If there is another major shutdown because of growing COVID-19 cases all levels of government need to be more proactive when it comes to assisting small business, says an executive with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
In an interview with Canada’s Podcast earlier this week, Ryan Mallough, director of provincial affairs for Ontario said that should a second lockdown occur, government support should be ready immediately.
“What has been apparent throughout the course of the pandemic is that we are having issues with government communicating to business and it comes in two directions,” he said. “Either we get an announcement that is incredibly abrupt. A good example of that just happened in Ontario when Premier Doug Ford announced that restaurants and bars were going to have their hours adjusted about 11 hours before it happened. There is not a lot of time to react.
“On the flip side, there are things like the federal government where they announce an expansion to the loans program and six weeks later, we are still waiting for the expansion to roll out.
“Governments are coming to the table with good intentions, but they are not realizing the realities on the ground as far as how businesses operate. They do need time to plan and at the same time when supports are announced, they do expect to access that support within a reasonable timeframe and not waiting months on end.”
With caseloads differing from province to province, Mallough said the “hope and expectation” is that if any lockdown occurs it will be regional in nature
The CFIB membership, he said, realize that “recovery is not going to be a sprint it is very much going to be a marathon.
“There was some belief out there among the politicians and the populace as well that if we could just get to reopening after the initial lockdown that things would be OK. Get back to businesses being able to take customers in again then we will make it through.
“We’re finding in month seven of the pandemic that is just not the case. While 70% of businesses across the country are fully open only 30% are seeing normal sales for this time of year, which is quite alarming given that we are at the end of patio season after fairly good weather across the country.”
“Restauranteurs are staring down the barrel of the fall and now retailers are heading into their prime season with holiday shopping coming up with questions around are they going to be open at all come November. How open will they be? Will there be capacity restrictions and will people feel comfortable going out to shop. There is a lot of nervousness and unease heading into the fall.”
COVID-19, said Mallough hits everybody up and down the supply chain: “We hear things that when restaurants shut down, it’s not just the owner and staff that are affected. It is who is supplying their food, not just from the middleman, but all the way back to the farmers.”
In terms of advice for small business owners, he said “there is a lot of unease among customers right now and everyone is watching the case numbers very closely. It is especially important for business owners to remind their clients of what they are doing to protect everyone.
“We get calls everyday from members to make sure they are not just compliant with the bare minimum on safety standards, but they are going above and beyond.
“They are not just there for the consumers, but there for them as members of the community. That is really what is at risk here if businesses are forced to shut down again and do not come back. You are not just losing an owner’s business or even jobs for the employees. You really are losing what makes your community your community. The fabric of your community’s sole is the local businesses right now.”