Ontario, Quebec differ in what is an essential service in a coronavirus pandemic

“These measures are difficult, but also temporary,” said Quebec Prime Minister François Legault, who was seen here in October 2016, on Tuesday.

Jacques Boissinot / The Canadian Press

Wine, beer, and cannabis are still sold in Quebec and Ontario, but the vapers are out of luck.

Real estate agents, small hardware stores, and bicycle repair shops can continue to operate in Ontario, but not in Quebec.

The two largest Canadian provinces announced on Monday that non-essential companies should close to curb the spread of COVID-19.

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However, when the details in the lists of key provincial services were taken into account, questions emerged about the discrepancies between Ontario and Quebec, while companies that were not on the lists tried to justify the case that they were not closed should.

“These measures are difficult, but also temporary,” said Quebec Prime Minister François Legault on Tuesday.

Both he and Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford insisted that there would be fine-tuning. “This list can be customized. It’s an open list, ”said Ford.

Ontario’s list is more detailed and explicit than Quebec’s. National bank economist Stéfane Marion estimated that Quebec will close 10 percent more of its economy than Ontario.

“I hope you found a middle ground because it makes a big difference,” said Marion.

“If Quebec maintains its list, it will inevitably have a negative impact on Ontario as the two provinces are major trading partners.”

While some companies have been pressing for essential services to be added, workers have also called on the provinces to close more services to protect workers from possible exposure to the new corona virus.

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The Ontario Construction Consortium, which represents unionized workers, called for an immediate two-week closure of the workplaces. However, on Tuesday, Ford said that the province’s inspectors would ensure that the security protocols were followed.

How the lists were created underlined the complexity of society when the two governments said they wanted to protect the supply chains of the economy.

Mr. Legault said that, for example, aluminum factories that were originally ordered closed are taken into account. The prime minister had learned that minimal operation must be maintained for a quick restart once the shutdown is complete.

Mr. Ford said his government represented 100 people representing business associations and working groups.

Ontario’s liberal leader Steven Del Duca said the Ford government needed to explain why its list was broader than Quebec’s. “We have seen a number of companies that have been declared essential in Ontario and have not been declared essential in Quebec. It would be helpful to know why.”

Employees in liquor and cannabis retail stores pushed against their continued operations, saying they needed to be unnecessarily close to the public.

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The Canadian Addiction Counselors Certification Federation warned that closing liquor stores could lead to worse problems. “If you abruptly cut off access to alcohol, the emergency room is disrupted by alcohol withdrawal, which is incredibly serious and life-threatening.”

Quebec supermarkets and convenience stores, which are essential services, also sell beer and cheap wine. “I don’t want to see any mess in food to get some alcohol if we close it [liquor stores]”Said Mr. Legault.

Similarly, other choices, such as listing dry cleaners as essential services, may appear redundant, but are needed by people with disabilities, Ottawa sociologist Jihan Abbas said.

Dry cleaners are important for people with difficulty controlling their urinary system, said Dr. Abbas, instructor at the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University. “Something may not be essential to you, but it could be to someone else.”

The Canadian Vaping Association, meanwhile, has called for vape shops. “By restricting sales to e-commerce, the black market will flourish and unsafe products will come onto the market,” said Darryl Tempest, general manager of the association.

Rodrigue Escayola, who works as a condominium attorney at Gowling WLG, was relieved that Ontario’s list explicitly mentions property management companies, an indication of the fact that 1.6 million Ontarians live in condominiums overseen by 12,000 committees.

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With more people at home in their units, condominiums have to cope with the increased use of common elements, he said. “Keeping people in single-family homes in suburbs at home is very different from keeping people in condominiums at home.”

The Ontario list also mentions real estate and land registry and bike shops, while Quebec does not mention these companies.

Julie Saucier, president of the Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers, said her group wanted to convince the government that exclusion would have these effects on households who need to complete a property transaction.

Magali Bebronne, program manager at Vélo Québec, said her nonprofit group, which promotes bicycle use, has asked the government to add bicycle shops to the transportation services still in use. Using bicycles would reduce the crowds in public transportation, she said.

Some companies had to convince the legislator to call them essential. Steamatic’s executive director Nancy Raymond said her disaster-relief company has approached members of Quebec and Ontario legislation, reminding them that this is particularly necessary during the spring floods.

Quebec’s hardware store and log yard association wrote to the Legault government because the first list of essential services included large hardware stores, but not smaller retailers. “There are numerous villages in which only a small hardware store can respond to critical needs,” said association president Richard Darveau.

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“Look, we’re not the first level of essential service, but if your fuse blows or the toilet leaks, you’ll need to fix it,” said Serge Blain, owner of Beaubien Hardware in Montreal. Quebec relented and added all hardware stores late Tuesday.

With reports from Nicolas Van Praet and Laura Stone

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