ontario small business

Small businesses call for lockdown alternatives as shutdown looms in Ontario

Just hours before Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce a four-week shutdown in Ontario in light of rising cases of COVID-19 and ICU admissions, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is calling on the provincial government to introduce lockdown alternatives and increased financial support for small businesses. 

According to the CFIB, the first two shutdowns in Ontario resulted in one in six small businesses considering permanent closure and left an estimated 74,000 closed for good.

"It is unconscionable that over a year into the pandemic governments continue to rely almost exclusively on blanket lockdowns," said CFIB President Dan Kelly in a statement. "CFIB urges governments to now make use of the other tools at their disposal."

The federation instead recommends making widespread use of rapid tests, renewed contact tracing efforts and expedited vaccine rollouts as alternatives to closing small businesses that are already struggling.

The CFIB also says an internal survey found that two thirds of small businesses in Canada would consider using COVID-19 rapid tests to remain open.

"Small businesses are tired of being a scapegoat for governments' lack of planning or foresight," Kelly said.

"Too often businesses are closed to send a message to the public to stay home while there is scant evidence that shopping at a local store, getting a haircut or having dinner with the family is a real danger to public health."

According to early reports, the new shutdown in Ontario will see gyms and personal care services remain closed across the province, and restaurants will only be able to offer takeout and delivery.

Small retail stores will be able to operate at 25 per cent capacity and big box stores, will reportedly remain open with capacity limits of 50 per cent in place. 

The association representing small and medium-sized businesses across Canada is urging all other provinces to reject Ontario's approach of prioritizing big box stores. 

The CFIB also says it's concerning that provinces across the country have closed grant applications this week as new lockdowns loom, stating that Canadian small businesses have taken on $170,000 in COVID-19-related debt on average.

Three quarters of these businesses report that it will take more than a year to pay off, according to the CFIB.

"More than 70 per cent of small businesses across Canada report that government supports are essential to their survival," Kelly said.

"Lockdowns do not stop bills from coming in. We urge governments to extend their application deadlines, broaden eligibility and increase payments to recognize the impact new and prolonged lockdowns and restrictions are having on local businesses."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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