Ontario's proof of vaccination requirement could eventually be made voluntary for businesses: sources

Ontario's proof of vaccination requirements could eventually be downgraded to a voluntary program, as the provincial government considers a new set of measures to ease businesses out of pandemic restrictions.

Sources with knowledge of the plan say the Ford government is working on a post-Step three strategy that will lift capacity limits on businesses where vaccine certificates are required — a plan that will be announced next week.

As part of that “phased approach” sources say the government is looking at potentially relaxing mandatory proof of vaccination rules, as long as the province’s pandemic picture continues to improve.

“[We are] looking as possibly getting to a point where vaccine certificates won’t be mandatory anymore,” a source with knowledge of the plan said.

While there is no timeline to implement that phase of the plan, the source added the vaccine certificate program would still be voluntary.

Premier Ford is expected to speak this Friday, one week ahead of the implementation of the provincial proof-of-vaccination QR code, on Ontario exiting Step 3.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said he expects Ontario to carry out a “phased removal” of vaccine certificates when the time is right.

“We may not require them in some venues but still require them in mass gatherings,” Moore said. “We do not see the whole certification process ending suddenly, but having a phased exit from it over time.”

Moore said the gradual removal of public health measures “has done us well in Ontario all along” and he wants to continue doing so.

He also said that restrictions in Ontario won’t be eased until he can determine the impact of Thanksgiving weekend on the province’s COVID-19 situation.

Ontario has been in Step 3 of the "Roadmap to Reopen" since July. The province held off on exiting Step 3 due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in August.

Exiting Step 3 of the roadmap will likely mean capacity limits are increased in many settings but details of what restrictions will be eased have not been confirmed.

Indoor masking requirements will remain in place, the sources said.

In an earlier statement to CTV News Toronto on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health said Ontario has one of the lowest rates of active COVID-19 cases in the country.

"We're now able to look at what public health measures we may be able to lift while maintaining our cautious approach," a ministry spokesperson said.

NEW: Ontario’s proof of vaccination requirements could eventually be downgraded to a voluntary program, as the provincial government considers a new set of measures to ease businesses out of pandemic restrictions.

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— Colin D'Mello CTVNews (@ColinDMello) October 14, 2021

On Wednesday night CTV News Toronto contacted Ford's office but did not receive a response.

On Saturday, Ontario lifted capacity restrictions for certain large venues, including those used for concerts, sports and movies.

The Toronto Maple Leafs held their home opener on Wednesday in front of a near full-capacity crowd.

Speaking with CP24 Wednesday evening, Toronto’s medical officer of health said the return of the Leafs offers a "much needed boost" for many in the city and that health restrictions should mean the venue remains safe.

She added that there are "active discussions" underway about whether capacity restrictions could be loosened in other areas.

The restaurant industry, which is still limited to a 50 per cent capacity limit, expressed its frustration this week with the provincial government because no plan was released to ease restrictions on their businesses.

With files from CTV Toronto's Sean Davidson.