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Letter from the Editor – December 17.2020

From Hamilton to Oshawa, municipalities are either in lockdown or code-red control status as Covid-19 continues to spread. In Waterloo Region, we are in the midst of code-red protocols with the possibility of moving into lockdown if things don’t improve.

In the locked down jurisdictions of Toronto and Peel Region, sit-down restaurants are shuttered and only takeout, food delivery and drive-through are allowed. Pharmacies, grocery, hardware, convenience and thankfully beer, wine and liquor stores are allowed to remain open while all others are relegated to online, curb-side-pickup and delivery services.

Lockdown has been a boon to the big box stores which carry necessities, so they can stay open, but has been devastating to small local retailers which sell a lot of the same non-essential stuff as the big boxers do, but must lock their front door or face heavy fines.

87% of Canadians agree that closing small retailers to in-store sales while allowing big box stores to remain open is unfair, according to new public opinion research conducted by Maru/Matchbox on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

Nine in 10 consumers say that provinces should allow small, local retailers to remain open with a limited number of customers.

Nearly three quarters of Canadians said they feel safer shopping at a small local business with reduced capacity than at a big box store such as Costco or Walmart.

“It makes no sense at all to close small businesses that are deemed non-essential to in-store shopping while pushing crowds to big box stores who are permitted to sell the same merchandise, like Ontario has done in Toronto and Peel,” said Dan Kelly, president at CFIB. “If reducing time spent indoors in crowds is the objective, consumers understand that shopping in neighbourhood small businesses is a better choice.”

“To date, no other province has implemented Ontario’s bizarre rule to shut tight small retailers who may have a few in-store customers per day while allowing lines to grow at big box stores selling similar goods,” Kelly noted.

While Manitoba’s rules are equally restrictive on small retailers, they are at least fair, as big box stores are also prohibited from selling non-essential goods.  Saskatchewan’s policy is to allow small retailers to continue to serve customers, while placing a 50% capacity restriction on big box stores.

With growing reports that Ontario may expand its “grey zone” retail restrictions to other parts of the province, CFIB is calling on the province to ensure it adopts an improved approach to COVID-19 safety that would give small businesses a chance to survive into 2021.

Roaming through the downtowns of our rural towns and villages, it appears that most of our local retailers are holding their own during these tough times, as a majority of consumers have warmly embraced the “Shop Local” mantra. Township residents have also kept their vigilance on wearing a mask and social distancing.

After its citizens, the heart of a community is its local businesses. Don’t let your community’s heart stop because of further provincial restrictions. Call, email or write your MPP today to let him or her know that there is a better way, and it isn’t Doug Ford’s expanded “grey zone” restrictions. The future of our local businesses may depend on it.

Mike Harris – Unit 3, 63 Arthur Street South, Elmira, ON N3B 2M6 – Phone: 519-669-2090

Belinda Karahalios – 498 Eagle Street N., Cambridge, ON N3H 1C2 – Phone: 519-650-2770


Written by Peter Dunn

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