Ontario government expands COVID-19 inspection blitz of big-box stores

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WATCH ABOVE: (Jan. 20) The Ontario government reported close to 250 stores were checked out as part of a big-box inspection blitz in the GTA and Hamilton area. The province’s labour minister called the results disappointing, so the province is ramping up efforts to boost compliance among businesses. Shallima Maharaj reports. – Jan 20, 2021

TORONTO — The Ontario government is expanding its “inspection blitz” of big-box stores to ensure they’re following COVID-19 guidelines this weekend.

The workplace inspections, which started in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas last weekend, will now stretch out to Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham regions.

Officials want to ensure workers and customers at the essential businesses are properly protected from COVID-19 during the provincewide shutdown.

Read more: Ontario labour minister says 25 tickets issued in big-box store blitz, 242 stores inspected

The blitz was developed in consultation with local health units and also includes a variety of other workplaces, including retail establishments and restaurants providing take-out meals.

The province’s labour ministry says more than 300 offences officers, as well as local public health inspectors and municipal bylaw officers, will conduct the inspections.

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Corporations can now be fined $1,000, and individuals can be fined $750 or charged for failing to comply with the orders.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton says the province is confident that the majority of workplaces in Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham are following orders.

“However, if we find that businesses are putting the safety of workers and customers at risk, our government will not hesitate to take immediate action,” McNaughton added in a statement Saturday.

“The only way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and end the provincewide shutdown is for everyone — owners, customers and staff alike — to follow the proper guidelines.”