With the Provincial restrictions having been extended until at least February 11, it is crucial that residents support our local business and restaurant community of Stittsville. Already in a precarious position, owners are tired of struggling to meet the maelstrom of guideline messaging coming from all levels of government. None of which are truly clear for businesspeople or residents. To add insult to injury, many of the businesses that have closed during this latest lockdown may not re-open again say many economists.
Stay at home, but go out for essentials. Not everyone sees essentials in the same category. Non-essential businesses are closed for in-store shopping, but open for curbside pick-up, yet we are expected to stay home. It is at the discretion of bylaw and police to discipline people for not following the guidelines. What is the purpose if the guidelines are not clear?
When speaking with Allan Ryan, President of the Stittsville Business Association, he said, “these guidelines are troubling and have come far too late. Businesses have been misguided from the start. Governments at all levels are trying to play catch-up.” He referred to the old Ottawa Valley adage, “the cows have left the barn!“
Ryan suggests that, “there should be hard quarantines in place and strongly enforced. A ring should have been placed around the GTA in December and anyone leaving should have had either their vehicle seized or receive a hefty fine if found outside of the area”.
Most frustrating is the fact that the big-box stores can remain open with customers entering to shop. Ryan says, “the fact that these stores remain open is only resonating now! To be fair across the board, a formula should be in place based on the square footage of a store that would allow for the number of people to be inside”.
Smaller stores and restaurants are able to easily control the number of patrons inside their businesses. It makes sense to have them remain open.
In a January 18 tweet to a small business owner, Mayor Jim Watson, encouraged people to contact their MPP indicating that big box stores should be roping off non-essential products. He wrote, “…the current situation is grossly unfair to small local businesses!”
Dan Kelly, President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said in a recent press release, “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. How this will help stop the spread of COVID-19 is anyone’s guess.
No other province has locked down small retailers while handing huge competitive advantages to big-box stores.” At a press conference, Kelly said, “the new rules that Ontario just put into place are absolutely ridiculous…business owners are throwing up their hands saying, ‘What is this?'”
On Friday, January 15, the Ontario government introduced its Small Business Support Grant, which provides a minimum of $10,000 to a maximum of $20,000 to eligible small businesses that are limiting their operations due to the recent shutdown. The business must make evident they experienced a revenue decline of at least 20 per cent when comparing monthly revenue in April 2019 and April 2020. The money can be used in whatever way makes the most sense for the applicant. The big question – who will meet the criteria to be eligible?!
This further stay-at-home order hasn’t just provoked much criticism, but has brought about confusion for everyone. Can our businesses survive this go around – imagine Stittsville without our small businesses!