Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
MUSKOKA LAKES — With a return to lockdown Monday, local businesses are calling for a balanced Ontario budget.
They mean one that keeps both their interests and the public’s at heart.
No grey area here for them
Yesterday, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) — with input from the Muskoka Lakes Chamber — released its 2021 Ontario pre-budget submission.
And it’s focused on recovery, growth, and modernization.
The submission calls for policies that minimize the impacts of business closures, uplift the sectors and demographics hit hardest by the pandemic, invest in the infrastructure and workforce of the future, and modernize government services to improve outcomes for businesses and residents.
“With Ontario’s economy expected to enter a period of recovery this year as vaccines are distributed and businesses reopen, resources need to be focused on where they’ll have the greatest impact,” said Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce president Spencer Morland said in a release Friday.
“In the upcoming budget, we’d like to see a focus on broadband, re-skilling, and access to capital, which will be necessary for the revival of small business and entrepreneurship, as well as an inclusive economic recovery,” added the general manager of the North Granite Ridge Golf Club.
He says in 2021 Ontario will continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.
The chamber’s submission notes the crisis has created new problems and exacerbated existing ones (such as staff shortages and lack of affordable housing and broadband).
They say the impact on people and business has been catastrophic overall, and disproportionate for certain regions, sectors, and demographics.
“Resources should be targeted towards the sectors and communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, including industries requiring face-to-face contact, small businesses, municipal governments, as well as women, lower-income, racialized, elderly, new immigrant, and younger Ontarians,” added Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce in the submission to the province.
Muskoka business owner David Kitchen agrees.
While the owner of Field of Greens Port Carling understands people at high risk must come first, he said in the release that he’s concerned frontline workers of all ages are the ones dealing most closely with a steady stream of customers.
“I’ve looked at the vaccination plans, and I’d like to know why they appear to be last in line to be vaccinated,” said Kitchen.
He says he’s working diligently to ensure the utmost safety for his staff and patrons.
The recommendations outlined in the submission were developed together with businesses, post-secondary institutions, chambers of commerce, and boards of trade.
They focus on mitigating the immediate impacts of the crisis, while laying the groundwork for a robust and sustainable economic recovery.
You can read the OCC’s pre-budget submission here.
Meanwhile, Norah Fountain, executive director, of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce says “my heart is breaking for people.”
“I think this is the time of year that can wear mentally on people at any time and this emergency brake is adding to that level of stress.”
She says she has been busy since yesterday’s announcement about Simcoe-Muskoka by “responding to members upset about the lockdown.”
She sent out a poll to members to see how they all feel.
And already received a reply Saturday from a member on “our survey about potential split from Simcoe for restriction purposes.
“The poll asked members whether we should advocate for that (again, as we did it late Nov. 2020).
“Her response was that despite being at the highest risk, she believes Muskoka should be split from Simcoe.”
Fountain added: “If a person like her feels this way, imagine how the business owners who so desperately need to be open feel, especially looking at our low numbers?
“The opening and closing again is so hard on our businesses. It adds another level of stress and management.
“And what about our staff that then may have to return to assistance programs, not to mention the paperwork that goes along with that?”
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