Gan chamber seeks post-COVID recovery in Ontario budget

·3 min read

The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce joined many in its network in urging the provincial government to address key economic points of pain on Friday.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), along with its network of local chambers across the province, released its pre-budget submission to the provincial government.

The submission released ahead of Ontario's 2021 budget focuses on three themes: Recovery, growth and modernization.

A major part of the submission calls on the government to offer relief to small businesses and municipalities that lasts beyond a short-term timeline.

"We want to hear recovery; we don't want band-aids anymore," said Amy Kirkland, executive director of the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce.

"We want to continue to make sure that small businesses and small-medium sized businesses are very well taken care of," added Kirkland. "We want to see everybody recover and we need the support of our government officials in order to do that."

Targeted funding towards the hardest-hit sectors is established as a key request early in the submission to the government.

"The number one affected industry by COVID-19 is tourism," said Kirkland.

She added that is one reason why the pandemic has hit the areas of Gananoque and the Thousand Islands hard, as they rely on tourism through boaters and summer travellers for a portion of revenue.

The submission acts as a messaging piece for chambers and districts across the province, bringing in a large variety of recommendations and requests. Population areas as large as Toronto to smaller towns like Gananoque are represented.

"With Ontario's economy expected to enter a period of recovery this year as vaccines are distributed and businesses begin to reopen, resources need to be focused on where they will have the greatest impact," said Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, in a statement.

“Resources should be targeted towards the sectors and communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, including industries requiring face-to-face contact, small businesses, municipal governments, as well as women, lower-income, racialized, elderly, new immigrant, and younger Ontarians," added Rossi.

Recommendations under the growth section that would directly support the area include accelerating broadband expansion and supporting farmers and producers with online sales.

"We need to not only support tourism but also the agriculture sector as well," said Kirkland.

Under the recovery section of the submission, the OCC also argues that the government must minimize the economic impacts of business closures. One of the methods the chambers are asking for beyond physical distancing is through testing.

Prioritizing rapid testing and contact tracing would facilitate more targeted decisions regarding business restrictions. Kirkland also said that better distribution of the vaccine would greatly help businesses.

"We need a solid plan moving forward to get out to a post-COVID environment," said Kirkland.

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s office confirmed that the provincial budget will be presented no later than March 31, but no exact date has been announced.

With regards to the OCC submission, ministry spokesman Scott Blodgett said: "The Ministry of Finance does not speculate as to what may or may not be in the forthcoming budget."

Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times