Toronto parks, forestry and recreation work “essential” —  OGCA complains about confusing emergency Covid-19 emergency regulations

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

As the provincial government prepares to implement its “back to work” provisions following the Covid-19 lockdown, Ontario general contractors continue to be confused and at times frustrated and angry about inconsistencies in the emergency regulations.

As an example, Clive Thurston, president of the Ontario General Contractors’ Association (OGCA), cited a letter his members have received from the Toronto department of parks, forestry and recreation telling them that much of the work they would do at local parks is considered essential.

“Could someone please tell me what’s so essential about parks and rec,” Thurston wrote. “I could understand if it’s flood mitigation or something like that but they are declaring all their project as essential.”

Thurston says he has twice submitted questions to Toronto’s chief medical officer  “and got no response and this is the response my members are getting from City of Toronto people.”

“How is it that the mayor of Toronto is so upset about social distancing arguing that people need to stay home, that people need to social distance, and his own departments are putting my members and their employees at risk, for what sweeping leaves fixing playgrounds that aren’t even in use because nobody’s allowed to go there?”

“Somebody needs to ask the question as to just what the heck is going on here,” he wrote.

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“It seems any public owner can decide on their own what is or is not essential and we are still getting no guidance from the provincial government this is putting the health and safety of workers at risk. Why will nobody take responsibility and clearly identify what is and is not essential?

“How are we ever going to flatten the curve if these bureaucrats can just do what they want simply because it suits their bottom line, and you’ll notice they keep insisting that we have to keep all schedules and honour our contracts fully completely ignoring the impact that the Covid-19 virus has had on our industry.

“Frankly how are we supposed to take these warnings about social distance and being safe and staying home seriously from (Toronto Mayor John). Tory or anyone else when such obvious contradictions to what they are saying are happening in the workplace.”

Thurston attached a copy of a letter from Ann-Marie Nasr, director, parks development and capital projects, which says that “city-led PF&R (parks, forestry and recreation) construction work is essential, and should continue uninterrupted.

“As such, all parties providing services in support of the contract are deemed to be providing essential services, and it is the city’s expectation that these parties proceed in accordance with their expected agreements.”

“The city expects that contractors will continue abide by the terms and conditions of their contract(s) which includes adherence to contract schedules as approved by the city, having regard to the role of general contractors as the Constructor under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and any relevant instructions fro public health authorities or the Ministry of Labour.”

Nasr wrote a supplementary email to at least one OGCA member saying:

“Further to this letter we note that you should be in communication with your city project managers on your active PF&R contract to discuss project particulars and priorities as related to working under COVID-19 health and safety measures. Certain elements of the project may be delayed in order to ensure compliance with these measures.

“When actively working on project construction sites it is important that workers/staff are clearly identifiable as contractors. Also, please ensure a copy of the attached letter is kept at each construction site in the event that you are approached by enforcement officers. We ask that any such occurrences are communicated directly to your city project manager for our records.”

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