COVID-19 changes in the works for landscapers, grass cutting: MPP

In this May 2018, file photo, a couple walks along the waterfront trail at the south end of Lamoureux Park in Cornwall, Ont. MPP Jim McDonell says the government is working behind the scenes on changing the rules around grass cutting and landscaping during the coronavirus pandemic. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

SD&G – As the grass begins to grow, so are discussions behind the scenes to relax some coronavirus provincial orders that forbid landscaping and professional grass cutting.

MPP Jim McDonell told a teleconference with local business stakeholders Thursday night that there is work behind the scenes on changing this.

“There is a realization that landscaping has a place. Likely, in a lot of cases, can be done by providing social distancing. Talking to Dr. Paul (Roumeliotis) today, we’re going to bring this back to the premier’s office about opening it up,” McDonell said.

“There will be something that will be coming very quickly” – possibly in a couple of weeks with warmer weather.

Local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis says he is lobbying the provincial government to ease the rules on landscaping and professional grass cutting.

“I have had a lot of requests from others and I actually got a legal opinion and technically, landscapers do not fall under the essential category,” Roumeliotis said.

He says any changes will be about balancing public safety but also allowing people to make a living. “For example, two people drive separately, do their work, leave, don’t go into the home. I think we should start looking at those or at least a next step, how we widen the restrictions.”

Roumeliotis, who sits on the Ontario Public Health Measures Table, says the group will be asking the provincial government to add community gardens as an essential service.

As for the City of Cornwall cutting grass in city parks, Mayor Bernadette Clement says the law is “not clear” for them. “The common sense approach would be more about making sure we’re keeping things under control for safety reasons around ticks. The other thing though is we’re not encouraging people to do too much activity in parks,” she said on Facebook Live Thursday night.

Clement says they are “in talks with the province” and MPP McDonell.