big box stores

Doug Ford defends decision to keep big box stores open

People in Toronto and Peel have rightfully been pretty angry and confused that big box retailers such as Walmart have been permitted to remain open selling non-essential goods while countless small businesses are facing the prospect of permanent closure due to the losses they've suffered in lockdown this year.

After banning in-person shopping at non-essential retailers in the two hotspot regions yet again last month, Ontario Premier Doug Ford admitted that the new grey zone-level restrictions are indeed very unfair to independent shops during what would usually be their peak time of year.

Though the provincial government considered the option of cordoning off shelves of non-essential items available in big box stores that are only intended to be open to sell essentials like groceries, Ford and his team have ultimately decided against the dramatic move.

Manitoba controversially implemented a rule prohibiting the sale of non-essential goods at such outlets in the hopes that, though it seems absolutely absurd and dystopian, it would reduce infection spread and also help shuttered businesses by preventing direct competition with big chains.

The idea is to reduce large superstores to grocery store and pharmacy functions only, so people don't end up buying extraneous items that they could be instead purchasing from other retailers online for delivery or curbside pickup.

But, it's this "one stop shop" idea of big box stores that Ford actually supports, because it means citizens are only making one trip for a slew of things and coming into contact with fewer people, rather than gallivanting around the region to multiple locations when they should be staying home.

"What the health table's trying to do is limit the amount of visits that you're making out there. If you're going to one of the big box retailers, it's kind of a one-stop shop — I know it's not fair, believe me, I know it's not fair — but it really limits people from going out and making four, five, six stops on the way home to pick stuff up," Ford explained during his daily press conference on Wednesday.

He encouraged people advocating on behalf of local businesses to put their dollars where their mouths are and support their favourite small-time stores by purchasing from them online or calling them up for a curbside pickup or delivery order, reiterating that asking retailers to block off non-essential commodities from the public is not going to happen here in Ontario.

"I'm not going to get deep into the supply chain stuff but it just doesn't work that easily," the premier said of trying to limit the sale of non-essential items in the Dollaramas and Costcos of the locked down regions.

"It's just not realistic."

Health Minister Christine Elliott likewise added that officials hope that residents are only shopping at bigger retailers for necessary goods, and not items that they could get from their local independents.

"We're really asking people to please support your small businesses. Don't order everything from Amazon and some of the other big organizations; order from your local businesses in your communities if you're in lockdown and that will help them get through this as well."

Unfortunately for stores who are just a week and a half into their 28-day forced closure — which many say is likely to be extended — Ford and Elliott made it apparent that pleas to be permitted to expand operations to very careful and measured in-person service are also not being considered right now.

Lead photo by

Wayne Barnes/Google

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