When local business owner Kim Ross visited a plaza in the Oshawa area over Christmas, she said she was shocked by the activity happening under lockdown.
The peanut brittle maker – who was visiting to help her elderly mother – saw most of the stores were open despite the lockdown coming into effect Boxing Day.
People milled about, waiting in line for takeout and roads were “jampacked.” Big box stores were busy. With her business struggling due to the new rules, she said what she saw upset her.
“The only thing that’s really suffering are all the small businesses that were closed,” Ross said. “I don’t understand why – if we wear masks and we do the cleaning and we only allow so many in the store – why in the world are we are not allowed to stay open as well?”
Local businesses are feeling the hit of the lockdown and subsequent stay-at-home order, not due to end until February. Local councillors have commented on the need for more support. Big box stores – many allowed to stay open – have come under increased scrutiny, with Ontario starting an inspection blitz Jan. 14.
Ross said her product – made in Haliburton and sold in smaller storefronts across the province – has suffered.
“Because the shutdown started during the Christmas season, I haven’t had a single order from any of my distributors,” she said. “I’m still having to pay the rent, the heat, the hydro, the taxes and have absolutely no work.”
Sir Sam’s Ski/Ride owner Chris Bishop is also unhappy. The hill has closed since the lockdown went into effect – with Ontario the only province closing alpine ski resorts. Bishop said after cutting capacity and investing $50,000 in safety measures, he is upset by the provincial decision.
“We were very frustrated because we did everything we were told we had to do in order to open,” Bishop said. He said he had to lay off 90 employees until he can reopen.
He added the attentive monitoring in place at his hill seems safer than other things being allowed.
“It seems as safe to me as it would be to go to Costco or go to Walmart,” Bishop said.
Local politicians are taking notice. Algonquin Highlands council backed a resolution from the Town of Kingsville Jan. 21 asking the province to allow small businesses to reopen with limited capacity and increased safety measures.
The province has tried to respond. It said Jan. 22 that it has received more than 42,000 applications for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, which can provide a business between $10,000-$20,000 in support.
“There’s no question that eligible small businesses need urgent relief to help them navigate this challenging period,” Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy said in a press release.
Still, Bishop said the situation will impact his operation significantly. He urged people to follow health protocols to get the virus under control.
“My business is going to take a three-year hit. Small businesses in Haliburton, I don’t know how you can take a three-year hit,” he said.
“I have to make this work,” Ross said. “The only thing is I’m not sure if my pockets are deep enough to get through the next two months.”