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Small businesses fight for rights as COVID-19 lockdown begins in Toronto, Peel

Last Updated Nov 23, 2020 at 10:08 pm EST

Small business owners in Toronto and Peel Region began a 28-day “grey” lockdown mode on Monday. Many small business owners are now pleading with the government to ease the restrictions and allow for some foot traffic to their businesses – many fearing they won’t make it especially now that the busy holiday season is being affected.

Retail shops for pets are also facing another dilemma.

Keiley Routledge, who owns Small Wonders Pets on the Danforth says this latest round of closures is more confusing because she doesn’t understand why her store, deemed an essential service during the first lockdown, is no longer in that category. She wonders how grocers offering food for people can be “essential” but not stores offering food for pets.

“There’s definitely confusion because last time we were considered essential,” she said. “During the first lockdown it was a bit of a learning curve, it took us about a week to work out the kinks, but it worked very smoothly after that.”

“Now, we’re going on the assumption right now that we are allowed to remain open, but we’re doing it differently because this is a lockdown we take the health of our of our customers and our staff very seriously.”

Another issue being raised by small business advocates is that big box stores are considered to be essential for goods and services are allowed to stay open, but the same small business offering those goods, is not. They say it’s a double-standard and unfair.

The Premier at a press conference on Monday acknowledged the challenges facing the province trying to balance it all, but couldn’t offer an indication that changes will be made for small businesses.

“After speaking to some of the big box stores it’d be a logistical nightmare they have essential items spread out throughout their whole their whole store and then on top of that, how do we monitor and restrict people from going in there. That’s the feedback I got off them,” Ford said.

“We’re doing everything we can, as a province, but the quicker we can get through this, the quicker we can get this vaccine out there. Then we can get people back and open up, follow up.”

Ontario is reporting a new daily record high of 1,589 COVID-19 cases on Monday.

Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe also spoke to the negative impact this public health decision has made on the businesses but said putting people’s health first takes priority.

“It’s very unfortunate that we are having a negative impact,” said Yaffe. “But at this point, the hospitals are getting overwhelmed and having more deaths and we know that this can be prevented. The bottom line is what is the most important thing? It’s health. We are trying to take a balanced approach without affecting civil rights.”