Friday , January 15 2021

A new unfair lockdown for Northern Ontario?

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Ontario announced yesterday that it is imposing an emergency measure and a stay-at-home order for the entire province until February 8. This measure also applies to the North, which must close despite a low rate of hospitalizations and cases of COVID-19. Some wonder if the measure is not unjustified in light of the figures.

As of Wednesday, northern Ontario had 17 hospitalizations including four people in intensive care and health units all listed between 20 and 50 active cases of the coronavirus.

This new government decision comes in addition to the closure of a majority of non-essential businesses that took place on Boxing Day.

In Greenstone, where nearly 30% of the population is French-speaking, Mayor Renald Beaulieu says he is worried about the small businesses in his city with this new confinement.

“I have trouble with the fact that some of our small traders are really affected. I know it’s not the same in big cities, but there are services that are essential for us here and that are forced to close because of the law. It’s already difficult for us to attract people so I’m concerned. But I really want to encourage people to follow the rules, I know it’s not easy, but it’s not going for the best right now, we’re going for the worst. “

However, he would like the situation to be different when the government assesses the risks in the North.

“You have to be treated a little differently in the North. The problem when we talk about the North, we include Parry Sound and the surrounding small towns, but for us, our northern region in Greenstone, Longlac and Hearst, it’s different because we don’t have a lot of population. and we are very far apart. “

Even if Hearst is relatively more spared than the South, the mayor of the predominantly French-speaking city refuses to point the finger at the province’s decision.

“I tip my hat to the Prime Minister, he follows the orders of Health Canada and Health Ontario. We have no choice but to endure it. There are still people who don’t understand, ”says Roger Sigouin.

The mayor of Hearst, Roger Sigouin. ONFR + Archives

For the latter, a different treatment for the North compared to the rest of the province would not make sense.

“Things are doing pretty well in the North and the government has proven it by keeping schools open, but there are still a few things the government cannot do just for the South. Everyone must get on board and the message is urgent, because if it goes further than that, we will still be there for two to three years. “

Traders who adapt

For some traders, the lockdown imposed after the holiday season was a big blow.

“It’s harder lately, sales have definitely dropped since Christmas and people won’t be able to leave their homes so it won’t have a positive impact, but it’s still hard to say, because it is not started yet ”, thinks the owner of the restaurant Between the Bun, Paul Chaput.

The latter says he had to let all his employees go after the holidays.

“Right now I’m on my own and I operate seven days a week. We will see if the economy picks up. I will try to bring them (these employees) back as quickly as possible, ”laments the owner of the Thunder Bay restaurant.

Roger Sigouin says he understands the situation of small businesses and hopes the federal government will be able to provide more help for them with the Ontario government’s new announcements.

“It’s very worrying for small businesses. I hope that the federal government will be able to knock on the doors of these small businesses to support them during the next month. In my family, my two children have their own businesses, so I understand the situation, but the fact remains that we are at war with something that people do not see and you have to be aware of that. “

Buying local to stay above

For many, the famous wave of local buying allows them to secure a certain source of income while waiting for the full reopening as in the pre-COVID-19 era.

“People were very good when it came time to buy local. I have a lot of support from the community, we’re a small local business, I’m from here and I don’t know everyone in the community that badly, so that helps. The people of North Bay are very supportive. I certainly can’t complain about it, ”says Paul Chaput.

For his part, despite the sales losses in the South, the cheese maker from Kapuskasing, François Nadeau admits to having benefited from the emergence of online commerce, especially during the holiday season.

“We had losses in resellers, a lot of what we were selling in the South decreased a lot compared to last year, but local buying remained stable around Kapuskasing. We found two to three sources of sales through online sales that we did not previously do. “

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