Most Provinces Announce Strategies to Reopen Economy – Updated May 13/20

Although no specific timetables have been established, with a few exceptions, most provinces have begun to outline what the reopening of the economy will look like, when the time comes. 


On April 27, 2020, the Ontario Government unveiled A Framework for Reopening the Province (available here) – a three-stage plan to gradually reopen the economy following several weeks of shutdown due to COVID-19.  As proposed, the three-stage plan would see a gradual loosening of restrictions, with 2-4 week assessment periods to consider the daily impact on new COVID-19 cases.  Highlights of the plan:

Stage 1

  • Allowing select businesses that are able to immediately meet or modify operations to meet public health guidance and occupational health and safety requirements (eg. curbside pick-up or delivery);
  • Allowing some outdoor spaces, like parks, to open, and allow for a greater number of individuals to attend certain types of events, like funerals; and
  • Allowing for hospitals to offer some non-urgent and scheduled surgeries, and other health care services.

Stage 2

  • Opening more business based on risk assessments, including the possibility of opening some service industries, offices and retail workplaces; and
  • Opening more outdoor spaces, and allowing some larger public gatherings.

Stage 3

  • Opening all workplaces;
  • Further relaxing restrictions on public gatherings, which still restricting large public gatherings – such as concerts and sporting events – for the foreseeable future.

Underscoring all of these stages is the need to continue to protect vulnerable populations and the requirement to continue practices of physical/social distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene.

In order to be considered a “safe workplace”, it is expected that the workplace have a plan that promotes and adheres to strict hygiene and sanitation standards, and provides for physical/social distancing to the extent possible.  This may require adjusting both work practices and physical environments.  The Province has also released workplace safety guidelines, discussed in more detail in our recent In a Flash Ontario Announces Safety Guidelines for Employers for the Gradual Re-Opening of the Economy.

On May 1, 2020, Ontario announced that certain businesses and workplaces will be permitted to reopen as long as they comply with strict public health measures and they operate safely, including

  • Certain essential construction projects
  • Garden centres and nurseries (curbside pickup and delivery only)
  • Lawn care and landscaping
  • Automatic and self-serve car washes
  • Auto dealerships (by appointment only)

Golf courses and marinas will also be allowed to prepare for the season, but are not yet permitted to open to the public.  More details about this announcement are available in our recent In a Flash Ontario Allows Reopening of Certain Essential Construction Projects and Other Businesses, Starting May 4, 2020.

British Columbia

On May 6, 2020, the Government of British Columbia announced a four phase plan for re-opening the province.  The plan is somewhat unique in comparison to other provincial re-opening plans, as only a small number of sectors in British Columbia were closed by public health order.

British Columbia is currently in Phase 1 of the restart plan.  Phase 2 is set to begin in mid-May and will include:

  • small social gatherings;
  • a resumption of elective surgeries and regulated health services like physiotherapy, dentistry, chiropractors and in-person counselling;
  • provincial parks open for day use. Most provincial parks will reopen May 14, and on June 1, many remaining facilities including campgrounds will reopen;
  • opening more non-essential businesses in keeping with safe operations plans; and
  • recalling the provincial legislature for regular sittings.

Sectors that were previously ordered closed will be asked to work with WorkSafeBC to develop plans to reopen safely and in compliance with public health orders. WorkSafeBC is developing industry-specific guidance to help employers bring workers and customers back safely.

Any business restarting operations must ensure it is in compliance with the provincial health officer’s orders and all applicable occupational health and safety guidance provided by WorkSafeBC.

Phase 3 will include the opening of additional businesses and services. The target date for this phase is between June and September 2020, which is dependent on transmission rates remaining low or in decline.

Phase 4 will only be achieved once the threat of COVID-19 has been significantly diminished through widespread vaccination, broad successful treatment, evidence of community immunity, or the equivalent.


On April 30, 2020, the Government of Alberta announced its Relaunch Strategy in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consistent with other provinces, Alberta has adopted a staged approach to reopening businesses and services. The approach involves three stages, with the first proceeding on May 14.

The Cities of Calgary and Brooks will open more gradually due to higher infection rates. Residents are encouraged to wait for local services to reopen rather than travelling for services in other areas of Alberta.

The Relaunch Strategy prioritized the resumption of certain health services and access to certain outdoor activities on an immediate basis. On or before May 14, the following activities were permitted to resume:

  • Certain scheduled, non-urgent surgeries resumed and restrictions on certain health service providers, such as dentists and physiotherapists, were lifted;
  • The Public was granted vehicle access to parking lots, staging areas, and certain boat launches in provincial parks and on public lands;
  • The Alberta Parks’ online reservation system became available May 14 to book site visits starting June 1. At this time, reservations made out of province will not be processed; and
  • Golf courses were permitted to open, with clubhouses and pro shops to open in accordance with the restrictions and timelines set out in Stage One.  

Stage One

  • Begins on May 14, with exceptions for the Cities of Calgary and Brooks;
  • Limited reopening of certain businesses including, for example, retail business (e.g. clothing), some personal services (e.g. hairstyling and barber shops), daycares and summer camps (with limits on occupancy), and restaurants (limited to table service at 50% capacity). Specific exceptions for the Cities of Calgary and Brooks apply;
  • Reopening of personal services (e.g. hairstyling and barber shops) as well as restaurants, cafes and bars (limited to table service at 50% capacity) will be postponed in the Cities of Calgary and Brooks until May 25. Day camps (including summer school) in these Cities will also not be reopened until June 1; and
  • In-school classes for K to 12 students will not be resumed and gatherings of more than 15 people will continue to be prohibited.

Stage Two

  • Timing will depend on the success of Stage One;
  • Additional businesses will be allowed to resume operations with physical distancing requirements and other public health guidelines in place. Restaurants, cafés, lounges and bars continuing to operate at reduced capacity; and
  • This stage contemplates gatherings in excess of 15 people and the potential for K to 12 in‑school classes to resume (with restrictions). Mass gatherings, such as major sporting events or concerts, will continue to be prohibited.

Stage Three

  • Timing will depend on the success of the earlier stages; and
  • Will involve fully reopening all businesses, services and the resumption of mass gatherings (e.g. festivals, concerts, sporting events, industry conferences, nightclubs, gyms, pools and recreation centres) with some restrictions.

The Government of Alberta has been clear that progressing through the different stages of the Relaunch Strategy is conditional on keeping infection rates within the capacity of the healthcare system. During each stage of the relaunch, hygiene practices and physical distancing requirements will continue to apply.


On April 23, 2020, Saskatchewan announced the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan (available here), a five-phase plan designed to gradually and cautiously re-open businesses and services across the province.

Phase 1

Set to begin on May 4, 2020, with the reopening of:

  • Medical services, such as dentists, optometrists, physical therapy, opticians, podiatrists and chiropractors, among others;
  • Low-risk outdoor recreational activities, such as fishing, boating, golf courses and campgrounds (starting May 15, 2020);
  • Retails stores and salon services (starting May 19, 2020); and
  • Public and private gatherings to remain limited to a maximum of 10 people.

Phase 2

Expected to begin May 19, 2020, certain retail businesses and select personal services will reopen, under certain conditions.

The expected dates for the implementation of further phases of reopening in Saskatchewan have not yet been determined, but are expected to include:

Phase 3

  • Remaining personal services, restaurants, gyms and fitness facilities, licensed establishments and childcare facilities
  • Facility capacity limits at 50% of regular capacity
  • Increasing maximum size of public and private gatherings to 15 people
  • Physical distancing practices and guidelines to remain in effect

Phase 4

  • Indoor and outdoor recreation and entertainment facilities
  • Increasing maximum size of public and private gatherings to 30 people
  • Physical distancing practices and guidelines to remain in effect

Phase 5

Lifting long-term restrictions, which presently include:

  • Provincial state of emergency
  • Recommendations against non-essential travel
  • Mandatory 14-day self-isolation period following international travel, exposure or positive COVID-19 test
  • Visitor restrictions in long-term care homes, hospitals, personal care homes and group homes
  • School closures
  • Large public gatherings


On April 24, 2020, the Premier of Manitoba announced that the province is expected to be announcing plans this week on how it plans to reopen non-essential businesses.


Quebec has announced a detailed plan for the resumption of activities across the province (details available here).  The reopening plan in Quebec is structured around:

  • Withdrawal of checkpoints in the regions, beginning May 4 2020
  • Reopening of economic activities, to occur in phases as approved by public health authorities, beginning on May 4 2020
  • Preschools, elementary schools and secondary schools, beginning May 11 2020
  • Educational childcare services, beginning May 11 2020

New Brunswick

On April 24, 2020, New Brunswick announced the loosening some of its physical/social distancing measures after seven straight days with no new cases of COVID-19, including:

  • Parks, beaches and golf courses
  • Universities and colleges are able to open parts of campuses under certain conditions
  • Religious services, provided they are outside, with physical distancing measures in place

Presently, large gatherings (such as festivals and concerts) are prohibited in New Brunswick through to the end of the year, but that is subject to change.

The province’s plan to re-open businesses, educational facilities, the health care system recreational activities and cultural events in New Brunswick are to be guided by four distinct public health alert levels:

  • Red –Aimed at flattening the curve and containing the virus
  • Orange – Creating balance between reopening and preventing resurgence of transmission of virus
  • Yellow – Further increase reopening of social and economic settings after ability to control transmission has been demonstrated
  • Green – Likely comes after vaccine is available and/or sufficient information is available about how to protect people from the virus

More information about New Brunswick’s Recovery Plan can be found here.

On May 8, 2020, the province moved into Phase 2 – Orange level of its re-opening plan. Phase 2 re-openings and activities include:

  • Elective surgeries and other non-emergency health services, including dental, physiotherapy, optometry and massage therapy;
  • Outdoor public gatherings, with physical distancing, of 10 or fewer people;
  • Indoor public gatherings, with physical distancing, of 10 or fewer people for in-person religious services, weddings and funerals;
  • All in-person programs at post-secondary institutions, subject to the COVID-19 directives from Public Health with virtual education options continued wherever possible;
  • Cultural venues such as museums, galleries and libraries;
  • Offices not deemed essential during the initial phase;
  • Retail establishments, including malls;
  • Restaurants;
  • Campgrounds and outdoor recreational activities, such as zoos and outfitters;
  • Early learning and child care centres regulated by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will be permitted to reopen as of May 19, 2020;
  • Non-regulated child care providers may open as of today but must adhere to Public Health guidelines, including having an operational plan;
  • Day camps, if the organization can adhere to Public Health measures set out in the document called COVID-19 Recovery Phase: Guidance to Early Learning and Childcare Facilities and Day Camps.
  • ATV trails across the province.

As New Brunswick moves into Phase 3- Yellow level of its re-opening plan, effective May 22, 2020, non-regulated health professionals and businesses may open as well as personal services establishments such as barbers, hairstylists, spas, estheticians and tattoo artists.

On May 29, 2020, outdoor public gatherings of 50 people or less will be permitted with physical distancing as will religious services and funerals with 50 people or less, elective surgeries and non-emergency health care services will be increased and low-contact team sports will be permitted so long as steps are taken to limit the number and intensity of contact. Pools, saunas, gyms, yoga studios, dance studios, rinks, indoor recreational centres and bowling alleys will be permitted to reopen. On June 19, 2020 overnight camps will be allowed to open.

Face masks must be worn in public if physical distancing cannot be maintained and businesses must prepare an operational plan that can be provided to officials if requested. Details on operational plans can be found here.

On May 27, 2020, Zone 5 (Campbellton Region) transitioned back to Phase 2- Orange as a result of 3 recent, travel-related cases of COVID-19 in that area.

Prince Edward Island

On April 28, 2020, the Government of Prince Edward Island announced Renew PEI, Together (available here) – PEI’s plan to re-open businesses, services and public spaces. The plan implements a progressive approach to lifting restrictions in four separate phases over three-week periods. Progression through the stages will be evaluated based on public health information and progression will be slowed, halted or reversed depending on public health concerns. Organizations and businesses will not be required to re-open at the initiation of the relevant phase and may choose to continue operations in a manner and timeline with which they are comfortable.

Phase 1

  • Begins May 1, 2020
  • Non-contact outdoor recreational activities and limited outdoor gatherings will be permitted, such as walking, hiking, recreational fishing and golfing
  • Gatherings will be limited to no more than 5 people from different households, physical distancing must be maintained and there should be no sharing of items
  • Certain outdoor and construction services such as landscaping, outdoor construction, new construction and pool maintenance may also re-open to provide services to the public
  • Priority public services and priority non-urgent health services, including certain elective surgeries and other screening and supports, as well as health service providers (physiotherapist, optometrists, opticians, chiropractors, foot care providers, occupational therapists and naturopaths) may resume operations

Phase 2

  • Scheduled to begin May 22, 2020
  • Indoor gatherings of no more than 5 people, non-contact indoor recreational activities and outdoor gatherings of no more than 10 people from different households will be permitted while maintaining physical distancing and no sharing of items
  • Select retail and indoor service providers such as retail stores (no trying on clothing in store), construction, maintenance and repair services, cleaning and restoration, extermination services, car washes, bottle depots, hairstylists, barbers and pet grooming may resume operation, but will be required to take every reasonable steps to minimize interaction and maintain physical distancing

All unlicensed and licensed child care providers may re-open and additional non-urgent health care services such as additional elective surgeries, registered massage therapists, acupuncturists and acupressurists may resume operations

Phase 3

  • Targeted to begin June 12, 2020
  • Indoor gatherings of no more than 15 people, and outdoor gatherings of no more than 20 people may be permitted with physical distancing being maintained and sharing of items when necessary and with some precautions
  • Organized recreational activities and facilities such as organized sports, pools, arenas, gyms, yoga studios, as well as public spaces such as libraries and art galleries may be permitted to re-open
  • Personal services, indoor dinning and accommodations for PEI residents only, such as nail salons, tattoo and piercing studios, campgrounds, inns, bed and breakfasts may also re-open
  • Restrictions on indoor dining will prohibit the use of recreational spaces (for example, dance floors, VLTs and pool tables), buffet style serving and the sharing of utensils, and only members of the same household will be permitted to dine together
  • Health care and public services will also progress to further, non-urgent services

Home-based learning with some limited activities will continue throughout all three phases, as will visitor restrictions for long-term care facilities and traveller screening and self-isolation requirements.

Phase 4

The fourth phase will begin on a date to be determined and will be the new “normal”. Specifics regarding this phase will be determined at a later date.

Prince Edward Island businesses are also required to have an operational plan to address public health measures. An operational plan template can be found here.

Nova Scotia

On May 1, 2020, Nova Scotia announced the first steps in lifting some of the public health restrictions. As of 3:00pm AST May 1, 2020, the following steps have been taken:

  • Provincial and municipal parks, including sports fields and school grounds can reopen, with the exception of beaches within provincial parks and playgrounds;
  • Trails are now open;
  • Community gardens can reopen;
  • Private campgrounds are open for recreational vehicles parked year-round only and both provincial and private campgrounds are permitted to open to perform necessary maintenance;
  • Cottages can be used but not rented, travel back and forth must be direct and frequent travel between cottage and primary residence is discouraged;
  • Sport fishing is now permitted from shore or a boat, with the exception of fishing derbies;
  • Boating, yacht and sailing clubs can open to allow individuals to prepare boats for use;
  • Driving ranges can open, including those at golf courses and golf courses can open to perform necessary maintenance;
  • Drive-in religious services are permitted so long as individuals remain in their cars, cars are parked 2m apart and there are no interactions; and
  • Garden centres, nurseries and similar businesses can reopen.
  • Archery, equestrianism, golf, paddling, sailing/boating and tennis can resume at outdoor facilities provided that physical distancing, environmental cleaning and participant hygiene can be maintained, but organized coaching, training and competitions are not permitted.

On May 27, 2020 further plans were announced to reopen the province. Effective June 5, 2020, the following will be permitted:

  • Restaurants can open for dine-in, as well as takeout and delivery;
  • Bars, wineries, distilleries and taprooms can reopen;
  • Personal services, such as hair salons and barber shops, spas, nail salons and body art establishments can reopen;
  • Fitness facilities can reopen;
  • Veterinary services can resume;
  • Dentistry and other self-regulated health professions such as optometry, chiropractic and physiotherapy can resume operations so long as they follow the protocols set out by their colleges and associations as approved by public health; and
  • Unregulated health professions such as massage therapy, podiatry and naturopathy can resume operations so long as they follow the protocols set out by their colleges and associations as approved by public health.

Businesses must follow public health protocols related to their respective sectors, including physical distancing, increased cleaning and other protective measures for staff and customers. Details of all sector-specific plans are not yet available to the public, but information regarding those that have been released can be found here and guidance from the government can be found here.

Nova Scotia hopes to reopen the childcare sector June 15, 2020.

Newfoundland & Labrador

On April 30, 2020, Newfoundland and Labrador announced a plan to reopen the economy, following a “five alert” system, beginning at Alert Level 5 (details available here).  The intention is to gradually move up and down through the alert levels, as needed, with continued monitoring of COVID-19 within the community. 

Alert Level 5

  • The public is encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, except to get essentials like groceries and medications
  • Limit contact with others to those within immediate household bubble
  • Prohibition on public gatherings of more than 5 people
  • Funerals, wakes and visitations prohibited
  • Burials and weddings are limited to 5 people, including the officiant
  • Campgrounds, playgrounds, gyms, fitness centres and dance studios are closed
  • Independent outdoor recreational activities are encouraged so long as physical/social distancing can be maintained
  • Private health care clinics are closed, except physicians and nurse practitioners
  • Urgent and emergent care is allowed, along with virtual options for non-urgent care
  • Restrictions in place on health care visitations
  • Orders in place for long term care, personal care homes, and assisted living
  • Retails stores not providing services essential to life, health or personal safety are closed for in-person service; delivery and curbside pickup are permitted
  • Restaurants are closed for in-person dining; take-out, delivery and drive-thru are permitted
  • Bars, lounges, cinemas and personal service establishments are closed

On May 11, 2020, Newfoundland & Labrador moved to Alert Level 4.

Alert Level 4 – Current level

  • Household bubble can be expanded to include one other household (effective Apr 30 2020)
  • Public gatherings expanded to 10 people as long as physical/social distancing can be maintained
  • Gatherings at funerals, burials and weddings expanded to 10 people
  • Visitations and wakes prohibited
  • Recreational angling, hunting and golfing will be permitted, with restrictions
  • Municipal parks (excluding playground equipment) will be allowed to open
  • Regional health authorities will begin to allow some health care services to resume
  • Some daycare operations will be expanded
  • Professional services, such as accounting firms, law firms and financial services, will be allowed to offer in-person services
  • In-person worker and workplace safety training will be permitting
  • Gardening centres can open for in-person sales and service
  • Landscaping, lawn care and animal daycares can resume operations

The focus of Alert Level 4 is to begin to relax public health measures to allow for more social and business activities, while minimizing the risk of outbreaks.  It will take at least 28 days at Alert Level 4 to determine whether it is safe to move to Alert Level 3.

Alert Level 3

  • Household bubble can expand beyond 2 households (details to be provided)
  • Public gatherings expanded to 20 people as long as physical/social distancing can be maintained
  • Gatherings at funerals, burials and weddings expanded to 20 people
  • Visitations and wakes prohibited
  • Campgrounds and summer day camps allowed to reopen for day use
  • Medium-risk outdoor recreational activities (eg. team field sports) can resume, with spectators maintaining physical distancing
  • Outdoor pools can operate, within limits
  • Private health care clinics can reopen
  • Regional health authorities will allow resumption of some health care services
  • Retail stores and shopping malls can reopen, with restrictions
  • Scratch and break open lottery tickets can be sold in store
  • Personal service establishments (eg. spas, esthetic services, hair salons, body piercing, tattooing and tanning salons) and animal grooming facilities can reopen, with guidelines
  • Further expansion of daycare operations
  • Restaurants (excluding bars and lounges) can reopen at reduced occupancy levels; buffets remain prohibited

Alert Level 2

  • Increased individual mobility permitted
  • Further expansion of public gatherings anticipated (details to be provided)
  • Places of worship permitted to resume operations, with restrictions
  • Gyms, fitness facilities, arenas, and indoor pools can reopen, with restrictions
  • Overnight camping permitted, with restrictions
  • Playground equipment can be used
  • Regional health authorities will allow resumption of some health care services
  • Bars and lounges can reopen, with reduced occupancy
  • Indoor entertainment facilities (eg. bingo halls, cinemas) can reopen, with reduced occupancy
  • Reopening of performance spaces to be determined

Alert Level 1

Identified as “the new normal”, consideration of lifting long-term public health restrictions at Alert Level 1 will depend on:

  • Evaluation of transmission patterns of COVID-19;
  • Availability of an effective vaccine and/or treatment; and
  • A strong public health system.


The Yukon is in the process of formulating a reopening strategy.  A precise date for its release has not yet been set.  More details are available here.

Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories is in the process of planning for the gradual and safe emergency from their current public health restrictions (see remarks from Chief Public Health Officer, available here).  More specific details have not yet been announced.


Nunavut has announced that it will not commence with reopening until three conditions have been met (details available here):

  • In-territory diagnostic capacity is achieved;
  • There is a significant indication that rates of COVID-19 are decreasing in Southern jurisdictions of Nunavut; and
  • There needs to remain no active cases of COVID-19 in the Territory.

If you have any questions about this topic, other COVID-19 related questions, or would like assistance with developing and/or reviewing pandemic plans, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer, or refer to the Firm’s other COVID-19 website resources.

Print article

More insights

COVID-19 Employer Update Webinars

Our complimentary webinars address the practical and legal issues for Canadian employers arising from the current outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.

View our Webinars