By MPP Toby Barrett
Last Spring, the Covid outbreak triggered the sharpest global economic contraction since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Since then, we have been on a long and difficult road. We cannot quite see the end of that road, but there are some encouraging signs.
It is heartening to see the remarkable resilience the economy is showing. The job market has rebounded much more quickly than most forecasters had predicted. Last Spring, Ontario lost one million jobs. Over the past 10 months, our province has achieved a net employment gain of just over one million jobs.
With hundreds of thousands of Ontarians being vaccinated every week, we know there are better days ahead. However, we are not there yet.
We continue to face enormous challenges as we respond to the third wave and work towards economic recovery. Therefore, we cannot let up now.
Over the past year, we have provided far-reaching support to help businesses get through.
The Ontario Small Business Support Grant is lending a helping hand to businesses with less than 100 employees that have been required to close or significantly reduce their services due to the province-wide shutdown.
The original funding for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant was $1.7 billion. In the 2021 Budget, we increased that to $3.4 billion so we could provide supports to more companies and double the grant to each recipient.
We are now providing grants of $20,000 to $40,000 each to an estimated 120,000 businesses across the province.
Through the Main Street Relief Grant, we are providing small businesses with up to $1,000 each to reimburse them fro PPE costs incurred in order to operate safely during the pandemic.
Through the Digital Main Street program, we are helping small businesses get online, expand their digital footprint and connect with new customers.
Our government worked quickly to make temporary regulatory and rule changes that would help people and businesses during the pandemic. These included extending the expiry dates of many licenses and permits, as well as allowing restaurants and bars to extend their licensed areas to serve additional customers on expanded patio spaces to ensure social distancing requirements are met.
Some of the temporary changes presented such clear benefits that the government made them permanent. These include proposed changes to legislation that would limit municipalities from regulating noise during off-peak periods for deliveries to retail stores, restaurants, hotels and distribution facilities. This supports main street businesses and helps ensure shelves stay stocked so businesses can operate efficiently.
Local restaurants are essential to the economy and help build the character of our communities. To give them every opportunity to succeed, the government is allowing restaurants and bars that hold a liquor sales license to include alcohol with food as part of a takeout or delivery order. This change is helping restaurants and food businesses continue the new revenue streams the government had temporarily allowed due to the pandemic, positioning them for future growth opportunities.
Additionally, Ontario is supporting restaurants and bars by capping high food delivery fees charged to restaurants.
These changes have helped businesses adapt to a new environment by cutting costs, increasing cash flow, opening new revenue streams, and providing new opportunities. Aside from returning to ‘business as usual’ any help provided will not be perfect but will at least assist the majority in sustaining business.
Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk