OTTAWA -- Ottawa's big box retailers will receive a visit from provincial inspectors this weekend.

The Ontario government says its workplace inspection campaign to protect workers and customers at essential businesses will expand across Ontario, including visits to stores in Ottawa.

"We're going into all types of big box stores in Ottawa and area this weekend, including the Costco's, the Walmart's, the big box grocery store chains," said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development.

"To ensure that health and safety protocols are being followed. They know the rules."

Under Ontario's lockdown measures, discount and big box retailers are allowed to open for in-person sales if they meet the following conditions:

  • Sell groceries to the public
  • Limit the number of persons occupying any room that is open to the public in the business to not exceed 25 per cent capacity of the particular room
  • Curbside pick-up and delivery permitted

On Friday, shoppers described different experiences at Ottawa stores while picking up items.

"I think that they're doing the best they can given the circumstances. There were a couple of instances where I think I would've implemented more supervision," said one shopper.

"The lines aren't as bad as they used to be, so I felt quite safe in there," said another shopper.

The big box blitz in Ottawa this weekend follows a blitz last weekend in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

"Last Saturday and Sunday, we sent a team of just over 50 provincial inspectors into 242 big box stores; so these are the Walmart's, the Costco's, the big grocery store chains in Toronto and Hamilton. The compliance rate was 69 per cent, which I was quite disappointed in," said McNaughton, during an interview on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.

"So we decided to do a big box blitz province-wide, including in Ottawa this weekend."

Seventy-six businesses were found violating safety measures in the Toronto and Hamilton Area last weekend.

"Our inspectors were focusing really on ensuring that they were at the 25 per cent capacity limit that the big box stores must adhere by during this lockdown period," McNaughton said.

"They found the three major infractions included masking and masking protocols, pre-screening of customers and staff going into big box stores and physical distancing issues."

More than 300 officers are supporting the blitzes across Ontario, and will be visiting workplaces allowed to open during the Ontario COVID-19 lockdown, including:

  • Retail establishments, including big-box stores
  • Restaurants providing take-out meals
  • Essential service-sector establishments (such as gas stations)
  • Farming operations

Corporations can be fined $1,000 for failing to comply with the orders under the Ontario Reopening Act and the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

The government has conducted more than 34,000 workplace inspections since the start of the pandemic.

"I do just want to say, most businesses overwhelming have done a great job during the pandemic," said McNaughton.

"But we're really focused on those ones that could be doing better and should be essentially pulling up their socks and doing more."