Written by Drew Broughton and Laura Inglis
As a response to the increasing risk that the COVID-19 virus poses to Albertans, on March 27, 2020, the Alberta Government made several announcements affecting business, workplace and facility closures, including the immediate closure of all "non-essential businesses". The Government also released a list of essential services in the province.
Unlike the similar mandatory closures of non-essential workplaces in Ontario, the Alberta Government has not provided for specific time that these measures are to commence, which presumably means they take immediate effect. Similarly, the Government has not indicated for how long these measures will be in place.
Essential Services in Alberta
A full list of essential services has been provided. In particular, the Alberta Government's list of essential services includes a detailed and expansive list of businesses in the "petroleum, natural gas, and coal" industry, such as petroleum product storage, pipeline, terminals, rail transport, road transport; petroleum drilling, extraction, production, servicing, processing, refining, terminal operations, transporting, and retail for use as end-use fuels or feedstocks for chemical manufacturing; and workers necessary for the manufacturing of necessary materials and products for energy.
The list of essential services in Alberta also specifies a number of agricultural and horticultural business that can remain open, such as services and business that farm, harvest, process, manufacture, produce or distribute food, and businesses in the food supply chain such as feed mills and grain elevators.
The Government has acknowledged that essential workplaces that are not restricted or ordered to close can have more than 15 workers on a work site provided that all public health guidelines are followed, including social distancing measures. The Government advises employers to:
- self-assess and find alternate ways to organize large group meetings;
- cancel workplace gatherings of 15 or more people in a single space (e.g., training events);
- employ mitigation strategies to limit risk; and
- continue business continuity planning to prepare critical operations for any potential interruption.
Furthermore, the Alberta Government announced that all dine-in services are prohibited, and that restaurants may only operate through take-out, delivery and drive-through services.
According to the Alberta Government, non-essential businesses include:
- gift, hobby, antique and specialty stores;
- non-essential health and beauty care providers;
- clothing stores that sell mens’, ladies’ and children’s wear as well as unisex, lingerie and maternity wear, shoes, bridal wear, jewellery and accessories; and
- retail stores that sell luggage, art and framing supplies, computers and gaming equipment, toys, photos, music, books, and sporting goods.
Note that non-essential business may choose to offer online shopping and curbside pick-up.
Lastly, the Alberta Government announced that Albertans are prohibited from accessing close contact personal services, such as personal services facilities, cosmetic enhancement services, wellness studios and clinics, non-emergency and non-critical health services. This also included non-emergency and non-critical health services provided by regulated health professionals or registered professionals, such as non-emergency or non-urgent dentistry, physiotherapy and massage.
What This Means for Alberta Businesses
We will provide further updates as they become available, and what it means for Alberta businesses. Members of our firm, including Bennett Jones Employment Services group and senior public policy advisors are available to answer questions you may have with respect to operating as an essential service and the closure of non-essential businesses in Alberta resulting from COVID-19. If your business is not on the list of essential workplaces, but you believe that it should be due to the nature of the business, Bennett Jones’ lawyers and senior public policy advisors can assist in making effective representations to the government.
Bennett Jones has written on the list of essential workplaces in Ontario under the province's COVID-19 emergency order. We have also provided an overview of mandatory closures and restrictions on business across Canada in response to the pandemic.
In addition, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Centre for other COVID-19-related materials.