Ontario’s Regional Approach to Stage Two Reopening

The Ford government has announced the details of stage two of its framework to reopening the economy, which introduces a regional approach, given some parts of the GTA still account for over 70 per cent of new COVID-19 cases. Regions which remain in stage one include the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton regions, as well as the Haldimand-Norfolk, Niagara, and Windsor-Essex regions.

Province-wide, restrictions are being eased on social gatherings from five to ten people, and places of worship will be able to open at 30 per cent capacity.

On Friday of this week, most of Ontario’s regions (based on public health unit boundaries) will move forward to Stage 2. Notably, stage two permits a loosening of restrictions on limited economic activities to allow more people to get back to work, but does not include any further direction of restrictions on the health care system and institutions such as long-term care.

The list of stage two activities permitted include:

  • restaurants and bars with outdoor dining will be permitted (with the province temporarily extending outdoor patios for licensed establishments)
  • select personal care services including hair salons and barber shops
  • shopping malls
  • libraries and community centres
  • indoor and outdoor swimming pools, splash pads and wading pools
  • beach access and camping at Ontario Parks
  • private campgrounds
  • drive-in/through venues for theatres and concerts
  • low contact, outdoor-only recreational facilities (but playgrounds will remain closed)
  • outdoor team sports may resume for training only and if physically distanced

In addition, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has amended regulations to permit a tied house anywhere within the same municipal or property address as a manufacturing site (i.e. a brewery, winery or distillery), as opposed to on the manufacturing site.

For many of the above, strict physical distancing requirements and modified service provisions will be in effect. A full list of businesses and services that can reopen in stage two can be found here. Ontario has also released more than 100 guidance documents to support workplace health and safety measures.

To support the gradual re-opening, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce is expected to provide details related for re-opening of child care and summer camps. Ontario will also release additional province-wide details in the coming days related to services such as public transit, post-secondary education pilots, and training centres.

Premier Ford indicated that this regional approach allows the province to make quick decisions for specific parts of the province based on the reality of what is happening in each region. At the beginning of each week, the province will provide an update on the ongoing assessment of these regions and whether they are ready to move into stage two.

Premier Ford cautioned that “we are not out of the woods yet,” and urged everyone to exercise caution and continue to follow public health advice. The government also indicated it will work with public health units to put in place measures that will speed up the reopening of the economy in areas struggling with COVID-19. An updated strategy to support local public health units with case management and contact tracing is also expected soon.

Moratorium on Commercial Evictions

Following a similar announcement by Alberta, Premier Ford also announced proposed legislation that will ban commercial evictions of businesses that are eligible for rent assistance through the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program. The ban on evictions will be in effect retroactively from June 3-August 31, 2020.