big box stores ontario

41% of big box stores found to be violating Ontario lockdown rules

Many of the stores that have been permitted to stay open in Ontario despite current lockdown restrictions appear to be squandering the opportunity to prove that big box retailers can operate safely amid a global pandemic.

Whether this is due to laziness, cockiness, or the fact that such retailers simply can't abide by provincial shutdown ordersinspection blitzes continue to find lots of bad actors breaking rules.

Ontario's Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development just conducted its third consecutive weekend blitz of stores like Costco, Walmart and Shoppers Drug Mart to gauge how well management is complying with current public health guidelines meant to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Only 59 per cent of all 222 retailers inspected on Saturday in Toronto, Hamilton and Kitchener fully passed their inspections.

Big box stores in Hamilton fared the worst with an average compliance rate of 41.3 per cent. The Toronto stores inspected were found to have a compliance rate of 79.5 per cent, while 56.8 per cent of stores in Kitchener-Waterloo were found to be in compliance with current provincial orders.

"There's no excuses at this point in the game," said Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton on Sunday when announcing the results of Saturday's inspection activities. "Every business knows what to do. This is not good enough."

In terms of what the stores did wrong, McNaughton said infractions included failing to enforce capacity limits and masking protocols as well as "the sanitation and cleanliness of places like lunchrooms and washrooms."

Only 20 tickets were handed out on Saturday across all three regions blitzed, however — half of them against corporations and the other half against supervisors, managers and owners of the businesses.

Prior to Saturday, the Ministry of Labour had already visited 1,147 big-box stores and other essential retail businesses, resulting in 112 tickets issued.

"We've marshalled hundreds of officers to inspect over 1,000 businesses in a few short weeks, and we'll keep it up as long as there are bad actors out there," said McNaughton of the blitzes on Friday.

"Our government is confident that the majority of workplaces are taking all necessary steps to protect their customers and workers from the spread of COVID-19," the minister continuted.

"However, if we find businesses putting people at risk, we will take immediate action. This late in the pandemic, there is absolutely no excuse for owners, staff and customers alike not to be following health and safety rules." 

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim


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