Ontario begins reopening, loosening restrictions for construction projects
By David KennedyConstruction Law
Job sites not deemed essential under Ontario’s stay-at-home order last month will gradually be allowed to reopen throughout February.
With COVID-19 cases declining, the Ontario government announced plans for a staged reopening Feb. 8 that will see all regions of the province transition back to the previous colour-coded response framework starting Feb. 10.
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health; Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health; and Renfrew County and District Health Unit shifted back to “green” at 12:01 a.m. this morning, lifting most of the restrictions in place for businesses and individuals, including construction. The majority of the province is expected to return to the colour-coded system Feb. 16, with the exception of Peel, Toronto and York regions, where the stay-at-home order is projected to remain in effect until Feb. 22
Typically, the restrictions imposed on construction under the stay-at-home order apply until the local region transitions back to the colour-coded system.
There is one exception. Ontario has revoked the clause restricting residential construction projects province-wide. As of today, all “residential construction activities or projects and related services” have been deemed essential are are allowed continue or restart. Previously, certain new projects and renovation work that had not already started was restricted.
In a joint release, the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) and the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) backed the change.
“The health and well-being of workers and residents continues to be our top priority,” Dave Wilkes, BILD’s president and CEO, said in a release. “Our industry looks forward to ensuring a healthy supply of new homes and work spaces, allowing workers to provide for their families and making our contribution the economy under strict health and safety protocols.”
Meanwhile, contractors are also taking proactive measures to ensure job sites are protected. EllisDon, for instance, said this week it has been participating in the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test Pilot project since December. Initially a voluntarily test for workers on certain sites, the company expanded the pilot to other sites and changed the protocol from voluntary to mandatory screening as case counts rose. The rapid testing provides results within 15 minutes.
Steve Chaplin, vice-president of Health, Safety and Environment at EllisDon, said the pilot has provided safety and certainty during an unstable time.
“While working closely with our government officials, we have the moral obligation to do everything we can to protect our employees and the communities in which we build,” he said in a release.
Though focused on the Greater Toronto Area currently, the company said it would scale up the pilot to other sites with large numbers of personnel when possible.