The province’s plan to gradually reopen the economy following the most recent lockdown is music to the ears of Waterloo Region councillors who last week called for changes to the Reopening Ontario Act.
At a board of health meeting February 4, the region requested more consistency in rules that seem to favour big-box retailers over small businesses.
“The Regional Municipality of Waterloo request that the province of Ontario review and potentially amend the Reopening Ontario Act, and associated regulations in order to ensure a timely enforcement response that is built on the consistent application of the law, and reduces frustration among businesses and enforcement agencies,” said Coun. Michael Harris in a motion requesting government action.
The request follows regional councillors fielding complaints, questions and concerns from businesses owners and other constituents expressing a need for more equitable capacity limits and fairness for small businesses.
Coun. Geoff Lorentz noted that even a return to the previous colour-coded system puts small businesses at a disadvantage. He said the system remains confusing and puts much of the onus on the business owners, who struggle to adapt at their own expense.
“Under the colour-code framework, these revisions need to apply in the order that all businesses have clarity. Advocating for more activities allow small businesses to be open when other stores like Costco and Walmart are allowed to sell non-essential goods also has merit,” said Lorentz.
“I think it really is important, but what it really boils down to is fairness and equity in the business community. There are so many small businesses out there that are that are really suffering from this. had a retail business for over 10 years – I still have a small business – and some of them are affected more so than others,” he added. “I heard a story about a barber in Guelph who has a one-man shop and he’s been closed since the last shutdown. So we really need to be able to look at how these businesses run and have some fairness in the whole system.”