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Ontario economy reopening details coming next week: Labour minister

Last Updated Feb 5, 2021 at 3:20 pm EDT

People line up at the Toronto Premium Outlets mall in Milton, on Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Ontario’s labour minister says Premier Doug Ford will announce details on reopening the province’s economy next week.

Monte McNaughton did not provide further specifics, but his comments come as the province’s current state of emergency is set to expire on Tuesday.

Ford and his cabinet are meeting today to discuss the government’s options surrounding the emergency order.

Ontario’s Solicitor General’s office says no decisions have been made regarding whether to end or extend the emergency order.

Premier Ford made comments earlier this week that indicated on announcement on reopening the economy could come on Monday, but senior government officials clarified his comments shortly after and said no announcement has been scheduled.

“Our goal is to open up the economy safely, I know a couple of the hot zones might be a week later. But, especially in the northern and rural areas, we want to get the economy opening up, but safely. That’s the number one priority,” said Ford during a photo opportunity at Toronto Pearson airport.

The president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said Friday that he’s optimistic the province will soon begin to lift some restrictions on businesses.

Dan Kelly said he hopes Ford will announce concrete reopening dates that throw a lifeline to small businesses that have suffered under pandemic restrictions.

“We desperately need a clear indication, and a plan, to reopen our economy,” he said.

Kelly said he doesn’t expect the province will lift all of its public health measures, but would like to see all businesses allowed to open across Ontario with a 20 per cent capacity limit.

That could increase if case counts continue to come down, he added.

“We have recommended not to end all restrictions, but to replace them with a pathway that would allow businesses to reopen with masking and physical distancing … so they can live another day,” he said.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Friday that the government has not moved quickly enough to address the pandemic in long-term care and schools, or provided paid sick days for workers.

“If the orders are extended it will be because Doug Ford didn’t do his job and hasn’t been responding adequately to the crisis of COVID-19 since day one,” she said.

A provincial lockdown was imposed in late December and was followed by the state of emergency and a stay-at-home order that took effect Jan. 14 as COVID-19 rates surged.

Cases have since declined, although public health officials have said the spread of more contagious variants of COVID-19 are a concern.

Ontario schools are being reopened for in-person learning on Feb. 8 with hotspot regions Toronto, Peel, and York returning on Jan. 16.

Health experts have been calling for the government to not ease restrictions and re-open schools at the same time.