GTHA leaders call for 'clear guidance' on Step 3 capacity limits

Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto's entertainment district.(The Canadian Press Images/Mario Beauregard)

Nearly a dozen leaders from the GTHA’s largest municipalities are calling on the Ford government to immediately provide “clear guidance” on what will be permitted under Step 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan.

Ontario is scheduled to enter the third and final step in its reopening plan as soon as July 20, allowing movie theatres, casinos and gyms to reopen while also permitting indoor dining for the first time in months.

Questions, however, remain about what the landscape will look like once Ontario advances to Step 3.

The government’s “Roadmap to Reopen” document suggests that larger indoor and outdoor social gatherings and organized public events will be permitted but it does not specifically say how many people will be allowed to attend those events at one time.

It also commits to allowing indoor attractions and cultural amenities as well as indoor sports but likewise does not provide any information about the capacity restrictions that those venues may face.

On Monday, the mayors and chairs from the 11 largest municipal governments in the GTHA met to discuss a number of issues, including the lack of clarity for businesses and cultural organizations as they await Step 3.

Following the meeting, they released a joint statement calling on the Ontario government to provide further details “as soon as possible.”

“Businesses, partners, teams, individual artists and venue operators are eager to know the rules and guidelines well ahead of Step 3 and the mayors and chairs are prepared to help the province implement these changes and ensure a seamless transition into the next phase when it is safe to do so. But the guidelines themselves, even in draft form, are needed on an urgent basis for planning purposes and we know the province understands the needs of these hard hit businesses and individuals,” the statement reads.

Ontario’s reopening plan included specific gathering limits for the first two steps as well as escalating capacity limits for businesses that were allowed to operate.

But the third and final step does not feature the same detail.

For example, it says that performing arts venues will be able to operate but with unspecified “spectator capacity and other restrictions.” It also says that there will be “capacity and other restrictions” for bars and restaurants serving customers indoors.

Speaking with reporters during a news conference on Monday morning Premier Doug Ford promised to provide further details on what is head over “the next three weeks.”

The GTHA leaders, however, say that they want clear guidance now.

“If you are planning a music concert which would be allowed under Step 3 perhaps with capacity limitations you have to know how many tickets you can sell. Otherwise you can’t book the musician without knowing how much money you will take in. Same with a theatre company. You are not going to start rehearsing a new theatre production if you don’t know how many tickets you can sell,” Toronto Mayor John Tory told CP24 earlier on Monday morning.

“So those guidelines are forthcoming from the province and they are very important to these cultural organizations, up to and including things like TIFF.”