OHS Canada Magazine

Ontario ordering non-essential businesses to close

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March 23, 2020
By The Canadian Press

Compliance & Enforcement Health & Safety Human Resources Coronavirus COVID-19 Non-Essential ontario

Measure will begin Tuesday at 11:59 p.m., last for 14 days

Premier Doug Ford has ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses for 14 days as of Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Adobe Stock)

By Allison Jones

TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford ordered the closure Monday of all non-essential businesses in the province to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

It will take effect Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. and will last for at least 14 days.

“This is not the time for half measures,” Ford said. “This decision was not made lightly and the gravity of this order does not escape me.”

The full list of businesses that will be allowed to stay open will be released Tuesday, but Ontarians will still have access to groceries and medications, and their power and telecommunications will continue to run, Ford said.

Ontario reported 78 new COVID-19 cases Monday, bringing the provincial total to 503.


It’s the largest increase in a day so far. The total includes six deaths and eight cases that have fully resolved.

At least six of the new cases are hospitalized, including a woman in her 30s, a man in his 40s, two people in their 50s and two people in their 70s.

The new non-essential business order follows last week’s declaration of a state of emergency, which ordered the closure of all facilities providing indoor recreation programs, all public libraries, all private schools, all licensed childcare centres, all theatres, cinemas and concert venues, and all bars and restaurants except to provide takeout food and delivery.

Ontario also previously ordered public schools closed until April 5, but Ford said Monday that kids won’t be going back to school on April 6.

“We’ve seen global economies grind to a halt,” Ford said. “We’ve seen health-care systems overwhelmed and we’ve seen heartache and loss and we’ve seen countries lose this battle. I’ll tell you, we in Ontario will not follow in those footsteps. We will not lose this battle. We will get ahead of this.”

An economic update being introduced Wednesday by the finance minister in lieu of a full budget will include compensation for businesses, Ford said.

Non-essential businesses can certainly operate remotely, with staff working from home, but the province doesn’t want people gathering in their facilities, Ford said. Bylaw and police enforcement are on the table, Ford and the solicitor general said, but resources for that are scarce.

Job-protected leave

On March 19, the Ontario government responded to COVID-19 by convening an emergency sitting of the legislature and passing two pieces of legislation which will protect the jobs of employees during this time.

The legislation passed with unanimous consent by only 26 MPPs, an intentionally small number in an effort to practise social distancing at Queen’s Park.

“The health and safety of the people of Ontario is our No. 1 priority,” said Premier Doug Ford. “That’s why we are protecting the jobs of workers and making sure that essentials like groceries, household basics, and medicine can arrive on store shelves.”

The Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020 provides job-protected leave for employees who are in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, or those who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or day care closures or to care for other relatives.

These measures are retroactive to January 25, 2020, the date the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ontario. The legislation will also make it clear employees cannot be required to show sick notes.

“During this time of great uncertainty, the last thing employees should have to worry about is job security,” said Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton. “People can’t be punished for following the advice of our leading medical health professionals.”

This story has been updated.


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