When I joined the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce team, no one could have anticipated what 2020 would be like. It has been quite a journey, but together we will emerge stronger from the pandemic.
Last week the Retail Council of Canada heard the government’s message loud and clear, “people should stay home to stop the spread.” On behalf of its members, many of whom are struggling to remain viable, the RCC implores the public to obey the rules so businesses don’t have to suffer again and again.
Health and safety are paramount. It will always be the right decision to prioritize life, but the lockdowns have created an economic disaster, businesses and jobs have been lost. Research conducted for the Retail Council of Canada shows that most stores are low-risk environments, with approximately one in 400 COVID-19 cases resulting from a retail environment. Most of our companies strictly follow all health and safety protocols.
Last week’s announcement of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant will help, but “non-essential” small and medium businesses, including restaurants and most of our tourism industry, desperately need help from all levels of government.
We all know someone who works as an essential retail worker in a pharmacy or grocery store. Many of us know a business, restaurant or hotel owner who is in the heart of our community. Retail employees and essential business owners have worked tirelessly to address the new realities of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. All of our businesses have gone above and beyond and will reopen safely when allowed to do so, but the other component of the equation, the public, is beyond their control.
Please follow the rules, think of these people throughout the confinement. We have to support them by buying locally. Without this support many will collapse. But we must also support them by following the rules, so that they are not forced to close again and can continue to fight for the survival of their businesses. We will prosper when all prosper.
From the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism NOTL we wish you a happy, safe and healthy 2021.
Eduardo Lafforgue is the president of the NOTL Chamber of Commerce and Tourism NOTL.