ontario construction restrictions

Here's why so many construction sites are still active in Toronto

People in condo-dense, crane-heavy Toronto neighbourhoods rejoiced last week when Premier Doug Ford announced that all non-essential construction projects would be halted to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Finally, some peace and quiet... or not.

The provincial government revealed its significantly shortened list of business types allowed to operate amid the pandemic on Friday, stating that the new rules would go into effect as of April 4 at 11:59 p.m.

Issued under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the regulations no longer permit all construction work and services in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors, as it did previous to the amendment.

The list of exceptions under this category has, however, grown longer and more complicated.

Still allowed to operate under Ford's "closure of places of non-essential business" order are construction services associated with the healthcare sector, transportation infrastructure, petrochemical plants, refineries, facilities that manufacture medical equipment and projects necessary to public safety.

Nobody seems to mind the above exceptions much, but many are growing incensed to learn of a new rule regarding residential construction projects.

Essentially, all residential projects with necessary permits can continue on amid the pandemic — as long as the work was started prior to April 4, 2020.

Some in Toronto appear to have missed this specific part of the news when it was released, as complaints about ongoing condo builds to city officials continue to proliferate on Twitter.

"I thought all the construction sites are closed," wrote one local, sharing photos from an active site. "North of Dundas/Bloor are still working. Money talks and bullshit walks."

"The Well job downtown Toronto has 300 construction workers on it," wrote another to Ford directly. "Go get their masks... They don't need them."

Others are aware of the policy, but they simply aren't pleased with it.

"Ontarians deserve to know why the province is allowing ongoing condo/residential construction to remain on the essential workplace list," wrote city councillor Josh Matlow in a statement on Friday.

"Is it based on advice of Public Health or lobbyists? Doesn't this put workers, along with all of us, at further risk? This doesn't make sense."

"This policy needs a rethink: many downtown Toronto residents live w/in 350m of condo construction projects," wrote one concerned citizen in response to news of the new rules.

"We are being asked to work from home/stay home and yet our homes are almost unliveable due to construction noise/vibration during the day."

Others are questioning the province's standards when it comes to designating services as "essential."

"Finding it hard to believe that construction on the facade of a new concert venue is an essential service. These men are literally on top of each other working," wrote one Toronto Twitter user on Monday.

"How does constructing a condo building at Bloor and Parliament in Toronto qualify as 'critical infrastructure'?" asked another.

The province has not directly explained the answer to this question, but Premier Ford did say during  a press conference last week that some 45,000 Ontario families are just weeks or months away from moving into new homes.

Being that Toronto does have a dire shortage of housing, it makes sense that the province wouldn't want to construction on new builds to stop — nor would powerful developers be cool with losing any money, whatsoever, despite a global pandemic.

Lead photo by

Brad Merrill

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