ontario essential services

These are the businesses and services Ontario now considers essential

With a stay-at-home order now fully in effect for all of Ontario, people are hunkering down across the province... slightly more than they were before... save for those who must work at or visit essential businesses and services.

The rules remain vague, even now that a legal framework document for the order has been released, leaving many to question if they can or can't go to school, work, appointments, stores or even just outside.

You can, in fact, do all of the above things if they've been deemed essential — by the government, by your employer, by yourself or by the discretion of any individual police officer. 

I'm not kidding; the Ford government has actually said that it's up to cops to interpret and enforce the (vague) rules as they see fit, but also that we as individual citizens must use our own discretion when considering what is an essential trip.

"Ontario is a big, diverse province," reads the preface of an FAQ document released by the government on Wednesday.

"As such, and as we have from the very outset of this pandemic, we will continue to rely on the best judgment of Ontarians as they stay at home as much as possible and only leave their homes for essential purposes."

While we don't have a definitive list of what is considered in Ford's eyes to be "essential," an updated list of "Businesses Permitted to Open and Sector Specific Restrictions" greenlights a host of specific scenarios (with exceptions, and under strict safety protocols which most often involve wearing a mask).

They are as follows, listed by sector:

Supply chain
  • Businesses that supply businesses or places that are permitted to open within Ontario, or that supply businesses or services that have been declared essential in a jurisdiction outside of Ontario, with the support, products, supplies, systems, or services, including processing, packaging, warehousing, distribution, delivery, and maintenance necessary to operate. 
Meeting or event space

Contact information recording required and only permitted to open for:

  • The operation of child care centres and authorized recreational and skill building programs within the meaning of the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014
  • Court services
  • Government services
  • Mental health and addictions support services (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous) permitted to a maximum of 10 people
  • Social services
Short-term rentals

Short-term rentals (e.g., cottages, cabins) only to be provided to individuals who are in need of housing 

Restaurants, bars, and other food or drink establishments
  • Take out, drive through, and delivery permitted only
  • Includes the sale of alcohol
​​​​​​Driving instruction

No in-person driving instruction permitted except:

  • For instruction for drivers of commercial motor vehicles
  • Where the instruction is part of the Ontario Driver Certification Program administered by the Ministry of Transportation and involves the operation of motor vehicles for which:
  • A class of driver's licence other than Class G, G1, G2, M, M1 or M2 is required
  • An air brake endorsement is required Or that is provided by a private career college, in accordance with certain conditions.
Supermarkets, convenience stores, indoor farmer’s markets and other stores that primarily sell food

Open for in-person retail, subject to:

  • Members of the public being able to maintain two metres physical distance from every other person in the business or facility and complying with face covering rules
  • The number of persons occupying any room that is open to the public does not exceed 50 per cent capacity of the particular room
  • Curbside pick-up and delivery permitted
Pharmacies

Open for in-person retail, subject to:

  • Members of the public being able to maintain two metres physical distance from every other person in the business or facility and complying with face covering rules
  • The number of persons occupying any room that is open to the public does not exceed 50 per cent capacity of the particular room
  • Curbside pick-up and delivery permitted
Discount retailers and big box stores that sell groceries

Open for in-person retail, subject to:

  • Members of the public being able to maintain two metres physical distance from every other person in the business or facility
  • The number of persons occupying any room that is open to the public does not exceed 25 per cent capacity of the particular room
  • Curbside pick-up and delivery permitted
Other retailers
  • Distancing and face covering rules apply
  • Operating hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Gas stations and other fuel suppliers
Safety supply stores, businesses that sell, rent or repair assistive/mobility/medical devices, and optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public
  • By appointment only
  • Limit the number of persons occupying any room that is open to the public in the business to not exceed 50 per cent capacity of the particular room
  • Curbside pick-up and delivery permitted
  • Operating hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Stores that sell liquor, including beer, wine and spirits
  • Limit the number of persons occupying any room that is open to the public in the business does not exceed 25 per cent of the particular room
  • Curbside pick-up and delivery permitted
  • Operating hours of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Shopping malls
  • Closed for in-person retail
  • Members of the public are only permitted to enter the mall to
  • Access businesses and organizations permitted to be open (e.g., pharmacy, dentist); food court open for take-away, or by appointment only to facilitate pick-up as set out below
  • Access court services and government services
  • Shopping mall may establish a single designated location inside the shopping mall for order pick-up by patrons.
  • Pick-up inside the shopping mall must be by appointment only
  • Members of the public not permitted to loiter in any area of the shopping mall that is not related to the purpose of their visit
  • Must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m., except to provide access to grocery stores/supermarkets, pharmacies, and health care providers that only have public entrances that face the interior of the mall
Cannabis retail stores operating under the authority of a retail store authorization issued under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018
  • By curbside pick-up or delivery only; Operating hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • An item may only be provided for curbside pickup if the patron ordered the item before arriving at the business premises
Garden centres
  • Curbside pick-up and delivery permitted
  • Operating hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • An item may only be provided for curbside pickup if the patron ordered the item before arriving at the business premises
Motor vehicle sales
  • Includes cars, trucks and motorcycles; recreational vehicles including motor homes; trailers and travel trailers; boats and other watercraft; and other motorized vehicles, including power-assisted bicycles, golf carts, scooters, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles
  • By appointment only
  • Members of the public must not be permitted where products are neither sold nor displayed for sale
  • Subject to certain conditions related to test drives
  • Operating hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Outdoor markets
  • Includes farmer's markets and holiday markets only if they primarily sell food to the public
  • Must require members of the public to remain outdoors at all times, including for curbside pick-up or delivery
  • Operating hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
General Retail (all other retail, including hardware stores, pet food, computer stores, etc.):
  • Curbside pick-up or delivery only (in-person retail shopping not permitted)
  • An item may only be provided for curbside pickup if the patron ordered the item before arriving at the business premises
  • Sales must be exclusively made so patrons are not required to enter the indoor area of the business, including curbside pick-up or delivery
  • Operating hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Financial services
  • Capital markets and related securities trading and advisory services
  • Banking/credit union activities including credit intermediation
  • Insurance
  • Land registration services
  • Pension and benefits payment services
  • Financial services including payroll and payment processing and accounting and tax services
Real estate (including pre-sale construction)
  • No open houses - showing a property permitted by appointment only
Telecommunications and IT infrastructure/service providers
  • Information Technology (IT) services, including online services, software products and the facilities necessary for their operation and delivery Telecommunications providers and services (phone, internet, radio, cell phones etc.) and facilities necessary for their operation and delivery
  • Retail stores operated by a telecommunications provider or service may only permit members of the public to enter the premises by appointment and only for repairs or technical support
  • Newspapers, radio and television broadcasting
Maintenance
  • Maintenance, repair and property management services that manage and maintain the safety, security, sanitation and operation of institutional, commercial, industrial and residential properties and buildings
Transportation services
  • Businesses and facilities that provide transportation services, including:
  • Transportation services provided by air, water, road, and rail, including taxis and other private transportation providers
  • Support services for transportation services, including logistical support, distribution services, warehousing and storage, truck stops and tow operators
  • Services that support the operations and safety of transportation systems including maintenance and repairs
  • Marinas, boating clubs and other organizations that maintain docking facilities for members or patrons with conditions
  • Businesses that provide and support online retail, including by providing warehousing, storage and distribution of goods that are ordered online
Manufacturing
  • Businesses that extract, manufacture, process and distribute goods, products, equipment and materials, including businesses that manufacture inputs to other manufacturers (e.g. primary metal/ steel, blow molding, component manufacturers, chemicals, etc. that feed the end-product manufacturer), regardless of whether those other manufacturers are inside or outside of Ontario, together with businesses that support and facilitate the movement of goods within integrated North American and global supply chains
Agriculture and food production
  • Businesses that produce food and beverages, and agricultural products including plants, including by farming, harvesting, aquaculture, hunting and fishing
  • Businesses that process, manufacture or distribute food, beverages, crops, agricultural products, animal products and by-products
  • Businesses that support the food or agricultural products supply chains and the health and safety of food, animals and plants
Construction
  • Permitted construction activities or projects and related services, including land surveying and demolition services.
  • Construction projects and services associated with the healthcare sector and long-term care, including new facilities, expansions, renovations and conversion of spaces that could be repurposed for health care space.
  • Construction projects and services required to ensure safe and reliable operations of, or to provide new capacity in, provincial and municipal infrastructure, including transit, transportation, energy, mining and justice sectors beyond the day-to-day maintenance.
  • Construction projects and services that support the operations of, and provide new capacity in schools, colleges, universities, municipal infrastructure and child care centres within the meaning of the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014.
  • Construction projects under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program
  • Construction projects and services that support the operations of Broadband internet and cellular technologies and services.
  • Critical industrial construction activities required for the maintenance and operations of petrochemical plants and refineries, significant industrial petrochemical projects where preliminary work has already commenced, industrial construction and modifications to existing industrial structures limited solely to work necessary for the production, maintenance, and/or enhancement of Personal Protective Equipment, medical devices (such as ventilators), and other identified products directly related to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Construction projects that are due to be completed before July 2021 and that would provide additional capacity in the production, processing, manufacturing or distribution of food, beverages or agricultural products.
  • Construction projects that were commenced before January 12, 2021, and that would provide additional capacity for businesses that provide logistical support, distribution services, warehousing, storage or shipping and delivery services or provide additional capacity in the operation and delivery of Information Technology (IT) services or telecommunications services.
  • Residential construction projects where a footing permit has been granted for single family, semi-detached and townhomes, the project is a condominium, mixed use or other residential building, or the project involves renovations to residential properties and construction work was started before January 12, 2021
  • Construction to prepare a site for an institutional, commercial, industrial or residential development, including any necessary excavation, grading, roads or utilities infrastructure.
  • Construction and maintenance activities necessary to temporarily close construction sites that have paused or are not active and to ensure ongoing public safety
  • Below-grade multi-unit residential construction projects, such as apartments and condominiums. 
  • Construction on any project intended to provide either, affordable housing, or shelter or supports for vulnerable person
Resources and energy
  • Businesses that provide and ensure the domestic and global continuity of supply of resources, including, resource exploration, mining, forestry, aggregates, petroleum, petroleum by-products and chemicals
  • Electricity generation, transmission, distribution and storage and natural gas distribution, transmission and storage
Community services

Businesses that deliver or support the delivery of community services including:

  • Sewage treatment and disposal
  • Collecting, transporting, storing, processing, disposing or recycling of any type of waste
  • Potable drinking water
  • Critical infrastructure repair and maintenance including roads, dams, bridges etc.
  • Environmental rehabilitation, management and monitoring, and spill clean-up and response
  • Administrative authorities that regulate and inspect businesses
  • Professional and social services that support the legal and justice system
  • Government services including but not limited to policing and law enforcement, fire and emergency services, paramedics, coroner and pathology services, corrections and court services, licences and permits
  • Allotment gardens or community gardens
Facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness activities

Closure of all indoor and outdoor sports and recreational fitness facilities except for:

  • Facilities operated or for the sole use of high performance athletes, including parasport athletes, and specified professional leagues (e.g., NHL, CFL, MLS, NBA) and
  • Facilities opened solely for specified purposes (e.g. child care)
  • Community centres and multi-purpose facilities (e.g., YMCA) allowed to be open for permitted activities (e.g., child care services, mental health and addiction support services [limited to 10 people maximum], social services)
  • All subject to conditions
Outdoor recreational amenities

Outdoor recreational amenities permitted to open, subject to conditions, include (weather permitting):

  • Parks and recreational areas
  • Baseball diamonds
  • Batting cages
  • Soccer, football and sports fields
  • Tennis, platform tennis, table tennis and pickleball courts
  • Basketball courts
  • BMX parks
  • Skate parks
  • Frisbee golf locations
  • Cycling tracks and bike trails
  • Horse riding facilities
  • Shooting ranges, including those operated by rod and gun clubs
  • Ice rinks
  • Snowmobile, cross country, dogsledding, ice-skating and snow-shoe trails
  • Playgrounds
  • Portions of parks or recreational areas containing outdoor fitness equipment
  • Tobogganing hills and skating trails

A permitted outdoor recreational amenity may only open if:

  •  ny person who enters or uses the amenity maintains a physical distance of at least two metres from other person using the amenity (excluding members of the same household)
  • Team sports, or other sports or games where people may come within two metres of each other, are not practiced or played within the amenity
  • Any locker rooms, change rooms, showers and clubhouses remain closed, except to the extent they provide access to equipment storage, a washroom or a portion of the amenity that is used to provide first aid
Research
  • Businesses and organizations that maintain research facilities and engage in research, including medical research and other research and development activities
Health care and social services
  • Organizations and providers that deliver home care services or personal support services to seniors and persons with disabilities
  • Regulated health professionals
  • Professionals or organizations that provide in-person counselling services
  • Organizations that provide health care including retirement homes, hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, independent health facilities and mental health and addictions counselling supports
  • Laboratories and specimen collection centres
  • Manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers of pharmaceutical products and medical supplies, including medications, medical isotopes, vaccines and antivirals, medical devices and medical supplies
  • Manufacturers, distributors and businesses that provide logistical support of or for products and/or services that support the delivery of health care in all locations
  • Organizations that provide critical personal support services in home or residential services for individuals with physical disabilities
  • Organizations that support the provision of food, shelter, safety or protection, and/or social services and other necessities of life to economically disadvantaged and other vulnerable individuals
  • Businesses that are primarily engaged in the provision of health and safety training with conditions
Media industries
  • Sound recording, production, publishing and distribution businesses Film and television production, including all supporting activities such as hair, makeup and wardrobe
  • No studio audiences permitted to be on the film or television set
  • No more than 10 performers may be permitted to be on the film or television set
  • Set must be configured and operated in such a way as to enable persons on the set to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from other persons, except where necessary for the filming of the film or television production
  • Persons who provide hair or makeup services must wear appropriate personal protective equipment
  • Singers and players of brass or wind instruments must be separated from any other performers by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier
  • Film and television postproduction, visual effects and animation studios
  • Book and periodical production, publishing and distribution businesses
  • Commercial and industrial photography (does not permit retail studios to open)
  • Interactive digital media businesses, including computer system software or application developers and publishers, and  video game developers and publishers
Libraries

Libraries may open for contactless curbside, delivery, and pick-up, for permitted services (e.g., child care services, mental health and addiction support services to a limit of 10 persons [AA meetings], provision of social services), and of they ensure that circulating materials returned to the library are disinfected or quarantined for an appropriate period of time before they are recirculated

Horse racing
  • Training only, no races, no members of the public (i.e., spectators)
Night clubs and strip clubs
  • Only permitted to open if they operate as a food or drink establishment, subject to conditions that apply to restaurants and bars, etc.
Zoos and aquariums
  • Closed to the public
  • Permitted to operate for the care of animals
Additional services which are permitted to stay open amid the new stay-at-home order include:
  • Security services for residences, businesses and other properties
  • Domestic services (Only to support children, seniors or vulnerable persons, including housekeeping, cooking, indoor and outdoor cleaning and maintenance services)
  • Vehicle and equipment repair and essential maintenance and vehicle and equipment rental services (By appointment only)
  • Courier, postal, shipping, moving and delivery services
  • Funeral and related services
  • Staffing services including providing temporary help
  • Veterinary services (For services that are necessary for the immediate health and welfare of the animal only, or provided through curb side pick-up and drop-off of the animal
  • Other businesses that provide for the health and welfare of animals, including farms, boarding kennels, stables, animal shelters and research facilities
  • Businesses that provide pet training exclusively for service animals
  • Hotels, motels, lodges, cabins, cottages, resorts and other shared rental accommodation, including student residences (as long as any indoor pools, indoor fitness centres, or other indoor recreational facilities that are part of the operation of these businesses, are closed. Pre-arranged booking for short-term rentals are also prohibited with exceptions for housing requirements.)
  • Cheque cashing services
  • Seasonal campgrounds (Must be made available only for trailers and recreational vehicles used by individuals in need of housing or are permitted to be there by seasonal contract... Other areas of the seasonal campground must be closed to the general public.)
  • Community centres (permitted to open for the operation of child care centres and authorized recreational and skill building programs, Mental health and addictions support services and social services.)

You can find the provincial government's full list of essential businesses and services right here

Lead photo by

Alex Meoko


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