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Ontario continues to favour big-box stores during new lockdown

After the province of Ontario enacted a second state of emergency, businesses deemed non-essential are now forced to cease curb-side pickup and close by 8 p.m. However, the new rules continue to make exceptions for big-box stores and large retailers.

The Director of Provincial Affairs Ontario for the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) Julie Kwiecinski says that the root of the issue is the unfairness of the new rules.

“Small business owners just found out yesterday that big box retailers are permitted to stay open past 8 p.m. so long as they provide a full range of groceries,” said Kwiecinski told True North.

“Our members are incredibly disappointed.”

The CFIB received a letter from the provincial government confirming large retailers can stay open past the curfew, a privilege not afforded to entrepreneurs.

“This government says it defends small business. We don’t understand how they can tell us it’s safer to go to a giant Walmart with lots of people, instead of a small business with stringent protocols in place,” said Kwiecinski.

“The government has not been able to provide any evidence to substantiate that what it’s doing will make COVID numbers go down.”

Under the new order, businesses are also no longer permitted to make deliveries themselves. By being forced to use couriers, this adds to the mounting financial pressure independent businesses are facing through the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns.

In a press release, Minister at the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton thanked businesses for operating responsibly and promised to punish those who operate outside the guidelines.

“Where we find an employer who has been acting in bad faith, we won’t hesitate to take action by immediately slapping them with a ticket and a fine. There will be real consequences for those who break the rules,” said McNaughton 

Individuals and businesses can be fined $750 for not following the rules and $1000 for preventing others from doing so.

The provincial government has set maximum fines at $100,000 for individuals and $10 million for corporations. The government has also warned of prosecution and a year in jail for non-compliance.

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