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Minister takes pulse of rural communities

Provincial Finance Minister Rod Phillips (right) was in Wellesley Tuesday afternoon, part of an effort to check in with how businesses are faring with coronavirus measures. He was joined by Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris, Wellesley Mayor Joe Nowak while visiting Sherrie Kirby, owner of Grammy’s Boutique & Espresso Bar. [Sean Heeger]

As stage 3 of the provincial reopening plan continues to move forward, most businesses have been cleared to open their doors. While restarting may be slow for some, others have taken the new normal in stride and have made the best of the situation in front of them. To gauge how these businesses are fairing, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris welcomed Finance Minister Rod Phillips to the region Tuesday afternoon, stopping in Wellesley for a coffee and chat with local business owners.

“MPP Harris suggested that it would be great to get out and get a sense of how stage 3 is going [and] how businesses responding. We know that some are facing a lot of challenges, and we know some are really thriving. So we’ve been here in Wellesley [and] we’ve been also looking at some of the technology businesses in the region, and just getting a sense of what’s working and hearing from great business owners about how they’re doing,” said Phillips of his trip around the region.“Really, this is about a thank-you as well for all their patience and their attention to public health details. And, you know, kicking the tires a little bit to see how things are going. It’s good to get out of Queen’s Park, and see how the economy is actually doing.”

Phillips said he’s been hearing about the struggles that some businesses are facing, noting these visits are an opportunity to ensure MPPs are able to go back to Queen’s Park and help create new plans to move the province forward over the next few years.

“I was talking with the mayor about some of the development opportunities, and what we can do, collaborating with local governments and regional governments to try to move along job creation. So I think we’re at a very unique time – this is a historic time for our province, and how we take these next steps are really going to determine what the next one year, five years, 10 years look like… COVID is the biggest health and economic challenge in my lifetime, and I think most people’s lifetimes. But that doesn’t mean we can’t decide now, how are we going to move forward,” he added.

Stopping at Grammy’s Boutique & Espresso Bar in Wellesley, Phillips and Harris met with owner Sherrie Kirby and Mayor Joe Nowak to discuss how the business has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, and what can be done to help businesses and the town move forward.

Kirby said she felt privileged to have Phillips and Harris stop by her shop to see how things were going. She adds that she has no worries with regards to her business as things continue to move forward, and adds that the phased-in approach allows people to shop local within their community

Harris says he hopes by doing things like this trip that it encourages everyone to not just focus on the big cities, but also remember the rural areas are just as important.

“I think the main thing that we really want to press upon the people in the province is that we’re listening, we’re open to creative ideas. We want to make sure that business is able to thrive but that we do that in the most safe and responsible way possible,” said Harris.“And we have to make sure that we’re not forgetting about rural Ontario, that we’re focusing on not only what’s happening in the big cities but also what’s happening out here and in our more rural and remote areas.”

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