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April 4, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Ontario Government Narrows List of “Essential Businesses”

Authors Hendrik Nieuwland and Domenica Moran

Today the Ontario Government announced it will reduce the list of “essential” businesses and order more workplaces to close in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.  The mandatory closure of non-essential workplaces was initially ordered on March 24, 2020, which we previously discussed here.

The Ontario Government will update the Emergency Order and all businesses not covered by the new order must close on Saturday, April 4, 2020 at 11:59 pm. 

The closure of non-essential businesses will be extended for another 14 days, with the possibility of a further extension.   Businesses that are removed from the “essential” list are permitted to continue their operations with employees working remotely at home. 

The revised list of essential services can be found here.  An initial comparison of this narrowed list to the original Emergency Order (found here) indicates the following businesses are no longer “essential” and will now have to close:


  • cannabis stores and cannabis producers;


  • businesses that provide veterinary services and that supply veterinary and animal control medications, related supplies, and testing kits. However, urgent veterinary care is still permissible, as well as business that care for animals such as farms, kennels, stables, shelters, zoos, aquariums, and research facilities;


  • businesses that help ensure safe and effective waste management including deadstock, rendering, nutrient management, bio hazardous materials, green waste, and packaging recycling;


  • rental and leasing services, including automobile, commercial and light industrial machinery and equipment rental; and,


Stores that sell any of the following items can now only provide them to customers through an alternative method such as curb side-pick up or delivery, except in “exceptional circumstances”:

  • hardware products;


  • vehicle parts and supplies;


  • pet and animal supplies;


  • office supplies and computer products including computer repair; and,


  • safety supplies.


In addition, only critical construction projects can continue, such as industrial projects for refineries and petrochemical plants, along with infrastructure projects like new hospitals, roads, and bridges.  Residential construction projects can only continue where:


  • a footing permit has been granted for a single family, semi-detached and townhomes;


  • an above grade structural permit has been granted for condominiums, mixed use and other buildings; or


  • the project involves renovations to residential properties and construction work has started before April 4, 2020.


Employers and business-owners with questions concerning their essential business status can call the Stop the Spread hotline at 1-888-444-3659, which is available from 8:30 am to 9:00 pm Monday to Friday, and 8:30 am to 5:00 pm Saturday and Sunday.

Our firm will continue to provide you with updates as the Ontario Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

The foregoing is for informational purposes only and should in no way be relied upon as legal advice. For legal advice tailored to your circumstances and business, please contact any of SOM LLP’s lawyers by email or telephone.
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