Niagara-on-the-Lake is facing its biggest test yet, and Lord Mayor Betty Disero is counting on residents to help pass it with flying colours.
“Hopefully we can get over this one last hurdle,” she says.
Disero is referring to the fact that the town’s COVID numbers remain low, thanks to residents doing what they are supposed to do to reduce the spread.
“We’re in this place where we have things under control, but we have to wait and see if anything happens from Black Friday.”
That will take about 10 days, Disero says. She’s also concerned about what happens from now until the end of the month.
“We’re moving toward Christmas. The tell-tale sign will really be the first or second week in January, when we know whether we’ve been vigilant enough to stay the spread of COVID. That’s the big test, to make it through the holiday.”
The crowds that were expected at the outlet mall on Black Friday and last weekend were not as bad as expected, and mall management had them under control, says Disero.
Saturday was the busiest day, but the parking lot was only about three-quarters full.
There were town bylaw officers patrolling the mall, paid police officers and mall security out in force. The mall has posted signs saying masks had to be worn everywhere on the property, including outside, and that was being enforced.
She was told people not wearing a mask were asked to leave the property.
With no sign of regional restrictions being lifted, Disero is hoping MPP Wayne Gates will be successful getting some financial relief through wage and rent subsidies for business owners that are currently only available to those in Ontario’s red zone, or in lockdown.
With Niagara in the orange-plus zone, with regional restrictions limiting business owners to the same degree as those with higher COVID numbers, Gates has been putting pressure on the Province to extend those subsidies to Niagara businesses. He was able to ask a question of the Minister of Finance in question period Monday, and to explain his concerns in more detail to the assistant finance minister after question period, he says.
“There is $600 million for the Province to spend on businesses that are locked down or in the red zone. Our businesses have the same restrictions, and should be getting some of that,” he says.
Gates says he will follow up with his request this week, and hopefully get a positive response.
“If I don’t do this we’re not getting it,” he says. “I’ll do everything I can to get it done.”