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Ontario small businesses worried new restrictions will spark ‘panic’

The government is under pressure to take action as cases continue to spike

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The Doug Ford government has done it again, restricting businesses with no notice or immediate support, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says.

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“Many of the businesses restricted today have lost over a year’s worth of business to government closures,” the CFIB said in a statement. “To be limited again during one of the most important times of the year is a bitter pill to swallow.”

“Today’s measures will do nothing to allay the fears that have kept many consumers home, while businesses remain open,” the CFIB added.

The CFIB had been asking the Premier to avoid “sparking panic” as businesses were already losing customers due to the “alarming messaging” by governments around the new Omicron variant.

Instead, Ford not only doubled down on the messaging Friday but announced new capacity limits and other restrictions on businesses including restaurants and gyms.

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The Ontario Science Table released new COVID-19 modelling Thursday that forecast a surge in Omicron cases without additional public health measures.

“Restrictions should be a last resort, science-based and only considered if accompanied with an immediate new round of emergency business supports from both provincial and federal governments,” the CFIB statement said.

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said the government is looking at providing more help to businesses impacted by the new public health measures.

The CFIB said immediate grant support is needed.

“Restrictions of any kind at this time of year — especially for retailers who rely on the holiday season for revenues — could be the tipping point for many small businesses that can’t be expected to survive two consecutive years of poor holiday sales,” the CFIB said.

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Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), said many provincial business supports ended months ago while federal programs have been reduced.

“While we appreciate the rapid rise of Omicron was unexpected as we were all looking forward to Ontario’s reopening, we call on the Government of Ontario to reduce uncertainty in the business community and develop a long-term plan outlining how the province intends to support those impacted by new public health measures,” Rossi said in a statement.

“Given the rapidly shifting backdrop, clarity and transparency on specific metrics that inform the government’s decision to impose or ease restrictions are paramount for business confidence and continuity,” he said.

aartuso@postmedia.com

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