Ontario releasing details on ‘Stage 2’ of reopening businesses next week

TORONTO — The Ontario government is expected to release details on the next stage of reopening the economy early next week.

Speaking at Queen’s Park on Friday, Premier Doug Ford said that his government will soon release information about what Stage 2 of the “restart phase” will look like.

The premier stressed that while details of Stage 2 will be released early next week, it will not come into effect right away.

“I know the people of Ontario, you’ve been very, very patient,” Ford said. “We will be ready very soon to take our next steps to reopen our economy, but it won’t happen overnight. Businesses will need some time to prepare.”

The province will also be releasing a plan next week to “safely and gradually” reopen childcare centres in order to support parents who will soon return to work.

Ontario entered the first stage of the “restart phase,” as outlined in the Progressive Conservative’s “Framework for Reopening our Province,” in mid-May.

At that time, a number of businesses with street-level entrances have been allowed to open their doors, as well as garden centres, hardware stores and golf courses. Since then, the province has made other changes such as opening drive-thru theatres, allowing short-term rentals, and permitting access to backcountry camping and hiking trails.

FULL LIST: What’s open in Ontario?

The first stage of reopening occurred officially on May 19, three days after a sample week used by Statistics Canada to calculate unemployment in the country ended.

According to the most recent Labour Force Survey, which used the week of May 10 to 16 as a sample, Ontario was the only province that reported another decline in employment.

The province lost another 64,000 jobs in May, Statistics Canada found, bringing the unemployment rate in Ontario to 13.6 per cent.

Over the last three months, more than one million jobs have been lost in Ontario due to COVID-19 and the economic shutdown.

‘No province can get out of it alone,’ premier says

Ford began his announcement by calling on the federal government to provide more financial support to provinces as they grapple with the economic impacts of the pandemic.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he would be providing provincial governments with $14 billion to help with COVID-19. The money could be used to help fund used to buy personal protective equipment, to open child care facilities and to help municipal governments, the federal government said.

While Ford thanked the prime minister for his support, he also said that $14 billion divided between all the provinces and territories “just won’t cut it.”

“The fight against this virus has taken a massive toll on people, on families and on our economy. The economic reality we are facing is unprecedented and no province can get out of this alone,” Ford said.

“It’s a start, it’s a good start and I thank the prime minister for his support, but the reality is we have a $23 billion problem in Ontario.”

For weeks municipalities like the City of Toronto have been calling for federal funding to help deal with immense revenue losses due to the COVID-19 economic shutdown.

Toronto officials are expecting a $1.5 billion loss by the end of the year.

In response to requests from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Trudeau committed to tapping into the Gas Tax Fund to send cities $2.2 billion in previously promised infrastructure funding ahead of schedule. However, Toronto’s mayor said the funding does not appropriately address the city’s “real” financial needs.

“We will get a check, as I understand it, which will not be for a small sum, but it is money that we were going to get anyway but on an accelerated basis,” Tory said on Monday. “That’s good, that’s helpful to us, but it is not the main event.”

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