Ontario, lockdown capital of North America, expands and extends failing policy

Toronto, April 7, 2021 – It is incredibly disappointing that the Ontario government is once again choosing province-wide small business closures over pivoting to rapid testing and a targeted vaccine rollout for essential workers in hotspot communities to address the third wave of COVID-19, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). 

“Evidence suggests that large, congregate workplaces are the source of COVID-19 spread—not small shops, salons, restaurants or gyms. Yet the government continues to shut down small businesses, some of which are still facing North America’s longest lockdowns,” said CFIB President Dan Kelly. “Yes, we face different challenges than we did a year ago, but we also have new tools and more information. It’s time for a new strategy that includes rapid testing, targeted vaccination for essential workers and capacity limits.”

Toronto is the lockdown capital of North America. As of today, businesses in several sectors have been locked down for more than 300 days since the pandemic began:

  • Indoor restaurant dining: 306 days
  • Gyms: 299 days
  • Hair/nail salons: 227 days
  • Retail : 161 days

“Ontario appears to have finally figured out that shuttering small retailers and pushing customers to buy the same goods at big box stores is both unfair and a poor COVID-19 prevention strategy. However, this will not fully address the problem as the new policy of only allowing essential goods to be sold in person will simply push more volume to Amazon and other online giants despite growing reports it is these very large warehouses where COVID-19 is spreading,” Kelly added.

Eight in 10 small business owners (81 per cent) say that governments need to be more creative about allowing them to make sales while keeping people safe and 63 per cent say they would consider using COVID-19 rapid testing in their workplace if it would help their business stay open. 

“Here we go again. Nine hours’ notice for a province-wide stay-at-home order. Less than half a day to talk to employees, call suppliers and get your curbside operation back up and running. To add insult to injury, no additional supports have been announced,” said Ryan Mallough, director of provincial affairs for Ontario. “You’d think the third time around we’d have figured out what doesn’t work, but here we are trying the same thing.”

CFIB urges Ontario to pivot to a targeted COVID-19 strategy instead of instituting more lockdowns, including:

  • Ramping up vaccination schedules and targeting communities and business sectors that are facing the largest outbreaks
  • Rolling out rapid testing for employees and customers immediately to allow for safe by-appointment services, such as haircuts and other personal services and one-on-one gym training and recreational fitness
  • Maintaining a minimum 20 per cent capacity limit for all businesses
  • Limiting lockdowns to specific businesses experiencing outbreaks
  • Announcing a third round of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant and expanding all programs to more firms while extending deadlines to June 2021 to match federal supports

“Many employers are willing and ready to help facilitate vaccines for their workers and to use rapid testing if it means they can avoid another lockdown,” added Kelly. “Small businesses are already stretched to a breaking point—shutting them down yet again, while we have better, more precise tools at our disposal, is nothing short of cruel.”
For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Milena Stanoeva, CFIB

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 95,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at cfib.ca.