The union representing over 90,000 small businesses in Ontario says they’re elated to finally get back to normal operations as of Friday after the Ford government announced an earlier reopening of the economy.
Dan Kelly, President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), said the news of an earlier reopening was long overdue.
Kelly called for the province to accelerate through the next stages of its reopening plan, which in its current state will lift restrictions further every three weeks depending on the pandemic situation and status of vaccinations at the time.
He did express concern over the government’s approach to reopening non-essential retail.
While some businesses can reopen at 15 per cent capacity, this applies to businesses with street entrances only and stores located inside of malls can only reopen to the public in Step 2, now slated for July 2.
“CFIB has confirmed that independent retailers inside Ontario malls must remain closed unless they have an exterior door,” said Kelly.
“This is deeply unfair – the playing field between the big guys and small business needs to be level. Let’s find a way to safely reopen all.”
Kelly also asked for greater indoor capacity for more business types and said independent retailers in malls want permission to open.
“Many small tenants in malls have an exterior door at the back of their shop. While CFIB is pushing to allow all mall retailers to have access to in-store customers thru the mall itself, we call on mall operators and the province to ensure they can use all doors to serve the public,” Kelly added.
Many small tenants in malls have an exterior door at the back of their shop. While CFIB is pushing to allow all mall retailers to have access to in-store customers thru the mall itself, we call on mall operators & the province to ensure they can use all doors to serve the public.
— Dan Kelly (@CFIB) June 7, 2021
Second doses must become priority for COVID-19 hotspots, opposition says
The NDP called on the government to prioritize sending second doses of vaccines to hot spots where a more infectious virus variant is spreading to help avoid another lockdown.
In Peel Region, the Delta variant is poised to become dominant this month, and experts fear it could spread across the province if it isn’t contained.
“People need to have confidence that this early reopening won’t backfire,” NDP deputy leader Sara Singh said. “In order to guarantee that, the Ford government needs to do what the experts are telling them to do: offer everyone in a hot spot a second dose of the COVID vaccine right now.”
Ontarians 70 and older and those who received their first mRNA vaccine dose on or before April 18 became eligible to book their second doses on Monday.
Experts and critics have called for a new strategy that targets hot spots for the Delta variant, believed to be more infectious and causing more severe illness, for second doses.
Health Minister Christine Elliott told Toronto TV station CP24 that the province was “actively” considering sending more vaccines to virus hot spots, with more details to come “soon.”
Top Ontario health officials said the Delta variant has been detected across the province and it will likely become the dominant strain, as has been the case earlier in the pandemic with more aggressive COVID-19 variants.
However, they said vaccinations appear to have protected people infected with the variant from becoming severely ill, especially those who have received two doses.
“If we’re vaccinated, and we use good infection prevention and control, we will be able to blunt the spread,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate medical officer of health, told reporters on Monday.
Singh of the NDP also criticized the government for reopening the economy rather than schools.
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said the government should further support small businesses with grants, noting that independent retailers will only be able open to small numbers of people at a time.
“Operating at 15 per cent capacity will not immediately solve the cash flow challenges most small businesses face. And many small businesses will need help to reopen after the third wave lockdown,” Schreiner said.
Doris Grinspun, the CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, said she would have preferred to see lower daily infections before reopening, but expressed hope the province could eliminate the virus by proceeding cautiously with its plan and ramping up vaccinations.
With files from The Canadian Press