Ontario to release 'clear' guidelines on reopening businesses
TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that his government will be releasing “clear, sector-specific labour guidelines” later this week for how businesses will be able to operate once the economy eventually reopens.
Ford made the announcement Tuesday at Queen’s Park, one day after the province released its framework for restarting the economy following weeks of shutdown due to the spread of COVID-19.
"Having a clear framework, having well-defined labour guidelines, these are critical steps to opening the economy safely," Ford said.
The premier stressed that the public health restrictions put in place last month have hit small businesses the hardest.
“Before this crisis they employed millions of Ontarians,” Ford said. “It’s my job, it’s our job, to keep them whole and help them adapt to this new normal, this new reality, so when we’re ready to reopen they can hit the ground running.”
No further details were released about which sectors will be prioritized or what the labour guidelines may entail, adding only that the guidelines will be based on advice from the province’s health officials.
“I don’t want to release it now,” Ford said, saying that everyone should “stay tuned” over the next few days.
“It will give the opportunity to businesses to have a clear guideline when we do open up, what needs to be done to make sure we have a safe working environment for all employees in the province.”
On Monday, Ford released a framework for reopening the economy, part of which included a three-stage “careful approach” to loosening emergency measures.
FULL STORY: Ontario unveils steps to reopen
As part of stage one, the provincial government will allow businesses that can “immediately meet or modify operations” to meet public health guidance to begin operations. This included, for example, curbside pickup or delivery.
More workplaces will be reopened as part of stage two, including some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces.
Ford was joined at Queen’s Park on Tuesday by Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction Prabmeet Sarkaria, who also announced the launch of a new website that will allow businesses to submit regulations they want changed in order to lift potential operational roadblocks.
"During this extraordinary period, we need to do everything we can to support businesses as they struggle to operate as an essential business, or wait for the outbreak to subside," Sarkaria said.
"Clearly, it is not business as usual for anyone, and that's why our government is prepared to temporarily adjust our processes, rules, and regulations to accommodate unforeseen circumstances. I encourage everyone to visit our new website if there are any questions or concerns."
The website also outlines measures the government has already taken to help businesses struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic, including a tax deferral program and additional funding to retool manufacturing for health supplies.
Ontario's Opposition slammed the province's rent assistance program and said, in a statement, that many businesses may have to close their door before the economy reopens.
"Businesses across the province have already been forced to close forever or are currently facing eviction thanks to Conservative inaction, and it’s clear this new broken program doesn’t go anywhere near far enough," the Ontario New Democratic Party said.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), on the other hand, applauded the premier's efforts.
“This is welcome news for Ontario business, as most have been overwhelmed with adapting to the reality of doing business during a pandemic, supporting public health efforts to contain COVID-19, or simply balancing a heavier work-load," Rocco Rossi, president of the OCC, said.