Ontario businesses and workers ‘disappointed’ with new round of COVID restrictions

TORONTO – Ontario business owners worried about the future of their businesses as workers braced for layoffs after the province imposed new COVID-19 measures forcing some to temporarily close their doors and others to limit visitors.

The latest public health measures announced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Monday are forcing restaurants and bars to stop eating indoors and stop selling alcohol after 10 p.m. starting Wednesday .

Retail businesses, including malls and personal care services, are to reduce capacity to 50%, while indoor concert halls, theaters, cinemas, museums, galleries and other attractions must close.

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Policies to reduce the surge in COVID-19 cases in the province are expected to remain in place until at least January 26, but companies fear that even three weeks of shutdowns could result in lost revenue and layoffs and no ” exacerbate existing labor shortages and rising costs.

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“I’m right in the middle of nowhere right now. I’m really disappointed, ”said Andy Page, owner of Tomyum Restaurant and Wine Bar in Toronto.

“Every day I open my eyes and see a whole bunch of bills waiting for me to pay and a lot of people ask me why I keep going. To be honest, it’s because I don’t have a backup plan.

More closed weeks will mean bills – already high due to rising inflation rates – will rise further and Page will have to work harder to retain the staff he has managed to hire in a tight labor market.

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The Ontario government tried to ease some of those financial strains on Monday with an expanded rebate program for businesses affected by the new list of closures.

Some businesses ordered to close will be reimbursed 100% of property tax and energy costs, he said, while those that must reduce capacity to 50% will receive reimbursement for half of those expenses.

Since Ford’s announcement, Page has said his phone has been ringing constantly with messages from staff members worried about their jobs and curious about his plan to keep the company alive during temporary shutdowns.

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Page will offer take-out and use UberEats for delivery, but he admits neither is making enough money to replace being able to serve a full dining room.

All he does is keep taking out food as it will help him retain customers and prevent his staff from looking for work elsewhere.

“I’m already taking money from my RRSP to pay for my things, but hopefully they will understand that I’m not going to pay them off as much as I used to,” he said.

Ryan Duncan, who works as a waiter at a restaurant in Toronto, said he expected a layoff notice from his workplace this week.

“I have a lot of friends in the industry and we’re all just waiting to see when the other shoe drops,” he said.

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“We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, how long this layoff and shutdown could last, and where the financial support will come from.”

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Duncan was already laid off at the start of the pandemic and used government relief payments to stay afloat, but said he incurred “a little bit of debt” trying to keep food on the table and his bills. paid.

With another layoff he said he would take things ‘day to day’, but if he’s out of work for a long time he might be ‘forced’ out of the industry and possibly to leave Toronto.

“There is no long term planning available at the moment as there is simply no way of knowing what will happen next month,” Duncan added.

As Duncan watches to see if he’ll lose his job again, some employers have already implemented layoff plans.

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Landmark Cinemas, Canada’s second-largest movie theater chain, said the new measures will have a “significant financial impact”, forcing it to lay off again hundreds of part-time employees when it is forced to shut down.

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“We support the government’s goal of slowing the spread of this variant and sincerely hope that the shutdown will be limited to three weeks,” the theater operator said in an email.

The country’s largest movie theater chain, Cineplex Inc., is also hoping that the closings of 67 of its theaters will be as brief as possible.

Theaters have already faced several rounds of pandemic shutdowns and have seen movie releases moved by distributors later in the hopes of drawing larger crowds.

After Ford closed theaters again, Cineplex said it would offer a full refund to customers who booked tickets in advance.

– With files from Noushin Ziafati and David Friend in Toronto

© 2022 The Canadian Press


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