A Letter to the Premier re: Toronto Lockdown

On Tuesday, November 24, 2020, Carol Jolly, Executive Director of The Junction BIA, sent the following letter to our elected officials, including Premier Doug Ford and Minister for Small Business Prabmeet Sarkaria. We will continue to work with TABIA and our counterparts across the City to lobby for increased supports for small businesses and an end to the unfair small business lockdown in Toronto.

Dear Premier Doug Ford, Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria, and MPP Bhutila Karpoche, 

First and foremost, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your endless hours of work, dedication, and collaboration during these unprecedented times. As the representative for upwards of 200 businesses in the Junction community of the City of Toronto, we feel compelled to echo the letter shared by John Kiru, TABIA, regarding parameters for the 28-day lockdown. Respectfully, we do not understand the rationale behind this decision. 

To implement a lockdown just before the busiest time of year for a small business is hugely disappointing. Many local, small businesses rely heavily on the holidays to profit before the slowest months of January and February. After such a detrimental year to small businesses, the chance for them to open their doors and ride the Shop Local and seasonal wave feels like it has been abruptly taken away from them. We genuinely think that this second lockdown will be the final nail in the coffin for many local businesses that make Toronto such a vibrant and unique city.

Our members frequently ask us, “Why should large, multi-national, American chains be deemed ‘essential’ and permitted to stay open while offering thousands of ‘non-essential’ items like books, toys, and clothing, etc. Yet, a local bookshop or clothing store on Dundas St West is forced to close their doors?” Frankly, we have no answers to give them. Premier – you recently said yourself that “it’s not fair.

Main Street businesses have been exceptional at following, implementing, and investing in additional safety measures within their establishments to help mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Local businesses can manage store capacity and social distancing requirements much more readily than a big box store ever could, yet our customers are left looking in from the outside.

Now, more than ever, your voice and collective engagement are needed to support our main street businesses. We are counting on you.

Regards,

Carol Jolly

Executive Director

The Junction BIA

 

On Monday, Nov 30, we received the following response from the Premier:

Thank you for writing to me about our government’s plan to reopen Ontario. I appreciate hearing your views and concerns.

No one wants to get the economy going and get people back to work more than I do. It means having a responsible plan, taking the best scientific advice and working together with our partners. And, most importantly, it means doing everything necessary to keep people safe as we reopen. We need everyone to follow the public health rules in order to prevent another province-wide lockdown, and protect all our citizens, especially the elderly and the vulnerable.

In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, our government has developed the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework. It ensures that public health measures are targeted, incremental and responsive to help limit the spread of COVID-19, while keeping schools and businesses open, maintaining health system capacity and protecting vulnerable people, including those in long-term care.

The framework takes a gradual approach that includes introducing preventative measures earlier to help avoid broader closures and allow for additional public health and workplace safety measures to be introduced or removed incrementally. It categorizes public health unit regions into five levels: Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Lockdown being a measure of last and urgent resort. Each level outlines the types of public health and workplace safety measures for businesses and organizations. These include targeted measures for specific sectors, institutions and other settings.

With the numbers rising rapidly in certain regions, we have to make the tough, but necessary decisions now to protect our hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes, and every person in this province. We cannot afford a province-wide lockdown, so we have taken decisive action to stop the spread of this deadly virus.

Our government is now providing $600 million in relief to support eligible businesses required to close or significantly restrict services due to enhanced public health measures, doubling our initial commitment of $300 million made in the 2020 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support Recover. Rebates will cover the period of time that businesses are required to temporarily close or significantly restrict services. A detailed list of eligible businesses, as well as instructions for applying, can be found at Ontario.ca/covidsupport.

Businesses can apply online for temporary property tax and energy cost rebate grants from the province, via an easy-to-use one-window portal. The rebates will cover the length of time that a business is required to temporarily close or significantly restrict services as a result of being located in an area categorized as Red-Control or Lockdown, or previously categorized as modified Stage 2 public health restrictions. Most businesses can expect to receive their rebate payments within a few weeks of submitting a complete application. A detailed list of eligible businesses, as well as instructions for applying, can be found at Ontario.ca/covidsupport.

The federal and provincial governments have been working collaboratively together to deliver benefits and supports to individuals, families and businesses since the onset of COVID-19. Consistent with this, Ontario will work with the federal government to ensure these supports for businesses in COVID-19 hotspots are available in the most straightforward and seamless way possible by integrating these rebates with the federal Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) program.

For more information, visit Ontario.ca/reopen or call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.

Thanks once again for contacting me. Working together as a province, I know we will come back better and stronger than ever.

Doug Ford

Premier of Ontario