The Ontario government is expected to announce that it is shutting down some sectors of the construction industry, according to government and industry sources.
Details were still being hammered out on Friday morning, but industry sources told The Globe and Mail that work on public-sector infrastructure projects and some residential construction would be allowed to continue. The announcement is expected Friday afternoon.
One construction industry executive who has been given advance notice about the government’s plans said all private-sector industrial, commercial and institutional construction work will be halted, but the plan is to exempt public-sector projects as well as some residential construction. The sources are not being identified because they were not authorized to speak before the announcement.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said this week that his government will be “adjusting” the list of 74 essential business categories in the province that have been allowed to remain open amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The broad exemption for construction projects has led to a growing chorus of voices calling on the government to shut down the sector over health and safety concerns.
Ontario will also be releasing its modelling projections that show the best- and worst-case scenarios the province faces in the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Thursday, there were 2,793 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province, an increase of 401 from the previous day, said Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams. In all, 53 people in Ontario have died of the disease so far.
Governments around the world are relying on mathematical projections based on available case data to understand how the pandemic could spread, to guide decision-making and ensure the right resources are in place to handle the coming surge in cases.
“It’s going to be a real sobering discussion,” Mr. Ford said on Thursday of Ontario’s projections. “It’s going to be stark.”
Since the list of essential workplaces was unveiled last week, construction unions have been urging the government to suspend activity to protect their workers who often work in close proximity and without access to running water.
There are more than 2,000 construction sites in the province, according to the construction union, with office and residential skyscrapers being erected in the Toronto region as well as new public transportation projects. A housing shortage, along with record-low office and apartment vacancy rates, has spurred a flurry of new developments in Southern Ontario and Ottawa.
More than 300 office and residential properties are being developed in the Toronto area, according to Altus Group, including an unprecedented number of new condo and apartment units.
The Ontario Construction Consortium, which represents unionized carpenters, painters and other trades, had said the Ford government was sending contradictory messages with calls for people to keep their distance while allowing construction to continue.