NDP pushes for increased small business support

Andrea Horwath addresses the media in Belle River on July 12, 2020 (Screen grab via Zoom)

The leader of Ontario’s Official Opposition is calling for better support for small businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath spent the weekend touring Essex County. On Sunday, Horwath spoke at the Atlas Tube Centre in Belle River, where she took aim at the Doug Ford government and its handling to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We didn’t have a premier that stepped up to the plate and helped small businesses and to this very day, this continues to be the case,” she said.

According to Horwath, she spent the weekend communicating with small business owners in the region. Horwath said the main takeaway she got is that small businesses are really hurting right now, especially in the Kingsville and Leamington areas, which were kept in Phase 1 of the provincial reopening several weeks longer than the remainder of the province.

Horwath stressed that there is a need for direct financial support from the provincial government, adding that many business owners she spoke with currently feel disappointed by the lack of provincial support so far.

“They’re frustrated and they’re worried,” Horwath said. “They’re worried about not only this phase and where we are now… They’re worried about what comes next. They’re worried about next year, what’s going to happen in 2021. They’re worried another shoe is going to drop.”

Horwath also expressed concern about the Conservatives’ management of COVID-19 in the agriculture industry, calling it “shameful” that the province wasn’t prepared for the handling of migrant workers in Ontario.

According to Horwath, the outbreaks that have plagued farms in Essex County are a direct result of the provincial government not being proactive.

“Other provinces were prepared, they did a better job,” she said. “They made sure that people who were coming to the farms were isolating in advance, that there were protocols in place for testing and isolated.”

While encouraging people to support small businesses as much as possible, Horwath also touted the NDP’s ‘Save Main Street’ plan.

“It’s a plan that we put together in April when we knew immediately that small businesses were going to need some support if they were going to survive COVID,” Horwath explained. “Unfortunately, the provincial government has not implemented the kinds of things that need to happen.”

According to Horwath, the plan would involve several factors to help small businesses survive and thrive, including a 75 per cent commercial rent subsidy, a freeze on utility bills and a fund to help businesses transfer operations online.

The cost of the Save Main Street plan is estimated to range from $850 million to $1.15 billion.