A coalition of about 50 retailers is calling on the Ontario government to lift COVID-19 restrictions on non-essential stores it says are making matters worse.
In an open letter to Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott, retailers say shutting down Toronto and the region of Peel to limit the spread of the virus has not reduced the number of buyers .
Instead, consumers are directed to fewer and overcrowded stores and adjacent communities, potentially creating a greater health risk.
Retailers say the current policy is pushing more consumers into big box and discount stores that remain open after being deemed essential, while thousands of small independent and local stores are closed despite selling many of the same products.
They say they were forced to lay off workers instead of employing thousands of temporary people to handle the holiday sales rush.
Business leaders are calling on the government to immediately open all retail stores in the province and impose a 25% capacity limit on non-essential stores in closed areas.
“Retailers large and small need each other to create a vibrant retail ecosystem,” says the letter signed by CEOs of companies like Hudson’s Bay, Canadian Tire, Birks and Ikea.
“Collectively, we ask you to join us for a common cause and a common commitment to keeping Ontario families safe during this extremely difficult time.
The provincial government 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 measures are being taken to limit community transmission of COVID-19 in order to keep schools open, safeguard health system capacity and protect the province’s most vulnerable populations,” Hilkene wrote in an email Tuesday. .
“To be clear, placing regions in lockdown is not something this government takes lightly. However, as we’ve seen around the world, lockdowns are a difficult but necessary step to stop the spread, protect the key services we rely on, and protect the capacity of our healthcare system.
She noted that the Ontario government is now providing $ 600 million in assistance to support eligible businesses that have to shut down or significantly restrict services due to improved public health measures.