Re-Opening Economies and Easing Restrictions, Provinces Release Plans for a Post-Pandemic World

re-opening economy

As the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to drop, provinces will gradually allow some businesses and activities to resume. Photo: Image Source/Getty Images

As the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to fall in many parts of the country, provinces are beginning to look at ways to reboot their economies, which have been locked down since mid-March because of COVID-19.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he has begun working with the provincial and territorial leaders on “shared guidelines” for how the economic relaunch can begin.

On April 27, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Quebec Premier François Legault announced early plans for how life will return to normal. Ford cautioned, however, that his province’s newly unveiled guidelines for recovery were “a roadmap, not a calendar.” Ford is facing stiff pressure to get the province open for business, not only from big companies but also from people he called “yahoos,” who held a protest last week at Queen’s Park.

While the provinces put independent plans in place on how best to emerge from economic hibernation, they’ve all made commitments to follow the prime minister’s advice of adopting a gradual approach. “If we get this wrong, everything we have done, everything we have sacrificed these past weeks could be in vain,” said Trudeau.

One of the reasons for this slow approach is that there’s no guarantee there will be a healthy supply of protective equipment available to protect people as they return to the workplace.

“There’s going to be an increased need for personal protective equipment,” said Trudeau. “We know that the priority has also been to ensure there is enough PPE for our frontline workers and health-care workers. We’ve been working hard in recent weeks.”

“Everyone deserves to be safe on the job,” said Trudeau.

Each province will follow a different timeline for the re-opening of their economies based on a number of factors that apply to their specific regions. In order to begin even thinking about opening businesses and services, provincial health officials agree that there must be:

  • a consistent two- to four-week drop in new daily COVID-19 cases.
  • a decrease in cases not traced to a source (such as a long-term care facility.
  • a decrease in new hospitalizations.

While many premiers will release guidelines on how they will re-open their economies and ease public restrictions later this week, let’s look at those which have concrete plans in place.


“It feels like a lot more than 56 days since the first presumptive case of the novel coronavirus was reported here in Alberta on March 5,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at an April 30 news conference where he unveiled Opening Soon, Alberta’s plan to relaunch its economy. This three-pronged plan follows a gradual approach to allowing businesses and services to re-open, with public spacing and gathering restrictions in place.

Stage 1: Starting as early as May 14, the following businesses and services will be allowed to resume:

  • Retail businesses  – clothing, furniture and bookstores.
  • Cafés and restaurants (with no bar service), public seating at 50 per cent capacity.
  • Hairstyling and barbershops.
  • Museums and art galleries.
  • Daycares and out-of-school care with limits on occupancy and summer camps.

Stage 2: (Timing to be determined based on health indicators)

  • Schools: Kindergarten to Grade 12.
  • Libraries.
  • Personal cosmetic services (esthetics, manicures, pedicures, massage, etc).
  • Movie theatres.

Stage 3: (Timing to be determined based on health indicators)

  • Full re-opening of businesses and services with limited restrictions.
  • Arts and culture festivals, concerts and major sporting events will be permitted with enhanced protection controls in place.
  • Nightclubs, gyms, pools, recreation centres and arenas will reopen with enhanced protection controls in place.


Premier Scott Moe recently unveiled his province’s Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan, which will begin on May 4.

  • Phase One: Starting May 4, residents will have access to dentistry, optometry, physical therapy, occupational therapy and chiropractic treatments.
  • Phase Two: Starting May 19, some retail businesses and some personal services will be allowed to re-open.
  • Phase Three: (Date TBA) Restaurants, gyms, bars and child-care centres will be able to open (with capacity restrictions).
  • Phase Four: (Date TBA) Indoor and outdoor recreation and entertainment facilities will be allowed to open.
  • Phase five: (Date TBA) This will entail the lifting of all “long-term restrictions.”


Warning people that “this is not an announcement about a return to normal,” on April 29, Premier Brian Pallister unveiled Manitoba’s Pandemic and Economic Roadmap For Recovery. The two-stage plan includes:

  • Phase One: Beginning May 4, the following businesses and services will be allowed to re-open, with physical distance restrictions in place. This includes: non-urgent surgery and diagnostic procedures; therapeutic and health care services; retail businesses; restaurants (with patio/walk-up service); hairstylists and barbers; museums, galleries and libraries; outdoor recreation and campgrounds
  • Phase Two: Beginning no earlier than June 1, the province will allow expanded public gatherings; restaurants to offer dine-in services; film production; and non-contact children’s sports.


Despite saying “No one wants to open the economy more than I do” and “We’re going to light a fire under the economy,” Premier Ford’s recently announced economic re-launch strategy was frustratingly thin on detail. What we do know is that it will be a three-stage process.

  • Stage One: Businesses that can “immediately meet or modify operations” to fit current health guidelines will be allowed to re-open. Parks and public places will open to a “greater number of individuals.” Hospitals will begin offering non-urgent surgeries and other health-care services.
  • Stage Two: More workplaces and businesses (restaurants, offices and retail) will be allowed to re-open as well as some outdoor spaces. This stage will also see an increase in the allowable size of public gatherings.
  • Stage Three: All workplaces and outdoor spaces will re-open (although Ford was not confident that sporting events and concerts would be included).


Despite being the province hardest hit by COVID-19, Premier Legault announced on April 29 his ambitious plan for economic re-opening. Starting on May 4, the planned reboot should see about 450,000 people returning to work by the end of the month. Stores with exterior facing doors will be able to open to the public. On May 11, factories will start up again, with limitations on how many workers will be allowed on the floor at one time. The provincial Director of Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, noted that the Legault’s plan was a gamble. “We know it’s a risky bet. But we can’t eliminate this virus. It will circulate. The question is, ‘How do we balance everything?’ The economy, money, mental health.” Earlier in the week, the provinces said that schools outside of Montreal will open on May 11, with class sizes restricted to 15.

New Brunswick

After seven consecutive days of reporting no new cases of COVID-19, New Brunswick has begun loosening public restrictions. Premier Blaine Higgs recently announced his province’s four-phase plan to re-open businesses, schools, recreational activities and cultural events. This includes the following areas along with guidelines.

  • Households may now choose to spend time with one other household, if both households agree.
  • Golf courses and driving ranges can open if all physical distancing and safety measures are in place.
  • Recreational fishing and hunting are now open.
  • Outdoor spaces such as parks and beaches are open as long as physical distancing is practised.
  • Universities and colleges are open to students “requiring access to campus to fulfill their course requirements.”
  • Religious groups may now hold outdoor services if parishioners stay in their vehicles that are two metres apart.

Prince Edward Island

The province which has managed to avoid large-scale outbreaks of COVID-19, has begun turning its attention to getting life back to normal.“We will proceed with a gradual phased-in approach that will be constantly evaluated based on the best public health information that we have” said Premier Dennis King. Here is the province’s four-phase Renew PEI, Together plan:

  • Phase One: Starting May 1, residents will be allowed to go golfing, fishing, hunting, sailing, with restrictions on sizes of gatherings in place. Also, outdoor and construction workers will return to work.
  • Phase Two: By May 22, some businesses will be allowed to re-open.
  • Phase Three: By June 12, hospitality services, including restaurants, hotels and campgrounds will be allowed to open their doors to the public, with limit restrictions in place.
  • Phase Four: A three-week period that will see a gradual lifting of public health measures on individuals, communities and organizations.


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