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What the Second State of Emergency Means for the Construction Industry

A construction worker working

On January 14, 2021, the Ontario government declared a second state of emergency in response to increasing COVID-19 transmission rates over the previous two weeks. The stay-at-home order imposed requires workers to work remotely except where the nature of their work requires them to be on-site. Businesses deemed to be ‘essential’ may remain open, including those involved primarily in the sale and production of food. Other business, such as those in telecommunications and information technology (IT), transportation, and supply chain services such as distribution and delivery are also permitted to continue operations. The construction industry, which had previously been permitted to reopen with protective measures in place, is now facing new restrictions.

Except as provided in O. Reg. 82/20, all construction projects are ordered closed. Permissible construction activities include those related to health care and long term care, personal protective equipment, medical devices directly related to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, education, infrastructure, natural resources and electricity, and technology.

The projects, activities and related services, including land surveying and demolition services, permitted to continue are summarized as follows:

  • The health care sector and long-term care facilities
  • Provincial infrastructure, including transit, transportation, resources, and the energy and justice sectors
  • Electricity and natural gas
  • Schools, colleges, universities, and child care facilities
  • Petrochemical plants and refineries, including maintenance and operations
  • Work to existing structures for the production, maintenance or enhancement of facilities producing personal protective equipment and medical devices directly related to combating the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Additional capacity for production and distribution of food, beverages and agricultural products
  • Broadband internet and cellular technologies
  • Residential construction projects where:
    • A building permit has been granted for a single-family, semi-detached and townhouses
    • The project is a condominium, mixed-use or other residential building
  • Preparation of a site for institutional, commercial, industrial or residential development, including necessary excavation, grading, roads or utilities
  • The temporary closure of construction sites
  • Projects and activities funded by the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program
  • Shelter or support for vulnerable persons or affordable housing
  • Federal, provincial, or municipal projects or those related to charities or not-for-profit corporations

Projects that commenced before January 12, 2021, are allowed to continue in the following situations:

  • Significant industrial petrochemical projects
  • Additional capacity for businesses providing logistical support, distribution services, warehousing, storage or shipping and delivery
  • Additional capacity for IT or telecommunications services
  • Residential properties

Further information regarding the second state of emergency is available from the Province of Ontario on its website at Enhancing Public Health and Workplace Safety Measures In The Provincewide Shutdown.

The Construction Litigation group at Pallett Valo LLP continues to monitor the response of the Government of Ontario to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the construction industry.

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Peter Campbell, BDO Canada LLP