The Ontario government cannot keep bringing in lockdown measures because they are destroying small businesses, said the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) on Monday. 

“Two weeks to flatten the curve for the health care system is quickly turning into two years for small businesses affected by lockdowns and other restrictions,” said the CFIB in a statement. “Closing gyms, indoor dining and arts and recreation venues is a particularly devastating way to ring in the new year for some of the hardest-hit industries already on their knees.” 

The CFIB said that in Toronto, indoor dining has been halted for 408 days because of closures, and gyms have been shuttered for 395. 

Only 35% of Ontario’s small businesses have returned to normal revenues, according to the business group. The average COVID-19 debt for an Ontario small business is $190,000, and 18.5% – almost one in five – are thinking about declaring bankruptcy. 

There are no provincial supports for small businesses to access, and grant funding has not been available since April. 

The CFIB said Ontario’s property tax and energy rebate program and tax deferrals will provide some relief. However, this funding is “not nearly enough, not accessible today and will kick the debt further down the road.” 

The business group said the new restrictions will be “the tipping point for many small firms.” 

“It is not lost on business owners that each time the Ontario government has closed businesses, they have gone well beyond the promised lockdown period,” they said. “CFIB calls on the government to immediately reintroduce provincial grant support for all businesses affected in any way by today’s announcement and provide an immediate pathway to reopening.” 

Ontario brought back lockdown measures because of high COVID-19 case counts due to the Omicron variant. Premier Doug Ford made the announcement on Monday, calling the new restrictions “time-limited.”  

“As we continue with our provincial vaccine booster efforts, we must look at every option to slow the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant,” said Ford. “Putting these targeted and time-limited measures in place will give us more opportunity to deliver vaccines to all Ontarians and ensure everyone has maximum protection against this virus.”

These new measures will take effect on Wednesday. They include capping retail stores at 50% capacity, closing indoor meeting and event venues and shutting down indoor dining in bars and restaurants. 

New Blue Party leader Jim Karahalios called the new restrictions wrong.

“No more excuses for Doug Ford & PCs – they’re nothing but a clone of the lobbyist establishment & Liberals they pretended to replace,” said Karahalios in a tweet. “They promised everything would go back to normal with jabs.” 

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