41. Build communications capability (both internal for situational awareness and messaging advice and for external public communications) directly into the EM decision-making flow such that EM advice is collated and synthesized at the enterprise (inter-agency executive) level for elected decision-makers. Review communications strategies and plans to ensure the delegation of authorities is both clear and appropriate.

  42. Refresh and renew the provincial Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) programs. Pre-identify critical infrastructure and dependencies and include critical infrastructure considerations in risk assessments and emergency plans (building codes, land use, flood plains). Encourage ministries and municipalities and First Nations communities to consider and include a specific section on climate change in their risk assessment and provision for emergency social services in their EM plans.

  43. Work with Conservation Ontario and the 26 Conservation Authorities across the province to develop integrated policies and procedures that dovetail EM information with climate change information. 

  44. Review personnel classifications in EMO and encourage adopting and maintaining proven best Human Resources practices (e.g. cross-training and exchanges, succession planning, mentoring, annual performance reporting). Work with the unions to use the existing contract machinery (following MOHLTC example) to permit overtime and shift-work during emergencies for all potential PEOC staff. Review PEOC/MEOC sustainment plans and integrate for sustained operations/prolonged incidents. 

  45. Institute of a routine (operational) cycle or rhythm when reports are due, when collated information is presented to decision makers, and when situation reports, operational direction, and daily media releases are distributed to allow staffs and executives to prepare their activities in a regular and anticipated fashion. 

  46. Refinements and streamlining of the IMS and ICS reporting procedures and templates are recommended in order for situational awareness and EM advice from PEOC to be released in a timely fashion for informed decision-making.

  47. Encourage Ministries to maintain a roster of trained Liaison Officers (LO) and to conduct periodic familiarization visits and/or exercises to ensure they are familiar with PEOC equipment and procedures.

  48. Retrain all PEOC Duty Officers with new EM Vision: PEOC focuses on the pillars of Preparedness and Response; it is collaborative, coordinating, friendly, and gives service with a smile; it facilitates knowledge transfer and enables EM stakeholders. Since PEOC is a provincial entity supporting all Ministries, their members on duty should be trained to identify events that could potentially involve more stakeholders than first responders -- such as MMA (ODRAP) and other Ministries.

  49. Set to work at the earliest opportunity to work closely with First Nations planners to revise and create clear and thorough contingency plans for mitigation, preparedness, response to and recovery from the James Bay spring floods. During this planning, investigate the Six Nations community offer (and other First Nations communities, if they exist) to be a host community for First Nations victims of flood and fire evacuations in Ontario.

  50. EMO to encourage resource sharing between jurisdictions and development of multi-jurisdictional response plans and risk assessments. Assist in making sure preparedness plans are up to date and in place. 

  51. Continue and augment the capability of the Emergency Information Liaison Officers who are deployed by Director Communications MCSCS from the Ministry to PEOC and to the affected Municipality when requested. As well, improve emergency information sharing on the website for EM.

  52. Continue to promote the sharing of lessons learned and best practices.  After Action Reports (AARs) and tracking of lessons identified and corrective actions are important for continuous improvement and fiscal planning. Re-energize the Provincial Emergency Management Coordinating Committee (PEMCC) and regularize meetings. Utilize social media and e-forums when possible.