Small business owners say big box stores favoured in latest lockdown

OTTAWA — Many are concerned that Ontario’s latest restrictions favour major retailers and big box stores.

Under new guidelines, some major retailers can stay open later and continue to sell non-essential items, while small businesses are limited to curbside pickup and reduced hours. 

At the Costco in Barrhaven, there was no pandemonium, no panic, not even a line-up on Wednesday.As Ontario heads into its second lock down, Thursday at 12:01 a.m., little will change for the superstore. 

Retail stores like Walmart and Costco are excluded from many of the new rules surrounding the state of emergency in Ontario. If a store sells a full complement of groceries, it is considered essential. The problem for some smaller business owners – these big box stores can also sell everything else. 

Molly Vanderschee, the owner of The Village Quire, says small stores like hers, are limited to curbside pickup between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

“And even that is unclear because in this current lockdown you’re not supposed to go out at all,” Vanderschee said.

“Is it because (big box) makes more money, is it because they employ more people – of course. I feel bad for the people who will be sidelined because they can’t go into work, but it should be fair and it should be even.”

The Ontario government says unless it’s an essential trip like groceries, medical care, exercise, and work, you should remain at home. However, individual circumstances vary – leaving it up to individuals to decide what is essential.  

On Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford responded by telling people to support small business and forget about big box stores. 

Julie Kwiecinski is the Director of provincial affairs with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She says in Ontario, nearly 36 percent of businesses may not survive the second shut down. Adding that upwards of 90,000 shops and stores could be lost indefinitely. 

“The Walmart the Costco, they got the golden egg, and the small businesses get the crumbs,” Kwiencinski said.

“This current Ontario government is more concerned about big business then small business and that is deeply, deeply concerning.”

The lock down will last until at least February 10, 2021.

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