Timmins business leaders say they realize the stay-at-home order announced Wednesday is designed to save lives and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“However, in the absence of further supports, new restrictions will simply devastate Ontario’s business community,” said Melanie Verreault, president of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.
“An expedited vaccine rollout, prioritizing essential workers who cannot work from home is critical to preventing these stops and starts that are so damaging for business. With the Ontario Business Support Grant coming to a close, we call for continued supports that will see businesses through the third wave of the crisis.
“We call on all levels of government to work together to accelerate vaccinating Ontarians, so we can fully reopen the province. As the government of Ontario proceeds with Phase 2 of the rollout, we would like to see the earlier prioritization of essential workers who cannot work from home and are most vulnerable and at risk,” said Verreault.
MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP – Timmins) said more than 65 per cent of local small business owners who responded to an online survey that was put forth by him said they were dissatisfied with the province’s funding programs aimed at helping businesses survive during the pandemic.
He said some businesses complained that they were denied funding but didn’t receive an explanation as to why.
Bisson said owners are also unhappy about what they perceive as preferential treatment in favour of big box stores.
“Yes, put in place restrictions but apply them equally to all businesses. You can limit the amount of people going in stores, you can make sure that people are socially distanced, make sure that people are wearing masks and sanitizing products and people are washing their hands in and out of the store.
“If we can apply those things in schools and keep our schools open then why can’t we do that for our small independent businesses?”
Cindy Campbell, executive director with the Downtown Timmins Business Improvement Association, said the province finds itself headed into another full shutdown because some people are not following the guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.
She said small businesses are being severely impacted as a result.
“We have to advocate the safety, but we also have to advocate on behalf of our member businesses, and we have to encourage people to do the right thing and please continue to use take-out services, please continue to use curbside pick-up.
“All of the businesses in downtown have social media presence. Reach out to them to ensure how you can use their services during these restrictions.”
While the enforcement of these provincial orders fall upon police services, Marc Depatie, communications coordinator for the Timmins Police Service said, “To date, the Timmins Police have not laid any charges under the Reopening of Ontario Act or similar statutes.
“Calls for service regarding suspected breaches of the protocols are addressed without delay. At this stage, and given the distressing provincial daily tallies, the Timmins Police Service is seeking to maintain this same level of public cooperation in regard to any and all COVID restrictions.
Depatie added, “Since the pandemic took hold in February last year, the overwhelming majority of citizens and businesses in Timmins have been found to be in compliance. This level of cooperation is certainly appreciated by the Timmins Police as it significantly contributes to our collective public health.
“The laying of charges will be the last resort for Timmins Police officers who encounter any breaches of these public health protocols. That said, any overt or repetitive breaches of the COVID restrictions will likely merit a more formal response from the police if it is deemed necessary,” he added.
In addition to speaking about business reaction to the provincial measures, Bisson reiterated his position that these measures undertaken by the province could have been avoided.
“They have made decisions that put us in the situation that we are in now like they did not lower the class sizes that they should’ve and there are a whole bunch of things that they could’ve done in order to reduce the infection.
“If the government had done what their own medical experts and the NDP were telling them, I don’t think we would have been in this situation now. Things are getting worse. You just need to compare us to other jurisdictions, where they have done what they’re suppose to do, and they are not getting third and fourth waves. The government kind of created this by making the choices they did. It doesn’t appear that government is learning from the mistakes that they’ve made in the past,” he said.