A commitment to burden reduction and increased flexibility for licensees, while contributing to help stop the spread of COVID- 19
Throughout the 2020–2021 fiscal year, the AGCO continued its activities and services for the industries and sectors it regulates. It demonstrated a commitment to burden reduction and increased flexibility for licensees, while responding with speed and agility to protect lives and livelihoods of Ontarians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The AGCO created a web page, “Information to help AGCO licensees understand new Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework,” to highlight relevant information for licensees, including a regularly updated web page table outlining the implications of the Framework for AGCO-regulated industries and sectors. It also provided regular digital updates to licensees through the AGCO Blog.
Thanks to its multi-year transformative journey to become Better, Faster, Smarter, the AGCO was well positioned to lead change from within. As a result, it continued its compliance-monitoring, licensing, and registration activities, while continuing to respond to questions from the public.
It was able to respond quickly with measures to address rapidly evolving issues and meet the needs of AGCO licensees and registrants and the people of Ontario. This included:
- providing licence, authorization and registration extensions for liquor, gaming, horse racing and cannabis licensees and registrants
- providing consumers with access and choice to cannabis products, by extending measures for cannabis retail stores and permitting delivery and curbside pickup
- continuing to conduct virtual inspections of cannabis retail stores and increasing the number of legal stores in the province
- introducing new measures to support licensed restaurants, bars and cideries, and new public health measures regarding the sale and service of alcohol, Special Occasion Permits (SOPs), further extending the permitted sale hours for retail alcohol, free registrations for Smart Serve training, liquor sales with takeout and delivery, extension of outdoor bar and restaurant patios, and additional steps to support hospitality workers and businesses
- actively implementing several temporary rule amendments following a review of Ontario’s horse racing rules and regulations to ensure responsible measures were taken
- providing flexibility for charitable lotteries and Bingo Revenue Model licences, as well as expanded payment options for paper-based bingo facilities.
The AGCO also moved to protect its staff. Pre-pandemic management and technology reforms allowed most AGCO staff to immediately begin working remotely full-time and to avoid going into the office unless deemed necessary. Staff that had to attend the office or work in the field to complete necessary job functions did so with extensive controls put in place to mitigate the risks, including:
- quickly obtaining and deploying personal protective equipment and the required training to its field staff, to support them in carrying out their day-to-day functions in the field
- internally developing and deploying a COVID-19 screening application to confirm the health of employees planning to enter the office or field location
- launching a COVID-19 protocol document on the AGCO intranet with information about the virus, reporting illness, cleaning in the workplace and other best practices
- immediately transitioning all recruitment and onboarding processes to be conducted virtually
- installing touchless automatic door openers on high-traffic doors, and other facility safeguards at AGCO office locations.
Finally, as a Crown agency serving the people of Ontario, the AGCO joined the front lines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and used its regulatory tools to promote compliance with the government emergency orders. AGCO Compliance Officials were designated as Provincial Offences Officers under the Re-Opening Ontario Act and logged thousands of hours of training and preparation, participating in multi-Ministry enforcement inspections targeting high-risk areas and businesses in the province.