Lockdowns — something unheard of only a year ago — have become something we are getting all too familiar with.
With many businesses opening up this week, it seems that many are already bracing for a dreaded third wave. Whether it’s this public health crisis, or the next one, it’s important that we learn from our experience. Locking down the province is no doubt a decision that is not taken lightly, but it’s proving to be a very blunt instrument.
Small businesses in Ontario have taken the utmost care to abide by the regularly-evolving rules, regulations and guidelines. Business owners genuinely want to keep their staff, customers and themselves safe and healthy. In fact, keeping staff and customers safe has always been the top priority when operating a business. Compliance with safety standards impacts every size and sector, from retail and restaurants to construction and manufacturing.
Businesses are accustomed to having their ability to operate depend on their compliance with current safety standards.
Businesses in Ontario follow the Occupational Health and Safety Act closely or face penalties that can include jail time and fines of $100,000 for individuals and $1.5 million for corporations. They work within the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, Human Rights Code, Canada Labour Code, Ontario Fire Code, Liquor Control Act, Ontario Building Code, Health Protection and Promotion Act of Ontario, and more, each with their own set of financial penalties and
potential restrictions to conduct business.
Currently, businesses are being shut down or forced to significantly change their service model not because of their adherence to safety protocols, but because of the products they sell or the services they offer. This shuts down some businesses while allowing others to operate with very few restrictions.
Despite being locked down, people have not stopped shopping — resulting in a system that favours large international department and online retailers over
To both support the economy and keep Ontarians safe, the system defining which businesses are essential requires reform. Restrictions should hinge on compliance, not solely on perception of essentiality, sector, size, product etc. Businesses that can provide evidence of compliance with COVID-19 health and safety protocols should be allowed to operate. Those that are not compliant, should not.
We are confident that businesses and lawmakers can work together to create an equitable framework where businesses can
operate in compliance with new safety protocols that will both help Ontario work toward the eradication of COVID-19 and provide sustainability and consistency to the business community.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce — with the support of our colleagues at the Brampton Board of Trade, Barrie Chamber of Commerce, Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, Milton Chamber of Commerce, and 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce — are putting forward a resolution to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. Our request to the Government of Ontario is:
• In order to continue serving the public during a health crisis, including the current COVID-19 pandemic, enhance lockdown or grey zone regulations based on a uniform and equitable set of safety standards for all businesses, in line with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, rather than on perception of essentiality.