Have you ever been to the Heritage Railway and Carousel Company in North Bay? It’s pretty cool. Each year, prior to the pandemic of course, the attraction sees over 100,000 visitors stop by to ride the miniature train as well as a truly classic carousel. It is classic in the truest sense of the word. It is a rebuild of an original 1908 carousel, complete with hand carved horses. The entire structure was fixed up like ‘classic’ new by many volunteers and local artisans. It truly is magnificent and worth a visit.
I for one have been known to enjoy riding a carousel. The whimsical music and fanciful horses and other items can’t help but draw you back to warm memories of your youth. I know thousands of enthusiasts look forward to the day it can reopen.
Now, as much as I like a ride on a carousel, one of the things that make it enjoyable is knowing that we can get off when the music stops after a short ride. If one rides it too long, one begins to loose their balance, get dizzy and the constant carnival style music gets on your nerves. If you stay on too long you become upset, irritable and unstable. They can’t wait for the music to stop so they can get off.
Well, it is clear that the people of Ontario are beleaguered riding this ‘pandemic-carousel’ that seems to go on endlessly. When I shared this imagery with my team while discussing the situation that Ontarians find themselves in, one of them added that the problem is made worse because Doug is at the helm making questionable decisions on our speed and direction. Ontarians are riding this pandemic carousel and see and hear Ford pulling on the leavers and seemingly putting on the breaks to stop, then suddenly some friends whisper in his ear and the thing takes off again with the people of Ontario fatigued and falling on their knees seeking relief.
The above scenario describes what it is like to be a small business operator in Ontario these days. Business owners and their customers both want to see once and for all this province reopen and stay open this time. Too many times now, Ford has made decisions that are contrary to the advice of his own public health and medical advisors. Decisions which soon lead to renewed lockdown orders and necessary stronger measures – both of which could have been avoided by following professional advice. As a result, small business owners are truly on their knees begging for mercy. Thousands are at the end of their fiscal and emotional ropes, and too many others have already succumbed to the financial drought with no hope of possible return.
Small and medium-sized businesses are the drivers of Ontario’s economy, and create the majority of Ontario’s jobs. But they are the most at risk of not making it to their re-opening day. With a local business support package, we can save those businesses, champion Ontario’s incredible entrepreneurs, save countless jobs and create new jobs.
This time let’s make sure businesses have everything they need to reopen for good — preserving and creating more good jobs for more Ontario workers. That’s why the NDP has prepared a package of positive proposals that will help Main Streets thrive, thus keep food on the tables of working folks and local business owners.
To begin, we desperately need a vastly improved third round of Ontario Small Business Support Grant payments. Unlike Doug Ford’s earlier choices, this time, the government must not leave any business behind – providing a new payment to bridge to reopening every small or medium-sized local business that’s experienced revenue decline in the third wave, compared to pre-pandemic.
Here in the North, tourism represents a huge portion of our overall economy. But, tourism businesses were excluded from the first round of government support. In fact, they received only half as much help as other Ontario businesses. That’s why the NDP says we need to end the strategy of leaving tourism behind. We propose providing a $1,000 tourism and local restaurant tax credit. Our Travel Ontario Tax Credit bill provides families a $1,000 tax credit to visit qualifying tourism businesses in Ontario, including qualifying purchases at restaurants, hotels, outfitters and attractions.
As well, Ontario would benefit from targeting support for personal care and service-based businesses. Some businesses in this sector have been hard hit by necessary public health measures such as personal care businesses like salons. Service-industry businesses like restaurants and bars need access to a Safe Reopening Grant in order to reopen — and stay open. Some Ontario businesses can make a go of it again if they can access forgivable loans. Such loans would provide them with the capital they need to reopen and expand products and services. The growth achieved from such investment would be an important contributor to overall economic recovery all across the province.
Ontarians are tired of Ford’s ill-considered decisions that keep this pandemic-carousel spinning and spinning out of control. They are tired of him listening to his deep-pocketed supporters and friends and instead tuning out the advice of public health professionals. Government are elected to ensure the health and prosperity of all people. It’s time for this merry-go-round we are on to stop.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député