The Government of Ontario announced new capacity limits and restrictions on Friday, December 17. These limits will have a major impact on already-strained businesses such as retailers, restaurants, gyms, and personal services.
Many jurisdictions, already suffering greater public health effects from the Omicron variant, are enacting even tighter restrictions. Quebec has already moved to close bars, gyms, casinos, and cinemas. The Netherlands has imposed a lockdown for non-essential businesses. If this new variant is as contagious as public health officials fear, it may become necessary for Ontario to further restrict our activities this winter.
“This new variant comes at a time when we hoped we were almost past the pandemic, and businesses were beginning to get back on their feet,” said GNCC CEO Mishka Balsom. “We hope that we can get through this winter not only safely, but with our businesses and our jobs intact. However, that will require bold action now.”
Businesses in affected sectors of the economy have weathered 20 months of financial hardship. Many have been forced to close and others are on the brink. If the government wishes to safeguard the economy, new restrictions should not be announced without further financial support for affected businesses.
Financial support should be offered based on severity of impact, and tied to the length of restrictions, rather than given on an ad-hoc basis. Instead of one-time grants, the GNCC urges the Government of Ontario to consider an ongoing assistance program that can help the most-affected businesses and be tapered off as restrictions end.
Businesses also clamour for predictability in the uncertain age of the pandemic. While we hope that further restrictions will not prove necessary, we must make contingency plans, but plans require some foreknowledge.
The GNCC therefore suggests that the Government of Ontario publish the measures that would call for further restrictions, and detail what those restrictions would be. Doing this would allow people to make plans for future changes. The previous plan tied to vaccination rates would not apply and the current plan with timelines calling for lifting restrictions in January will not apply now.
With strong leadership and bold action, it will be possible to get through the latest development in this pandemic and return to growth in 2022.
The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business in Niagara, the largest business organization in the region and the second-largest Chamber of Commerce in Ontario, with 1,500 members representing 50,000 employees. More information on the GNCC is available at gncc.ca.
Mishka Balsom, CEO
Mishka@gncc.ca or 905-684-2361