Canadian business federation wants Ontario to ‘immediately reopen’ restaurants, gyms and retail

TORONTO — The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is calling on the Doug Ford government to revise its reopening plan and “immediately reopen” parts of Ontario’s economy, including non-essential retail, restaurants, and gyms.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the CFIB slammed the Ford government’s reopening plan for being too slow and urged the premier to revise Ontario’s reopening dates so they are “in line with other provinces.”

“Yes, other provinces have used business lockdowns at various points during the pandemic. But no jurisdiction in North America – and very few in the world – have locked down businesses for the length of time businesses have been closed in Ontario,” the statement read.

From decisions like closing ski hills and golf courses, to completely shutting down non-essential retailers and hair salons, the phrase ‘only in Ontario’ has been far too common throughout the pandemic. In British Columbia, retailers were never closed to in-store customers.”

Ontario’s stay-at-home order will expire tomorrow but the province has said it does not plan to begin Stage 1 of the reopening plan, which will see patio dining resume and non-essential retail reopen at 15 per cent capacity, until around June 14. Hair salons are not expected to reopen in Ontario until sometime in July, when the province enters Stage 2, and gyms will remain shuttered until Ontario enters Stage 3, likely not until the end of July or August.

“Tomorrow is supposed to be the day that our retailers, our restaurant patios, our gyms and our hair salons finally reopen their doors after two long months of provincewide lockdown,” the CFIB statement read.

“Instead, Ontario’s reopening plan has them remaining closed for at least another two weeks, and many for much longer. Meanwhile, COVID cases continue a strong downward trend, and estimates show vaccinations have already hit the first-dose threshold for Step 2.”

The province saw a significant drop in the number of new infections on Tuesday, reporting a daily case count of just 699, the lowest single-day total since October.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s outgoing chief medical officer of health, has said he would like to see case counts drop down to between 500 and 600 for multiple days before easing restrictions. The Ford government previously confirmed that nothing will reopen in the province until two weeks after 60 per cent of all adults had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a milestone the province hit last week.

CFIB is urging the province to immediately reopen all retail stores at 20 per cent capacity, restaurants for patio dining and limited indoor service, hair salons and barbers by appointment, as well as gyms and recreational activities by appointment.

“Restaurants in Toronto have been closed to indoor dining for 367 days across the various provincial lockdowns, shutdowns, and emergency breaks. An entire year’s worth of business has been lost and the industry is looking – at minimum – at another 67 days of being closed to indoor dining under the current plan,” the CFIB statement read.

“This news is particularly frustrating to Ontario restaurant owners when their counterparts in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and much of Quebec were allowed to reopen to indoor dining in the first steps of reopening plans, instead of the last.”

The CFIB, which represents about 38,000 small businesses in Ontario, is also asking the province to adjust its reopening plan to allow regions with lower case numbers and hospitalization rates to reopen faster than other regions, to provide a “detailed timeline” for the full reopening of the economy, including events and entertainment, and approve a third round of funding through the Ontario Small Business Support Grant.

“Time is quickly running out for Ontario small business owners to keep their firms afloat. Many have exhausted their personal savings and as of July, will start losing access to federal funding programs while still being fully shut down by the province,” the statement read.

“Swift action must be taken now to begin reopening the provincial economy for the sake of saving small business.”

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