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Ontario issues stay at home order, closes non-essential construction

January 12, 2021   David Kennedy
Health & Safety

Non-essential construction will be required to stop as part of the latest provincial restrictions, but the Ontario government has again adjusted its list of essential construction operations

The Ontario government has issued a stay at home order, requiring residents to remain in their homes except for essential trips to grocery stores, to access health care, or to commute to essential jobs.

Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Health Christine Elliott, along with several other top officials, announced the strict new measures in a press conference Jan. 12.

“We must change our mobility patterns,” Elliott said. “Too many people are having too many contacts… So to break this cycle you must stay home as much as possible.”

Ford said the order, effective Thursday, is designed to protect Ontario’s health care system, which he described as “on the brink of collapse.” It follows a provincewide lockdown that started Dec. 26.


In addition to requiring Ontarians to stay home, the province has ordered non-essential construction to stop, and all businesses are required to ensure all employees able to work from home are doing so. As it has since the start of the pandemic this spring, however, the province has again shifted its definition of essential construction, meaning many job sites will be allowed to remain open.

Types of construction deemed essential and allowed to continue operating:

  • Public infrastructure construction, such as work on health care, long-term care, schools and infrastructure
  • Residential construction, including renovations, underway as of Jan. 12
  • Site preparation for institutional, commercial, industrial or residential developments, including any necessary excavation, grading, roads or utilities infrastructure
  • Construction tied to internet or cellular infrastructure
  • Maintenance of petrochemical facilities
  • Industrial construction related to the production on PPE, medical devices or products that directly combat COVID-19
  • Construction on food, beverage or agricultural projects scheduled to be complete before July 2021
  • Warehouse or logistics projects underway as of Jan. 12
  • Construction and maintenance work related to temporarily closing construction sites

The complete essential businesses list contains several other specific exemptions. The full list is available here.

Though many job sites will remain open in spite of the latest measures, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development noted it will be launching a new inspection campaign to ensure businesses are taking the proper steps to protect their workers.

“We know the majority of businesses are operating safely and responsibly to protect their workers and customers. But as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, we all need to step up and take additional measures to stop the spread,” said Monte McNaughton, the province’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, in a release. “This includes increasing our inspections to look at everything workers do both while on the job and throughout the workday.”

Construction is among the industries the ministry said it will be focusing on as part of its latest blitz.

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16 Comments » for Ontario issues stay at home order, closes non-essential construction
  1. Ash says:

    Hi David,
    Thank you for your reporting at each lockdown/restriction.

    My father is a contractor installing garage door openers and garages (outside) and range hoods (inside).

    Do you know if this is allowed under the emergency order? It is unclear from the guidelines.

    Thank you again!

    • David Kennedy says:

      Hi Ash,

      This would be less clearcut than many of the construction exemptions. In short, I’m not certain and would suggest calling the province’s “Stop the Spread Business Information Line” at 1-888-444-3659, which may be able to help.

      It’s possible it would fall under the renovation exemption, so long as the projects are underway as of Jan. 12.

  2. Wilhelm Knelsen says:

    How about roofing ? Leaking roofs?
    Is this essential ?

    • David Kennedy says:

      Hi Wilhelm,

      Yes, roof repair should be considered essential, likely under the maintenance exemption: “Maintenance, repair and property management services that manage and maintain the safety, security, sanitation and operation of institutional, commercial, industrial and residential properties and buildings.”

      I’d suggest confirming with an industry association, government and/or a lawyer out of an abundance of caution.

  3. GREG Davey says:

    good morning, my wife has a hair saloon which we started work on installing a kitchen for coffee and tea we are 90 percent completed we did not require a permit . Can we compelte.?

    • David Kennedy says:

      Hi Greg,

      I could not say for certain and would advise consulting a lawyer and/or the government on this. As noted elsewhere, the province’s “Stop the Spread Business Information Line” at 1-888-444-3659, may be able to help.

      The only real avenue I see for this type of commercial project continuing would be through the food/beverage distribution construction exemption. In my estimating though, it would be a stretch in this case, as the business is a salon.

    • Tanya says:

      Are you doing the work yourself or hired out? If it’s you I see no problem with finishing it as it will be closed due to nonessential anyways and no one new will be in contact

  4. Mel says:

    What about fencing? I don’t see anything in the list about that! Thanks

    • David Kennedy says:

      Hi Mel,

      There’s no specific mention of fencing in the new regulations, but the broad exemption for site prep should cover it:
      “Construction to prepare a site for an institutional, commercial, industrial or residential development, including any necessary excavation, grading,
      roads or utilities infrastructure”

      Again, I’d suggest confirming with the government and/or a lawyer.

  5. Scott says:

    Scheduled renovations residential where plan is in place, materials purchased and tear out has started is it considered essential

  6. Bill Plewes says:

    I am working on my own home doing a small Reno job that requires a building permit to replace a load bearing wall with a beam. I am retired and doing the job on my own with no help. It’s a small job!! Would this type of work fall outside the requirements as I don’t have any employees here or contractors??

    • David Kennedy says:

      Certainly see no issue here. If you’re working in your own home, you’re doing exactly what the government is asking

  7. lyn BASKETT says:

    Is ripping out a driveway and potentially replacing it considered essential work during this current lockdown?

    • David Kennedy says:

      Check here for the latest. I didn’t have a specific query in with the MOL on this topic, but they have confirmed residential pool and fence construction can continue, along with landscaping. Like those, this sort of property work should fall under the broad residential construction exemption.

  8. John Brown says:

    I am a roofing contractor. Am I able to begin residential roofing jobs? These are not new homes. Customer wants a new roof. Thank you.

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