Non-essential businesses to close in Ontario, Quebec

Here are the businesses and stores that will and won't be allowed to continue operation in the two provinces, beginning Wednesday.

The premiers of Ontario and Quebec have both used the states of emergency in their respective provinces to order non-essential businesses to close in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Since the announcements were made Monday afternoon, each government has released a list of what is considered an essential business, with non-essential businesses ordered to close by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday.

In Ontario, essential retail businesses include grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, drug stores, pharmacies, markets and other stores involved in the sale of food, pet food and household consumer products necessary to maintain clean and regular operations of residences and businesses.

All beer, wine and liquor retailers and producers will also remain open, as will cannabis stores and producers. Unrelated to the announcement, the LCBO has further reduced its operating hours, and will now be closed on Mondays, following a move last week to limit its hours to 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Restaurants will continue to remain open only for takeout or delivery, and food delivery services will also continue operations.

Other retailers considered essential include those in the hardware, office supplies, gas, hotel, automotive, safety supplies, laundromat and repair categories.

Other businesses and services considered essential include utilities, public safety, construction, telecommunications, media, maintenance, agriculture, finance, transportation, resource extraction and legal services, as well as anything related to health or long-term care.

All businesses that are part of the supply chain for an essential business or service are also allowed to remain operational, as well as those that support them through “processing, packaging, distribution, delivery and maintenance.” Shipping, courier and delivery businesses will also be allowed to operate, which will allow non-essential retailers that are closed to continue offering online ordering, so long as other points in their delivery infrastructure have not been closed.

The businesses that do not appear on Ontario’s list include specialty retailers in categories such as fashion, sports, books and furniture, as well theatres, entertainment venues and fitness clubs, many of which have been closing operations on their own over the last two weeks. In Quebec, the list of essential businesses released late yesterday was much shorter.

The province has declared retailers in grocery, drugstores, convenience, pet food, laundromat, and hotel sectors as essential, as well as the SAQ and SQDC (the province’s cannabis retailer). It has also included stores that provide safety, medical and farming supplies.

Quebec is also allowing construction, repairs and maintenance services for emergency and vital public infrastructure to remain. Manufacturing will be allowed to continue, but only as it relates to food, medical supplies and other products sold by or important to the operation of other essential businesses. Other essential businesses and services in Quebec include most transportation, finance, telecommunications, media, shipping, cleaning and utilities, as well as health and long-term care.

In both provinces, businesses that are able to conduct operations remotely can continue to do so.

On Monday, British Columbia premier John Horgan has expressed resistance to closing non-essential businesses, saying the government is taking a sector-by-sector approach.

While the order to close in Canada’s two most populated provinces will come into effect on Wednesday, businesses have already been grappling with how they plan to stay engaged with their consumers when they might not even have access to their products or services.