Ontario’s construction industry is back in business following today’s announcement by Premier Doug Ford that the remaining restrictions on construction workplaces have been lifted, effective Tuesday.
Ford made the announcement during his daily COVID-19 pandemic address accompanied by three ministers with significant responsibilities over construction policy — Minister of Finance Rod Phillips, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Vic Fedeli, and Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton.
Ford laid out other sectors that would be permitted to open then said, simply, “We will also lift the essential construction limits to allow all construction to resume.”
“This is fantastic, we can get back to work. We can continue to improve our health and safety and we can get the economy going again,” said Ontario General Contractors Association president Clive Thurston, reacting to the news.
Ford gave construction stakeholders the good news this morning in a conference call.
“We are thrilled,” said Thurston, who was in on the call.
“The premier recognized the information we provided, that the WSIB hasn’t had a single case on construction, and that really turned the tide, it was nip and tuck. Vic Fedeli and Monte McNaughton stood up for the industry and brought forth facts and figures and we really appreciate their support.”
Thurston said the sector is ready to resume immediately, pointing out that work on many projects declared essential had continued after the province issued its emergency orders in March.
“We have been gearing up for it,” he said. “The industry never was shut. People have been working, they have been working on all the practices and protocols, they have been fitting out their sites, training their people. We are prepared from that point of view.”
The government initially declared much of the sector to be essential, announcing March 23 that construction projects associated with health care, transportation and transit, among other project types, were essential as was “construction work and services, including demolition services, in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors.”
Faced with complaints of unsanitary and unsafe conditions on jobsites, the province pared back the list April 3, continuing to permit work associated with the health care sector and on transit and transportation projects and allowing work on some residential projects along with limited other categories.
Over the past six weeks, the government has slowly added to the list of permitted projects and stepped up enforcement of new health and safety protocols developed by the province’s chief prevention officer.
Ford praised the efforts of McNaughton on health and safety.
“Minister McNaughton has done an incredible job in communicating with all sectors, especially the construction sector, and I am so proud of the construction sector,” said the premier.
“They have done an incredible job and hopefully they can set the gold standard for construction across the country.”
McNaughton noted his ministry has increased the roster of workplace inspectors to 500 since March 23 and they had conducted 7,000 investigations with 20 jobsites shut down.
“We are going to work every day to protect the health and safety of workers in this province,” he said.
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