TORONTO -- Thousands of small businesses across Ontario are considering bankruptcy as they sit on the sidelines of the COVID-19 economic recovery, according to an advocate for independent business owners. 

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) surveyed small and medium sized businesses and found that 16 per cent say they are on the verge of closing their doors permanently as a result of the pandemic-induced shut down of the economy. 

"Businesses need to start making revenue again, otherwise they're just not going to survive" said Ryan Mallough, CFIB's Director of Provincial Affairs for Ontario. 

Mallough said businesses such as movie theatres, gyms, fitness studios and yoga studios as well as restaurants that are restricted to patio-dining have been struggling as they wait for the province to enter the third and final stage of the economic revival plan. 

"Most of these businesses have been making zero revenue for three months," Mallough said. "Even having a fantastic summer, a fantastic fall, or even a fantastic winter, you still lost a quarter of your year at near zero revenue. Those excellent months are maybe going to help you break even, but not necessarily get ahead." 

While Premier Doug Ford has said he has been lobbied by a number of sectors to reopen the rest of the economy, his government wants to move "cautiously" and ensure that the new COVID-19 case numbers are as low as possible. 

"We'll get there very shortly," Ford said on Friday. 

Ford said the third and final stage of the government's reopening plan would allow "most all businesses" to relaunch their operations with limits on capacity while large venues such as the Rogers Centre or the Scotiabank Arena would remain closed to spectators. 

When asked for a specific timeline on stage three, however, Ford said he couldn't provide an exact date but said the government's Jobs and Recovery Committee -- led by Finance Minister Rod Phillips -- was examining options and dates. 

"Since it's going to be the last stage we want to make sure our T's are crossed, our I's are dotted and make sure everyone's safe." 

Ford rejected the notion that his government's slow roll out of the economic recovery has forced some businesses to declare bankruptcy and said the province is "doing everything we can" and is moving responsibly. 

"You see what's happening when you move too quickly, you see what's happening south of the border. We don't want that happening up here."