February 02, 2021
The Honourable Doug Ford
Premier of Ontario
Room 281, Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
RE: Northern Ontario Business Concerns During the Second Wave of COVID-19
Dear Premier Ford,
We are writing to you on behalf of the membership of the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce
to share our concerns and priorities during the current second wave of COVID-19. Our chamber
represents over 700 businesses and serves as the voice of business in the Greater Sudbury area, and
during the pandemic has endeavored to communicate business priorities to all levels of government.
As you are aware, this pandemic has been an extraordinary challenge for many enterprises and
particular small businesses. We wish to acknowledge your government for introducing multiple
programs to assist businesses during this time and, in particular, we want to highlight the Northern
Ontario Recovery Program, the Ontario Energy Board’s energy rate reductions, and the Ontario
Small Business Support Grant. These programs have been critical for the on-going survival of small
businesses in Northern Ontario and in light of the continuing closures, we urge you to consider
implementing policies to further support businesses that are struggling to survive.
In particular, the current provincial shutdown is biased against small businesses that have been
mandated to close while other larger retailers remain open selling goods beyond those deemed
essential. Smaller businesses have equal capabilities to keep customers safe within their retail stores
and are capable of enforcing physical distancing between their customers, as well as pandemic
protocols, just as the larger retailers have demonstrated. The business community understands the
need for a provincewide shutdown given the pressures on our healthcare system, but closures need
to be directly correlated to areas which contribute to the virus’ spread using quantifiable data rather
than the status quo. We support the “Reasonable Standard of Protection” proposal put forward by
the Brampton Board of Trade as a practical guideline to permit the reopening of businesses and we
encourage you to consider such a program. It would allow the province to avoid an “essential
versus non-essential business” classification and allow safe economic activity without contributing to
the spread of the virus.
Additionally, it is important to note that businesses are in a much different place now than they were
during the first wave of the virus in March 2020: they have much less capacity for taking on
additional debt and the unfortunate reality of having to face financial failure is looming ever closer.
Your government recognized the reduced capacity of businesses to take on debt through the
Ontario Small Business Support Grant, and committed to getting funds to businesses quickly.
However, that same level of urgency has not been applied to other programs, including the
Northern Ontario Recovery Program, where many businesses are still waiting for funds from
applications submitted in November. Access to these programs is critical to a business’s ability to
survive during this critical period.
Our members have also expressed the importance of clear and timely communication from your
government and from public health officials on matters related to how they will be permitted to
operate and re-open. Businesses understand the need for the various regulations you have
introduced during the pandemic but they are challenged to comply if there is a lack of consistency,
mixed messaging, and confusion. Unclear guidelines and public health best practices make
compliance more difficult not just for business owners, but also for their employees and the general
Businesses need advanced notice of major changes in the government’s response to the pandemic.
On December 18, 2020, your government announced that Public Health Sudbury & Districts would
be moved to the “Green-Prevent” classification in the province’s colour-coded framework; then,
only three days later, on December 21, 2020, your government announced the current provincewide
shutdown. Furthermore, this shutdown was expected to end on January 9, 2021, in Northern
Ontario, however on January 7, 2021, it was extended an additional 14 days. Many businesses were
preparing to reopen on January 9, 2021, and had scheduled employee hours, bought supplies, which
for restaurants and bars are perishable, and made other necessary preparations for reopening.
Business confidence suffers most in an environment of uncertainty, and clear and timely
communications from your government would prevent some of these challenges. As a next step, if
the current shutdown is to be extended past February 11, 2021, we encourage you to announce that
as soon as possible so businesses can begin planning their operations in this next phase.
We trust you will take the above-noted concerns and priorities of our business members into
consideration as you manage the pandemic in the coming weeks and months. We appreciate your
government’s efforts to engage with Northern Ontario stakeholders, in particular the efforts of
Ministers Fedeli, Sarkaria, Rickford, Thompson, and McNaughton. Our chamber will continue to
communicate the priorities of our members as the province advances toward a safe and efficient
CHAIR OF THE BOARD
Debbi M. Nicholson
PRESIDENT & CEO
Jamie West, MPP Sudbury
France Gélinas, MPP Nickel Belt
Mayor Brian Bigger, City of Greater Sudbury
Download the letter HERE.