May 25, 2021 –The Ontario BIA Association (OBIAA) is calling on the Federal and Provincial Governments to lead the way by creating recovery solutions and a phased-in approach. OBIAA says that by creating a phased strategy, we can begin to create balance – a balance which includes physical, mental and economic health.
A Rapid Responsible Recovery will be aimed at keeping people safe, increasing and investing in building consumer confidence while communicating how all of the past and future investments, in terms of time and money, will create a way forward. The recent 2021 Federal Budget states “Small businesses need access to financing in order to invest in people and innovation, and to have the space to operate and grow.”1 and goes on to say “Small businesses are the bustling, thriving heart of our economy. They are the spine of Main Street in every city, town and village in Canada. And while many big, multinational companies have actually prospered during this low-interest rate COVID year, our small businesses have been battered.”
“The impacts of the third lockdown have been significant as businesses make the difficult decision to go deeper into debt or close permanently,” says Kay Matthews, Executive Director of OBIAA. “We need a new playbook, one that lights the way for Rapid Responsible Recovery. Main Street businesses share the government’s desire to keep Ontarians’ healthy, and main street businesses have shown a great ability to adapt their businesses to keep people safe.”
A Rapid Responsible Recovery should include the following steps:
- Mental health and addiction strategy – A “National Strategy” on Mental Health and Addiction that will help address the issues within our communities that connect all (3) three levels of Government.
- Capacity limits – reintroduce staged capacity limits with an allowed percentage
- Outside patios and activations – using reintroduced staged capacity limits, allow passive activations and patios to open
- Screening – Roll out ability to use rapid antigen screening to all open small businesses
- Vaccine roll-out – now that we have the momentum, continue to aggressively and efficiently vaccinate residents and move up the timing for the second vaccine.
- Main street Investment in Infrastructure – provide core funding to main streets (and BIAs) to build key infrastructure required to welcome residents back to their main street communities, while supporting consumer confidence campaigns
- Digital Main Street – work closing to continue the Digital Main Street Grants Program, through Digital Service Squads and Digital Transformation Grants for a minimum of two years.
- Enforcing provincial mandates – Businesses are now in the position of “policing” their customers, and while they are willing to support and uphold these mandates, they need the active support of law enforcement.
OBIAA believes these eight (8) steps will help rebuild the main small business street economy, leading to a rapid responsible recovery for all of Ontario’s communities.
Main Street small businesses are poised and ready. Over the past year they have worked hard to update their business and work plans with the goal of keeping their customers and employees safe. They have invested significant funding in creating a safe, physical location and are working hard to adhere to government guidelines, in a time when revenues are significantly impacted.
Our Main Streets have been dealing with the fall out from the pandemic in heart-wrenching ways, such as increased homelessness and drug use. The personal health industry is represented by women-led, new Canadians and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The loss in their industry is unfathomable and unconscionable and we need to make significant steps to foster their recovery and success.
This second crisis, which has been playing out in our communities long before the pandemic, is compounded by the pandemic and governments’ inadequate response, in terms of lack of grants, lockdowns and housing supports. While our main streets work hard to support their communities, being limited in their presence, has allowed these problems to grow unchecked. With vaccines being delivered a playbook for rapid responsible reopening needs to be implemented to stem both CoVID-19, and the opioid and homelessness crisis.