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Construction noise keeping you up at night? 2 Toronto councillors want province to knock it off
July 16, 2021

It's been more than a year since the province extended work hours on construction sites in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now there's a push at Toronto city hall to change them back on behalf of residents who can't stand the noise.

Council is expected to consider a motion on Thursday asking the Ford government to repeal the regulations that allowed construction to begin earlier in the morning and continue later at night.

"If families are being woken up too early and kept up too late, it's largely because of the province," said Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who put the motion forward.

The province announced in April 2020 that essential construction projects, such as those in the health-care sector, would be able operate 24 hours a day. The government said the policy would allow for staggered shifts so workers could physically distance on the job to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus.

The regulations also changed the rules on noise allowances due to construction. In Toronto, the policy expanded the permitted time to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., every day of the week. That move essentially overrode the city's bylaw allowing construction noise between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and not at all on Sunday or statutory holidays.

'I want to move the heck away from here'
"People are angry," said Wong-Tam, who represents  Ward 13, Toronto Centre, an area where there's been plenty of construction. She says the constant noise is harmful to the mental health of residents, especially during the pandemic.

"People have reached a boiling point because they've got no place to go."

Chris Conrad, who lives in an apartment building near The Esplanade and Lower Jarvis Street, says she's been losing sleep due to the noise outside her apartment since the province extended the rules.

"It makes me feel like I want to move the heck away from here," she said as the banging from a nearby construction site nearly drowned out her voice.

"I mean, okay, we're downtown. It's going to be noisy, but I don't think it needs to be this noisy all the time."

Conrad says it's even worse since, like many others during the pandemic, she's been spending most of her time in her apartment.

"When I was at work all the time, I didn't notice it so much. But now that people have been locked up and home for over a year ... how do people work at home? How do the kids do their schoolwork at home?"

Hours extended for workers' safety, province says
In a statement, the province says its decision to expand construction hours was to provide flexibility and safety for workers during the pandemic.

"Extending hours for construction is intended to help provide worksite managers more flexibility to stagger shifts, limit the number of people in one place, and take reasonable precautions to keep workers safe and healthy under guidelines issued by Ontario's chief prevention officer for construction sites," the statement reads.

Coun. Josh Matlow, who represents Ward 12, Toronto-St. Paul's, another area with a lot of construction, seconded the motion to repeal the provincial regulations. He thinks the premier is putting the needs of the development industry before the comfort of residents.

Matlow wants the Ford government to strike more of a balance between the two.

"We're not anti-construction," Matlow said.

[The city bylaw] simply allowed for times early in the morning, in the evening, on Sundays and statutory holidays for people to catch their breath and be able to have a little bit of peace and quiet during really stressful times."

Regulation could be extended, councillors worry
The regulation is scheduled to expire in the fall, but Wong-Tam and Matlow aren't sure it will actually end.

"We are concerned that, while there might be a sunset in October for this regulation, that they will find a reason or excuse to extend it," Matlow said.

And Wong-Tam says she's nervous the province may make the policy permanent, "which means that even though the pandemic is over, this legislation that basically gives developers unfettered access to create noise, it could go on forever."

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But the provincial government says in its statement the regulation is intended to be a temporary measure.

"The province continues to monitor the situation and may review these regulations depending on how impacts of COVID-19 in Ontario evolve," the statement reads.

For residents like Conrad, who are still waiting for some peace and quiet -- change cannot come soon enough.

"I hope something happens soon. Maybe tonight, so I can sleep."