The Ontario government has announced a new list of “essential” construction projects that will be permitted to open May 4 including municipal works, schools and site preparation, excavation and servicing for institutional, commercial, industrial and residential development.
The restarts announced by Premier Doug Ford and several ministers at his daily COVID-19 pandemic briefing on May 1 also include shipping and logistics projects; broadband, telecommunications and digital infrastructure; projects that supports the improved delivery of goods and services; colleges and universities; and child care centres.
“While we are not yet ready to move into the reopening phase in our response to COVID-19, we are a step closer,” said Minister of Finance Rod Phillips, noting that health and safety guidelines had been released the day before covering numerous business sectors.
“Today we are pleased to say some businesses are in a position to follow that guidance which is why they will be able to start operating with restrictions next week.”
Other sectors allowed to open May 4 include garden centres and plant nurseries with curbside pick-up and delivery only; lawn care and landscaping; automatic and self-serve car washes; and auto dealerships, open by appointment only.
We have to see two weeks of a downward trend before we open up the economy,
— Doug Ford
Golf courses and marinas will also be able to start preparations for their seasonal operations.
“We are allowing certain businesses to reopen under strict guidelines because we are confident they can operate safely and adapt to the current environment,” said Ford. “While further reductions in the spread are needed before we can begin reopening the province, we have the right framework and the right workplace guidelines in place to do so gradually and safely.”
The restarts represent phase one in the province’s Framework for Reopening our Province announced April 27, the government said. The framework follows advice given by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health and health experts on the loosening of emergency measures in gradual stages.
The restart under the new guidelines “demonstrates the government’s commitment to balance the needs of the economy with the health and safety of the people of Ontario,” said a release.
Ford said the business list represented a “trickle” and contained mostly seasonal operation that can operate safely and are mostly outdoors where the spread of COVID-19 would be minimized. The government wants to see “at least a couple of weeks” of stability and improvements before taking the next steps, he said.
“We have to see two weeks of a downward trend before we open up the economy,” Ford commented.
Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton said in an interview earlier in the day with the Daily Commercial News it was foreseeable that much of the construction sector could reopen within weeks. He praised the sector for proving it could operate safely.
“Construction is the industry that has done a great job of improving health and safety dramatically since the start of COVID-19 and prior to that the industry has done very well,” he said.
“A lot of construction is working today and there will be a lot of construction working in the days and weeks ahead.”
Construction health and safety is now is the “gold standard,” McNaughton said, with employers, workers and organized labour taking the safety of workplaces very seriously.
There are now 500 ministry inspectors visiting workplaces across the province he said, so construction firms with poor health and safety practices will be identified and punished.
“This is the new normal now,” he said. “I expect we will increase our boots on the ground going forward.
“To those bad actors out there, there will be fines. It really is an all-hands-on-deck approach to health and safety.”
Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.