Ontario businesses desperate for clarity on reopening as Premier Ford teases 'positive news'
In one week, Ontario’s COVID-19 restrictions could lift, but many businesses say they are grappling with a lack of clarity and direction from the provincial government on whether they should be preparing to reopen.
Current public health restrictions were put in place until at least Jan. 26, shuttering restaurants and gyms to slow the fast spread of the Omicron variant.
However, on Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford said that “restaurants, gyms and other folks” forced to close should expect a positive announcement from the province later this week, alluding to the possibility of loosening restrictions across the province.
Multiple sources have confirmed to CTV News Toronto that in-person dining will resume at 50 per cent capacity at the end of the month. The premier is expected to formally announce this on Thursday.
Despite the possibility of a move towards looser restrictions, Ontario business owners and employees have not yet been provided with directives from the Ford government on potential next steps, which they say is cultivating an environment of confusion and distrust.
‘SALT IN THE WOUND’
Rachel Schklar is the co-owner of Pilates North in Richmond Hill and says her business has only been able to operate at full capacity for eight full weeks since 2020.
“Don't ask me how it feels to close, ask me how I feel when I reopen because I don't know what that feels like anymore,” Schklar told CTV News Toronto on Wednesday.
“[The government’s] continued inability to effectively communicate — it's like salt in the wound,” she said.
She says her business isn’t planning on reopening on Jan. 26, opting instead for a later date of Feb 7. She says this decision was based on the Ford government’s previous track record of “re-jigging plans.”
“We felt it was our responsibility to give [our clients] some structure,” Schklar said.
“Given the history of all the back and forth, things constantly changing without any notice, and being told one thing then another thing happening, it's hard to believe anything we're told,” Joerin said.
He said that one of the biggest challenges presented by closures has been retaining staff.
“As dining rooms open up and as restrictions lift, restaurants start the process of rehiring, which is really tough these days — not a lot of people are working — so, you spend a couple of months training them and then, all of a sudden, you're told to close and you've got to find ways to keep people employed.”
Joerin says he’s been able to create a few extra shifts having staff come in to package up food at risk of spoiling after closures to give to charity.
“[The closures] wreak havoc on things and we're just sort of in this holding pattern that we've become used to now,” he said.
Despite trying his best to keep his restaurant alive, Joerin described a feeling of defeat.
“I feel like there's not a lot of fight left,” he said. “We've been beaten down so many times that we're just used to this now and we're just waiting.”
A NOTE OF OPTIMISM
Dan Kelly, president and chief executive officer at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, told CP24 Wednesday that he detects a note of optimism in Ford’s words.
“But I gotta tell you, there's this suspended disbelief among small business owners right now,” he added.
Kelly says a sustained path to economic recovery is needed, or else businesses may face permanent closures.
“Businesses have been hanging on with tape and glue to try to keep their businesses alive over the course of the past two years,” he said.
“If we do get on a steady pathway to recovery, and we don't look back then more businesses may survive.”
Also on Wednesday, Restaurants Canada issued a statement calling on the Ontario government to immediately provide the province’s food service industry with “clear guidance for reopening indoor dining next week.”
“Restaurants can’t simply open their doors at a moment’s notice,” Restaurants Canada President and CEO Todd Barclay said in the statement.
“They need to order food and supplies, schedule staff and prepare menus. With Ontario’s latest closure of indoor dining set to end on Jan. 26, restaurant operators deserve to know by now if these latest restrictions will be completely lifted or if dining will continue to be restricted to the 50 per cent capacity limit imposed in December.”
Restaurants Canada said that they’ve sent a letter to Premier Doug Ford, calling on him to meet with policymakers and public health officials to “gain insights into decisions impacting food service operations" and “further support to help the province’s hard-hit foodservice businesses recover from the massive amounts of debt they’ve incurred.”
These restaurants, Joerin said, make Toronto the city it is.
“When I think of Toronto, I think of all the different cultures we have here and one of the first places you can enjoy this multiculturalism is in restaurants — you get to listen to other people's languages, music, see their art on the walls, eat their food, interact with their community,” he said.
“I'd hate to see us start to lose this.”
Joerin said he hopes to soon see more from both the municipal and provincial governments.
“I think small business and small restaurants are what makes Toronto great and, hopefully, the city and the [provincial] government will do a better job of taking care of us, of communicating with us and understanding that we can't keep bearing the brunt of all these restrictions.”
Toronto Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The actions -- or more notably, the inaction -- of a school district police chief and other law enforcement officers has become the centre of the investigation into this week's shocking school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
As Russia asserted progress in its goal of seizing the entirety of contested eastern Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin tried to shake European resolve Saturday to punish his country with sanctions and to keep supplying weapons that have supported Ukraine's defence.
The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos was met with justifiable criticisms and unfounded conspiracy theories.
Canada and Finland won semifinal games Saturday to set up a third straight gold-medal showdown between the teams at the IIHF world hockey championship.
Woman with disabilities approved for medically assisted death relocated thanks to 'inspiring' support
A 31-year-old disabled Toronto woman who was conditionally approved for a medically assisted death after a fruitless bid for safe housing says her life has been 'changed' by an outpouring of support after telling her story.
Federal Conservative leadership candidate Patrick Brown says calling social conservatives 'dinosaurs' in a book he wrote about his time in Ontario politics was 'the wrong terminology.'
Hydro Ottawa says the goal is to restore power to "the bulk" of homes and businesses by the end of the weekend as crews enter "the last phase" of restoration efforts.
A Hydro One spokesperson says some people living in remote parts of rural eastern Ontario could be waiting weeks to have power restored after last Saturday’s devastating and deadly storm.
B.C. speedboat driver arrested with 650kg of meth 'feared for his family's safety,' he told U.S. investigators
New details are emerging after a 51-year-old Alberta man was arrested aboard a speedboat that U.S. authorities say was carrying 650 kilograms of methamphetamine between Washington state and British Columbia.
Is it unconstitutional to make someone pay to get a legal document translated into French? One of Montreal's top lawyers thinks so, and pointed out two other things from Bill 96 that he thinks the courts would most easily find fault with.
Quebec announced special financial assistance to cover food losses suffered by those using social assistance programs following power outages.
Around 2,500 boards are being decorated by Montreal-area students right now, as Skateboards for Hope delivers decks around the world.
Special Olympian Chris Klein-Geltink knows exactly which truck he wants to be rewarded at the Woodstock Truck Show.
Tony Paul had a hard time putting words together when speaking about his late wife Susan.
As the one year anniversary of the attack that killed four members of the Afzaal family approaches, members of the community along with the City of London have planned a number of commemorative events in the hopes of “continuing the healing.”
As Ford made his pitch to voters inside, outside, demonstrators weathered rain and thunder to speak out against his leadership.
Waterloo regional police have arrested a 63-year-old Cambridge man who slashed someone’s tires before shooting a pellet gun at officers and barricading himself inside an apartment.
Six people have been arrested after Brant County OPP executed a search warrant in the Broadway and William Street area of Paris, Ont.
A long line of cars wrapped around the Humane Society's parking lot in North Bay Saturday morning as dozens of cats and dogs got microchipped.
Glencore International has pled guilty and agreed to pay US$1.186 billion in fines and penalties for corrupt practices in dealing with foreign governments.
Ontario health officials are reporting the province’s lowest COVID-19 intensive care occupancy in six months as hospitalizations linked to the disease continue to decline.
A 22-year-old Gatineau man died in hospital after being stabbed outside an establishment in Aylmer on Saturday morning.
Windsor Regional Hospital is postponing a number of non-emergency diagnostic imaging scans due to an international shortage of contrast dye.
A vital piece of equipment is now on the biggest OPP vessel in our area. Patrick Armstrong, co-founder of the Dave Mounsey Memorial Fund, donated a defibrillator to the OPP Marine Unit.
Two people have died and others were injured following a four-vehicle crash in Chatham, Ont. Friday evening.
Provincial police are requesting that boaters avoid a waterway near the Honey Harbour area due to an 'ongoing incident.'
A former PSW at a Roberta Place in Barrie is reflecting on his battle with COVID-19 one year later.
Provincial police say an 87-year old man from Springwater Township reported missing earlier this week has been found deceased.
Rough road to recovery for N.B. duty-free shop – still holding out hope border traffic will increase
A N.B. duty-free shop owner at the U.S.-Canada border says high fuel costs and lingering requirements at the border are hurting business.
Two special prosecutors tasked with taking on Nova Scotia's human trafficking cases are sharing some insight into what's currently happening in the province's courts.
Vinyl lovers packed a community centre in Riverview, N.B., Saturday in search of a hidden gem or the missing piece to their collection at the bi-annual Moncton Record Expo.
Fans of the Calgary Stampeders are breathing a sigh of relief and looking forward to watching pre-season football at McMahon Stadium on Saturday for the first time since 2019.
Back on the track: Calgary high school athletes compete in city championships for first time since pandemic
More than 600 athletes from 29 schools competed Saturday in the first Calgary high school city championship competition since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
A group of volunteers spent their Saturday morning outfitting a Calgary home with new appliances, furniture and food for a family in need.
A building located on Mayfair Avenue is being declared a complete loss after a fire broke out Saturday morning.
It’s been nearly four months since the historic Kirkwood Block caught fire and was left in ruins, but it is now starting to be taken down.
Pembina Trails School Division is confirming to CTV News that a group of students found a body during community cleanup at École South Pointe School.
Volunteers in Vancouver are stepping their efforts as the city continues to see a rise in property crimes.
Amid ongoing controversy over a temporary bike lane and after a long weekend that saw drivers frustrated -- the Vancouver Park Board is asking for feedback on how to decrease private vehicle traffic in Stanley Park.
The months-long transit strike in B.C.'s Sea to Sky region may be coming to an end, after representatives from the union and the employer signed a tentative agreement Friday.
The Edmonton Oilers have made it through two rounds of the NHL playoffs, but they've used two Game 1 mulligans along the way.
Felice Café has been open for just one month and local vendors are already seeing a boost in business because of it.
Friends, family and supporters of Jacob Sansom and Maurice Cardinal gathered outside the Edmonton law courts Friday to sing and pray for justice.