“We respect the extraordinary efforts you and your administration are making to protect the public interest at this extremely difficult time,” retailers said in a letter to Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott. “The problem is that Ontario’s policy of separating ‘non-essential’ retailers from those deemed essential could actually make matters worse.” The letter was signed by executives from several major retailers, including the Hudson’s Bay Company, Canadian Tire, Ikea Canada, Roots and Staples Canada. He argues that lockdowns in Toronto and Peel Region have not reduced the number of people shopping.
“Instead, it channeled those shoppers and the corresponding health risk into fewer and increasingly crowded stores in Toronto and Peel, as well as adjacent communities, as we saw in Vaughan. and Markham over the weekend, ”the letter said.
“At the same time, as the current policy pushes more Canadian consumers into a handful of big box retailers and discount stores, thousands of small independent and local stores are closed with their hands tied, even though many are selling the same ones. products. ”
According to retailers, limited capacity in some cases – in combination with safety measures such as mandatory masks, physical distancing and hand sanitization – “can further reduce the community’s potential for spread while allowing more ‘businesses to remain open in all regions during a manufacture. gold-break for retail businesses. ”
The letter notes that other provinces have taken similar steps in conjunction with public health officials and that these steps “will put fewer people in more stores, increasing safety for all.” The current policy does the opposite ”.
‘Difficult but necessary’
The province responded by noting that the restrictions are aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 to protect the health and well-being of Ontarians.
Elliott spokeswoman Alexandra Hilkene said the government must limit the possibilities for individuals to have close contact with others to help stop the spread of the virus. This includes allowing box stores to operate at half capacity.
“These necessary steps are being taken to limit community transmission of COVID-19 in order to keep schools open, protect health system capacity and protect the province’s most vulnerable populations,” Hilkene wrote in an email to The Canadian Press.
“To be clear, placing regions in lockdown is not something this government takes lightly. However, as we have seen around the world, lockdowns are a difficult but necessary step to stop the spread, safeguard the key services we rely on and protect. the capacity of our health system. ”
She noted that the Ontario government is providing $ 600 million in assistance to support eligible businesses that must shut down or significantly restrict services due to improved public health measures.