A resolution from the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry calling for the Province of Ontario to permit small businesses to open immediately following health guidelines and with protocols in place was part of Champlain Township’s regular meeting agenda on February 11.
Although the context of the resolution had changed somewhat as Ontario was poised, at the time of the Champlain council meeting, to announce the re-opening of small businesses and dine-in options at restaurants, West Hawkesbury ward councillor Gerry Miner took the opportunity to criticize the government’s forced closure of small businesses while big-box stores stayed open during the stay-at-home order.
“There are some small businesses which will never come back. I don’t see how the government thinks Walmart can control 200 people but a small business cannot control two or three people (inside its place of business),” Miner said.
L’Orignal Councillor André Roy said that he agreed with the motion in front of him.
“We can’t continue to ignore them (small businesses),” continued Miner. “They are the basis of our economy,” Miner said.
North Glengarry councillors agreed with Miner. At their January 25 meeting, they voted unanimously that small businesses should be permitted to be open (this meeting pre-dated the provincial re-opening announcement.)
North Glengarry Mayor Jamie MacDonald said that small businesses were following the rules and should be allowed to open.
“If they don’t open soon, we won’t have these businesses,” MacDonald said. He also pointed out that about three dozen big-box stores had been reported as not following COVID-1o safety rules during an inspection blitz which had taken place during the previous weekend in Ontario.
Councillor Michael Madden said that he agreed completely with the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry counties’ resolution.
Madden said that supporting the resolution was one small thing that council could do in a situation over which it has no input.
There has been controversy across the province about big-box stores which were open during pandemic lockdowns for consumers to purchase everything from groceries to clothing, electronics and miscellaneous items, while small businesses selling similar products were not allowed to stay open for in-store shopping.
In Quebec, big-box stores were forced to cordon off areas of their stores containing “non-essential” items. Such was not the case in Ontario and during one of the routine health briefings from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roulemiotis had said several weeks ago in response to a question, that he did not want to enact such measures on behalf of the health unit, but rather, he hoped that a ruling would come from the province.