If you’ve been looking to start the new on a triumphant note by finally finishing your basement or by adding a gazebo to your residential property in the Toronto suburbs, you will have to freeze your home improvement plans for the time being.
New Covid-19 restrictions announced by the Province of Ontario and which came into effect Thursday, January 13th have banned all non-essential construction. The new enhanced enforcement measures seek to reduce mobility, suppress new infections, and save lives.
Rising Infections Appear to Have Forced the Provincial Government’s Hand
As of Friday, January 15th, 2021, Canada’s Covid-19 case count had topped 694, 000. Almost 17,800 Canadians had succumbed to the virus. The Province of Ontario has the second-highest number of infections and deaths.
Recently released modeling data show that, unless contacts are reduced significantly, Ontario’s healthcare system will soon be stretched. Fatalities will outpace those recorded in the pandemic’s first wave, even with the vaccination program currently underway.
The rising infections have alarmed the provincial government and forced the latest round of restrictions. The province was already under a 28-day lockdown that came into effect on Christmas eve last year.
Non-essential Construction. What Projects are Affected?
The newly enforced restrictions, which have seen non-essential construction being suspended, will be in force for 28 days. With community transmission spiraling out of control, the Ontario provincial government hopes the new restrictions will pull the breaks on the rising Covid-19 case count.
If you are a homeowner, property developer, or contractor, you will be interested to know just which types of construction the Ontario government considers to be non-essential.
It’s hard to compile the full list of construction projects the Ontario government feels can wait, at least until the pandemic is under control. The easiest way is to work off of the list of projects considered essential.
The provincial government wants you to suspend works if your planned construction project does not fall under the following:
- Projects associated with healthcare and long term care (LTC)
- Critical infrastructure, including schools, roads, as well as any work necessary for preparing a site for a residential, industrial, or institutional development
- Any construction project that falls under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure program.
- Industrial construction projects as well as surveying and demolition services
- Select major construction works due for completion before July 2021
- Construction for projects that provide housing and shelter for vulnerable persons
- Construction projects that support broadband and cellular services and technologies.
Looking at the list of permitted construction projects, what stands out is that all small home improvement construction isn’t considered important enough to start in the face of a rapidly deteriorating public health emergency.
If you are unsure if your construction project qualifies for exemption under the new stay-at-home order, you can read the announcement here.
A Balancing Act Between Saving Lives and Keeping the Economy Ticking
Expanding on the new construction sector restrictions, Ontario premier’s said any construction work that boosts the capacity of our already stretched healthcare system is allowed to proceed.
This means that expansions, renovations, and new construction of health care and long term care facilities are all good to proceed. So are construction projects that improve provincial infrastructure, including energy, transport, mining, justice sector projects.
Any construction work on schools, colleges, universities, and daycare facilities is exempted from the latest Covid restrictions. The provincial leadership is also cognisant of the need to ensure the economy is not drastically impacted by the new lockdown restrictions.
You are also exempt from the new regulations if you’re working on a construction project for a company that produces personal protective equipment, ventilators, and any other equipment and supplies that are critical for the national Covid-19 response.
To keep the economy going, the new stay-at-home orders exempt construction work on infrastructure projects, including petrochemical plants and refineries, provided the works had already started before January 12th.
Other construction projects that commenced before January 12th, 2021 are only allowed to continue through the latest restrictions if they are going to provide additional capacity for IT and telecommunications services. Also exempted here are construction works that boost capacity for logistics, delivery, and shipping businesses.
Of the key construction products due for completion by July 2021, only those that add capacity for the manufacturing, processing, and distribution of food, beverages, or agricultural products may proceed through the latest restrictions.
Some Residential Construction Projects May Continue
If your home renovation project started before January 12th, 2021, you will not have to freeze your project. Also exempted are residential construction projects where a footing permit had already been granted before the same date.
The footing permit could have been granted for single-family homes, semi-detached townhomes, condominiums, or other residential buildings. Below grade construction projects are suspended, unless the works are on multi-unit residential complexes like condominiums and apartments.
Let’s Bounce Back Healthy and Safer
All construction sites exempted under the latest stay-at-home measures must review their workplace safety guidelines and double down on public health measures already in place. There will also be improved workplace testing and additional enforcement of the lockdown measures by the police to ensure compliance.
The hope for contractors and other construction sector players is that everyone complies with the new stay-at-home measures. Project managers at construction sites that been exempted from the latest restrictions must play their part and protect workers to prevent infections at their sites.
If the rate of infections does not slow down, not only will the latest measures be extended beyond the current 28 days, but the provincial government may be forced to suspend all construction work, which will severely hurt the industry.
The Good News is We are Still Open
Fortunately, the Government recognizes fencing installation as essential construction. We are happy to let our valued customers know that we are still allowed to operate following and we will continue to serve you following health guidelines laid out by the Government.
If you have any questions regarding these new measures, please feel free to contact us.