Doug Ford announces scores of new rules for businesses once they are allowed to open
May 1, 2020
Premier Doug Ford has blasted Ottawa civic officials for a “ridiculous” prohibition on safe outdoor visits to long-term-care residents even as he slapped scores of new regulations on private businesses once they are allowed to open.
Ford, whose 95-year-old mother-in-law is battling COVID-19 in her Toronto nursing home, expressed outrage that the city of Ottawa is limiting families from visiting loved ones at the window of their long-term-care facilities.
“I’m trying to be politically correct, but I’m not usually politically correct -- that’s ridiculous,” the premier said Thursday.
“They need to rethink it. When our family goes to visit my mother-in-law … I think, thank God she’s on the first floor,” he said, adding “it’s just wrong” to forbid people from visiting elderly relatives from safely behind glass.
Less than an hour after his comments, the City of Ottawa announced it is developing a plan “that would allow for the safe reinstatement of window visits” by May 7.
But at the same time as he was panning another level of government for being heavy handed, the premier imposed 65 rules and regulations that Ontario businesses must follow -- and dispatched 58 new inspectors to help enforce them.
Some businesses will have to install Plexiglas barriers, revamp heating, ventilation, and air-condition systems, use boot sanitizing trays, distribute hand sanitizer to employees and customers, enforce hand washing, hold outdoor meetings, and maintain safe physical distancing.
“We’re telling our businesses how to be ready for when we get that green light,” said Ford, referring to the OK that must come from Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer for health.
“They include guidelines for workers in health care, retail, the automotive sector, manufacturing, food processing, tourism, and hospitality, restaurant and food service, our agricultural sector, office workers, transit, transportation, and utilities,” he said.
While Ford -- whose government issued a vague “framework for reopening the economy” on Monday -- had no timetables for business to begin operations again, he did hint that garden centres would be allowed to open soon.
“Good news is coming very, very, very shortly. That’s what I can say right now. But I agree, nothing is better than going to the garden centre, grabbing some plants, going in the backyard and planting the flowers,” he said.
“I said the same thing at cabinet, it’s good for mental health. It gets people outside. So just stay tuned. Good news is coming for the garden centres.”
While that’s encouraging for growers set to ship $450 million in greenhouse-grown plants in the next five to seven weeks, Ford’s overall cautious approach is meeting criticism from an improbable quarter -- Progressive Conservatives.
“I’m not sure there has ever been a single government announcement that’s had as much red tape as this one,” said one senior Conservative, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations.
“Some of the business that do manage to survive this (pandemic-forced closure) are going to be driven out of business by more rules and regulations,” the insider said.
“We’re already the most locked-down province in the country. We’re at Wuhan levels.”
Indeed, Ontario has been in a state of emergency since March 17 and Ford has suggested it could be extended beyond May 12.
Julie Kwiecinski of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said “business owners need clarity.”
“They need to know exactly what is required of them to reopen, pass inspection, and avoid fines at a time when they can least afford them. Otherwise, we’ll end up with the same problem as is being experienced right now with the essential businesses list: inconsistent enforcement,” she said.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, mindful that May rents are due Friday, expressed astonishment that the premier didn’t have much new to say on helping small businesses weather the pandemic.
“We have heard from many small businesses that their landlords are not participating in the federal-provincial program. Worse, others are being pressured into bad agreements or bankruptcy,” said Del Duca, urging a moratorium on commercial evictions.
Ford countered that his government has worked with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals on a $900 million rent relief program.
“It’s a pretty attractive deal. The landlord will have to take a hit. The renters are going to pay 25 per cent. We’re doing everything we can. We’re throwing a lot of money at it.”