Ontario Premier Doug Ford is allowing construction work to continue across the province while ordering a broader shutdown of all but essential businesses to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government will order the mandatory closure of non-essential workplaces effective Tuesday at 11:59 p.m., Mr. Ford announced on Monday. The news came the same day Quebec imposed a near complete shutdown of its economy, including the construction industry, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians to “go home and stay home.”
Mr. Ford stopped short of saying whether he plans to force construction companies to idle their cranes and send workers home. “We want to work collaboratively with the construction trade,” he said in response to reporters’ questions.
But late Monday night, the government released the list of businesses it considers essential, including construction projects that support the health care, transit, energy and justice sectors as well as those in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors.
The broad exemption for the construction sector comes amid a growing chorus of voices calling on the government to shut down the sector.
On Monday evening, the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario, which represents over 30,000 men and women in carpentry, drywall and other skilled trades, called on the government to temporarily halt all construction in the province.
“The situation which exists on most job sites means that work simply cannot go on as normal,” Tony Iannuzzi, executive secretary treasurer of the council, said in a statement. “Many job sites have no facilities for workers to even wash their hands using soap and hot water and ‘social distancing’ is just not possible.”
Other labour unions have also complained that the health of construction industry employees is at risk because their working conditions do not allow them to follow basic hygiene and safety regulations that health authorities say are crucial to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But the Carpenters’ group is the first to call for a shutdown.
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