At their daily media briefing at Queen’s Park Monday, Premier Doug Ford and members of his cabinet announced that Ontario will begin Stage 2 of the economic re-opening at 12:01 am on Friday June 12. The hitch is that only some portions of the province will move on to Stage 2, as several areas in Ontario will remain at Stage 1 for the time being.
“We are able to make this announcement today because of the extraordinary effort of our frontline workers and every other person in the province who helped to stop the spread of this deadly virus,” said Ford in statement. “Entering Stage 2 means parts of the province will see more people back on the job and an opportunity to get back together with friends and family. Although this is extremely encouraging, I urge everyone to exercise caution and continue to follow public health advice as we are not out of the woods yet.”
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph is on the list of areas allowed to move to Stage 2, as is the Region of Waterloo. Meanwhile, much of the Golden Horseshoe will remain in Stage 1 including Halton and Peel Regions.
“This is a positive step for our region,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph in a statement. Last week at the Board of Health meeting, Mercer endorsed a region-by-region re-opening strategy. “Cautiously reopening more amenities and businesses means positive economic and physical health benefits for our citizens; both factors in good health.”
Stage 2 of the re-opening will allow for the re-commencement of dine-in options at restaurants and bars with patios, beach access and camping at private campgrounds, and the allowance for drive-in and drive through entertainment venues like outdoor movie theatres and animal attractions. This stage will also allow for the re-opening of outdoor rec facilities and outdoor training for teams, wading pools and splash pads, shopping malls but not the food courts, film and television production with social distancing, and personal care businesses like barber shops and beauty salons.
Weddings and funerals will be allowed to proceed with a maximum of 10 people, and indeed provincial orders across Ontario will allow for public gatherings to be increased from a maximum of five people to 10 regardless of whether or not an area is allowed to expand to Stage 2. Places of worship are also being allowed to re-open at 30 per cent capacity so long as they can maintain physical distancing.
“I support a regional approach that responsibly allows different parts of the province to reopen if they are meeting COVID-19 benchmarks,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a media release. “It’s a huge relief for businesses and municipalities that need to start generating revenue to dig themselves out of the financial hole caused by the pandemic.”
Schreiner warns though that the government has to keep up with the messaging campaign along with the re-opening announcements to maintain those medical precautions to prevent a resurgence of the virus.
“We need clear physical distancing and public health guidelines so that people know how they can safely use all of the services and amenities that will be reopening,” Schreiner added. “And if Stage 2 is to be a success, then the province cannot take its foot of the gas on proactive testing and contact tracing. Protecting people and public health must be our top priority.”
Dr. Mercer agrees with Schreiner’s assessment. “While this is definitely a good sign for our region, we must remain diligent in preventing the spread of COVID-19,” she added. “We all must continue to wash our hands, wear a mask and practice physical distancing of two metres. Following these steps will help keep you and your family safe, but also protect your friends and neighbours. The willingness of each of us to do our part will be a key factor in whether we take a step forward or backward in this pandemic.”
According to today’s announcement, the Government of Ontario will be providing weekly reassessment of the areas that have yet to reach Stage 2 and will announce the results every Monday. They also added that the there will be new details released soon on childcare, summer camps, training centres, post-secondary education, and public transit.
In other news from the Province, it was announced Monday that small businesses will be protected from eviction by commercial landlords. The government is proposing changes to the Commercial Tenancies Act that would temporarily halt evictions, lockouts, or the seizure of assets if that business is eligible for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA). The halt would be in effect retroactively from June 3 to August 31.
“We need everyone working together to overcome COVID-19,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in a statement. “Commercial tenants who can pay their rent, must do so. Landlords should work with their tenants to come to an agreement and use this joint program. Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy and we need them to flourish.”
“I am glad the government has made a 180 degree turn after telling us for months to ‘wait-and-see’ how things played out, leaving small businesses at the mercy of landlords,” said Schreiner, who has long been an advocate for rent relief and pausing commercial evictions. “While it is unfortunate that small businesses had to endure months of uncertainty and anxiety, I am relieved that this measure is finally happening.”