The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is blasting the Ontario government’s decision to extend strict lockdown orders in Toronto, Peel and North Bay. 

In a strongly worded press release Friday, the CFIB accused the government of providing “zero evidence” of the effectiveness of its lockdowns and of “insulting” Ontario workers and employers. 

 “With today’s announcement of extended lockdowns for Toronto, Peel and North Bay until at least March 8, the Ontario government has once again chosen to use small business as cannon fodder, renewing its reputation as the least small business-friendly government in the country during the pandemic,” wrote the CFIB.

“Almost every other province opened schools and businesses—or didn’t close them in the first place—while COVID-19 numbers continued to fall. In fact, Ontario businesses—particularly those in the GTA—have been locked down longer than the vast majority of jurisdictions around the world.”

The CFIB’s statement says it’s “unconscionable that this government has not come up with an alternative to lockdowns, while dismissing even the most modest proposals to allow for a limited head count or by-appointment in-store service.”

The Ontario government says its decision to extend the lockdowns was in response to advice from provincial public health officials. 

“Our government’s number one priority is the safety of all individuals and families, and that’s why we are taking a gradual, cautious approach to returning regions to the Framework,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott.

“These are difficult but necessary decisions, in order to protect against COVID-19 variants and maintain the progress we have all made together. Until vaccines are widely available, we continue to urge all Ontarians to follow public health advice and measures, and stay home, stay safe, and save lives.”

Earlier this week, Premier Doug Ford scaled back some stay-at-home orders and lockdown measures in several regions.

On the same day, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table Adalsteinn Brown warned that Ontario faced the real risk of a third lockdown due to emerging coronavirus variants detected in the province. 

“Without the ability to respond quickly and effectively, without the ability to control spread in the community, we face the very real risk of a third wave and potentially a third lockdown,” said Brown.