COVID-19 Update: Ontario and Quebec Workplace Closures

The Top Line

As the number of confirmed cases of the Novel Coronavirus called COVID-19 continues to trend up both worldwide and in Canada, many governments are increasingly considering stringent measures to enforce social distancing, in hopes of “flattening the curve” of the spread of the virus.

Yesterday, the Governments of Ontario and Quebec each ordered the mandatory closure of workplaces deemed “non-essential”. During the closures, all businesses and non-profits can conduct telework and e-commerce, but governments are asking the private sector to minimize inter-personal interactions. Below is a snapshot of how the closures will function in each Province. As of the publication of this note, no other Province has ordered such extensive workplace closures.

This morning, the Prime Minister and the Provincial Premiers held a teleconference to discuss their collective efforts to combat COVID-19. Indications are that, for now, the Federal Emergencies Act will be considered a measure of last resort, leaving each Province to manage their states of emergency independently.


The closure takes effect tonight, Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 PM and will be in place for 14 days (until April 7 at 11:59 PM), and may be extended as deemed necessary.

The list of essential services that can remain open is relatively broad and is comprised of 74 categories of workplaces. Essential services are asked to enact as many measures as possible to protect the health and safety of their employees.

The Premier and the Solicitor General indicated that local police forces and the Ontario Provincial Police will enforce the closure order, if necessary, though the penalties for non-compliance are not public at this time.


The closure takes effect tomorrow, Wednesday, March 25 at 12:01 AM and will be in place for roughly three weeks (until April 13 at 12:01 AM), and may be extended as deemed necessary.

The list of essential services that can remain open is broadly similar to that of Ontario. Essential services must “comply as far as possible” with social distancing.

Workplaces that are unsure if they are an essential service can complete this form, and the Government of Quebec will contact you with a ruling.

As in Ontario, the closure order is enforceable by law, though the penalties for non-compliance are not public at this time.


The City of Toronto declared a state of emergency on Monday, March 23, which gives the Mayor powers to make decisions that would normally require a vote by City Council, including, for example, legally enforcing social distancing in city-owned spaces. Meanwhile, the Mayors of Gatineau and Ottawa have jointly asked citizens of those two cities – closely linked both economically and socially – to limit cross-border travel.

What’s Next

The Government of Ontario will provide an Economic Update on Wednesday, March 25, focussing mainly on economic stimulus in response to COVID-19.

Over the past weekend, the Government launched an ‘Ontario Together’ portal to foster government – private sector collaboration on responding to COVID-19. Businesses of all types – but particularly the IT, financial, and manufacturing sectors – are asked to consider how they could help combat COVID-19 or help society operate during social distancing, and to submit any proposals to the Government through the portal.

If you have any questions about if your business or non-profit qualifies as an essential service, how the closure will impact your operations, or would like assistance in engaging governments about COVID-19, please contact your TSA consultant or Don Moors at

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