stay at home order

Shoppers crammed Toronto Costco stores on first weekend of stay-at-home order

Toronto's first weekend under the province's new stay-at-home order saw many of the city's Costco stores overflowing with shoppers, leading some to question the effectiveness of the province's most recent public health measures.

The Costco location in Thorncliffe Park, for example, was buzzing with people on Sunday afternoon, with tons of shoppers lined up outside the store awaiting their chance to purchase food, essentials, and all other products currently only available at big box stores in Ontario. 

Many Ontario residents are now calling on the government to mandate that big box stores such as Costco and Walmart block off all non-essential items, as other provinces including Quebec have already done, since all other independent retail stores that are considered non-essential were ordered to shut down completely amid the lockdown

Some experts argue that allowing these outlets to continue selling items like clothes, appliances, and other non-essential goods encourages shoppers to flock to stores to purchase things other than food and medicine, and they say it also provides an unfair advantage to big box stores over independent retailers. 

And when Ford announced a list of new restrictions last week along with the stay-at-home order, he also introduced stricter retail hours for all those small retailers that remain in operation while exempting "stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery."

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), said this further disadvantages small businesses. 

"Walmart, Costco and Amazon can continue to sell non-essential goods in-store or deliver them to Ontarians with no additional changes, but small retailers will not be allowed to hand a product to a customer outdoors or even deliver one after 8 pm," said Kelly in a statement

"How this will help stop the spread of COVID-19 is anyone's guess."

And yet, Ford continues to defend his position by maintaining that big box stores are the best equipped to safely handle business during a pandemic.

The premier did promise to crack down on big box stores and ramp up enforcement during his announcement last week after acknowledging problematic lineups and crowding, however, and he did in fact fulfill that promise.

"I've seen the crazy lineups," he said. "We need more enforcement in these stores."

As a result, enforcement officers inspected 110 stores on Saturday alone, and 31 were found to be violating existing orders.

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