What non-essential shutdowns could mean for Ontario residents

As the number of people with COVID-19 continues to spike in Ontario - with 78 new cases and six deaths announced on Monday - the effort to stop the spread is being amplified. Ontarians can expect a dramatic shift in public life now that the province has given notice of a shutdown of non-essential services.

On Wednesday, any business deemed non-essential will only be able to continue operating with employees working from home or through other measures. The orders are in place for 14 days, and can be extended if necessary.

Essential services like groceries stories, pharmacies, public transportation and emergency care at vet or dental clinics will continue to operate. A list classifying what specific services are open or closed, along with a 1-800 number and website, will be available on Wednesday.

Here is the complete list of essential workplaces in Ontario:

  • Supply chains: businesses that supply other businesses with support, supplies, systems or services

  • Specific retailers and wholesalers that sell essential goods, including

    • Food, pet food and supplies, and essential consumer goods

    • Products for animal welfare (food, medical supplies, bedding etc. for pets)

    • Beer, wine and liquor stores and sellers; alcohol producers; cannabis producers and sellers

    • Gas stations, diesel, propane and heating fuel providers — including motor vehicle, watercraft and aircraft fuel

    • Motor vehicle and auto repair and supply, including bicycle repair, aircraft repair, heavy equipment repair, marine vehicle repair, car and truck dealerships as well as related facilities

    • Hardware stores and other stores that provide essentials related to the repair and maintenance of homes and businesses

    • Pharmacies, dispensaries and other establishments that provide pharmaceutical services

    • Safety equipment supply stores

  • Food services and accommodations, including delivery or takeaway restaurants, food delivery services; hotels, motels and student residences

  • Businesses that provide support an maintenance services, including

    • Urgent repair services

    • Property management services

    • Plumbers

    • Electricians

    • Custodial/janitorial services

    • Cleaning services

    • Security services

    • Fire safety and sprinkler system services

    • Building systems maintenance and repair technicians, engineers and mechanics like escalator and elevator technicians

  • Businesses that provide or support information technology including online services, software products and related services

  • Providers of telecommunication services including phone, internet, radio and cell phones and related support services like call centres

  • Taxis and other private transportation providers

  • Businesses and facilities that provide transportation services to businesses and individuals and related support services like mechanics

  • Businesses that provide materials and services for the operation, maintenance and safety of transportation like snow clearing, collision response and repairs

  • Businesses, facilities and services that support the global or North American supply chain

  • Businesses involved in the food supply chain, including

    • Farming, processing or distributing food including animal products and by-products, crops, hunting and fishing

    • Businesses supporting food supply chain distribution, food safety and food waste management

    • Businesses that provide commercial veterinary services

  • Construction projects and services associated with the healthcare sector, as well as those related to critical infrastructure or industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors

  • Financial services including capital markets, banking and related activities, insurance, pension and employee benefit services, payroll services and payment processing

  • Resource-focused businesses that conduct and support mining, natural resources, petroleum, drinking and wastewater, and produce emergency response requirements like sandbags

  • Utilities and community services including

    • Waste collection

    • Potable drinking water

    • Electricity generation, distribution and storage

    • Natural gas distribution, transmission and storage

    • Police, fire and emergency services

    • Road construction and maintenance

    • Corrections and court services

    • Government services like licenses and permits

  • Critical infrastructure repair like railways, highways etc.

  • Communications industries including newspaper publishers, radio and television broadcasting and telecommunications providers

  • Businesses engaged in research and development activities, and their supporting businesses

  • Health care services including home care, retirement homes, long-term care facilities, laboratories and specimen collection centres and independent health facilities

  • Manufacturers and distributors of products and services related to pharmaceuticals and the delivery of health care products and services

  • Businesses concerned with assistive medical devices

  • Health care professionals providing emergency services including dentists, optometrists and physiotherapists

  • Not-for-profit organizations supporting people with physical disabilities

  • Businesses and services that support economically disadvantaged and other vulnerable individuals through the provision of food, shelter etc.

  • Businesses and services that support the justice and legal system

  • Rental and leasing services for automobiles, machinery and equipment

  • Mail, shipping and courier services

  • Laundromats and dry cleaners

  • Professional services including lawyers, paralegals, engineers, accountants and translators

  • Funereal services including morticians, cremation, transfer and burial services as well as related products like coffins

  • Land registration, real estate and moving services

  • Security and safety services like security guards and surveillance companies

  • Animal welfare businesses including veterinarians, farms, kennels, stables, zoos etc.

  • Home child care services for less than six children and child care services for essential workers

  • Cheque-cashing businesses

  • Authorities that regulate and inspect businesses

What the government controls in a state of emergency

Kenneth J. McBey is an emergency management professor at York University. He says Ontario’s orders, which fall under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, give the government power over a number of aspects of the community at large.

It allows them to control how people assemble, commandeer or seize goods or property and gives them power to shut down businesses or institutions. The order can last between 14 and 28 days. Anything longer, must be taken back to the assembly for further approval.

“It gives the government more freedom in order to be able to direct for the safety and wellbeing of Ontarians,” McBey tells Yahoo Canada News.

Ontario's last provincial emergencies were in 2003 when they were declared first of all for the SARS outbreak, and then again later in the year when declared for the North American blackout/power outage.

This weekend, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) said they would enforce fines for anyone not complying with emergency orders. These include fines between $750 - $1000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations.

Extreme measures are a way to give government legal weight in order to enforce emergency measures during a crisis. A woman in Quebec who tested positive for the coronavirus was recently arrested for breaking her quarantine by going for a walk.

“This is basically making it a bit more formalized to direct resources, and the government has flexibility as to what they deem essential, and remains open, and they can further clamp down on that,” says McBey. “The chance for transmission is so high and we can’t afford it.”

Karim Bardeesy, executive director of Ryerson Leadership Lab, says these kinds of measures can also be implemented locally during dire emergencies, like a natural or chemical disasters. However, nothing in recent times has been of this magnitude. He hopes in the coming days there’s more leadership to outline how people can access essential resources.

“Some guidance needs to be given at some point as to how to do those things that are also expected,” he says. “Groceries, replenishment, exercise...we’re going to need guidance on that.”