Mississauga wants to limit sales of non-essential items at big box stores
Published Wednesday, November 25, 2020 9:28PM EST
Mississauga wants to limit big box stores from selling non-essential items in an effort to level the playing field for small businesses that have been affected by the lockdown.
During the city's COVID-19 briefing, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said she will put forward a motion at the Region of Peel Council meeting on Thursday, asking Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh to restrict sales of non-essential goods.
"We'll be putting this motion forward for the health and safety of our residents. But also, to level the playing field for our smaller retailers," Crombie said during a news conference on Wednesday.
"I know that many of our small retailers are barely hanging on."
The motion comes a few days after Peel Region and Toronto moved to the lockdown level of the province’s COVID-19 tiered framework on Monday.
In-person shopping is prohibited under lockdown, prompting many local shops to close their doors.
Exempted from the rule are essential businesses like grocery stores, pharmacies, beer and wine and liquor stores, hardware stores, and convenience stores.
Crombie said it is unfair that stores like Walmart and Costco can continue selling non-essential items while small businesses cannot.
"Big box stores are open right now to sell essential goods, not televisions, not sports equipment and not home decor. They do not need to have any further competitive advantage," Crombie said.
"Our small businesses are run by our families, our friends and our neighbours in our community. We cannot afford to see them close their doors permanently as a result of this lockdown."
Crombie is urging residents to buy at their local shops through delivery or curbside pickup, saying that "they need us more than ever."
She encouraged business owners to apply for all the federal and provincial programs available to support them through the lockdown.
"I'm incredibly sorry for what you're going through. I understand why you feel your concerns haven't been addressed," Crombie said.
"And you have my word that I will continue to advocate for you. For more help from our provincial and federal counterparts."
The mayor noted that many businesses had asked her why Mississauga is under lockdown when they cited that most of the cases in Peel are coming from Brampton.
"The short answer is this. We are one singular public health unit. And we have seen evidence that when one city or region is in lockdown, there will be a spillover effect," Crombie said, adding that COVID-19 numbers in Mississauga remain high for it to be exempted.
"But I'm making a commitment to you here today that when our numbers begin to decrease, while the whole region continues to rise, I will advocate for a more tailored approach, a surgical approach as the premier likes to call it for Mississauga."
Loh said his public health team will study the motion, what it would constitute, and the best means for regulation.
"(We) welcome the discussion and recognize the health and safety as well as the broader community concerns around the motion that's coming forward," he said.
While he welcomes the motion, Dan Kelly, the president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said there are better approaches that other provinces have introduced.
As an example, Kelly cited Alberta, which announced new public health measures on Tuesday amid rising COVID-19 cases. Businesses in that province are allowed to remain open but with capacity reduced to 25 per cent.
"We like those ideas much better. At least her plan, though, is a lot fairer than the current arrangement where the big guys win, and the small guys lose," Kelly said.
"What we're really pushing for is a safe pathway for small merchants to at least have a trickle of income through in-store sales. And we're pushing the premier, we're pushing the province to do just that."
Mississauga Board of Trade President and CEO David Wojcik said allowing in-store shopping is the only way to help small businesses, not limiting big box stores.
"I think a great suggestion that's been put forward is to prorate the number of people that are allowed in the stores. And that would go for the big box stores as well," he said.
"That would really level the playing field rather than invoking Section 22 of the Health Act."