News from the Park

This week MPPs found themselves back in their home ridings for a constituency week. I’d rather be home in the North, away from the humidity and stickiness of Toronto. I love hearing the call of the loon on CBC Morning North in the summer, although there is nothing like hearing the real thing wafting over our lakes at home in the evenings. It brings about such special feelings for most Northerners.


A truly wonderful sight to behold is the reopening of many local businesses after so many weeks of pandemic shutdown. My office team and I have noted a definite change in people’s outlook and demeanor now that things seem to be reopening. One of the advantages we have living in smaller Northern communities is that we have a lower likelihood of having to line up outside our smaller shops than people in larger communities do. You can see on people’s faces that they are happy to just walk into their local establishments and go about their business as usual. And you can especially see the smile on peoples faces as they walk out of the barbershop or hair salon as they pined for so long to get back to their preferred coiffure.


As I mentioned a few weeks ago, because Northern Ontarians embraced the leadership and direction of our public health and medical officials, we are coming out intact on this side of the curve. A big thank you and well done to the people of Algoma-Manitoulin for doing their part. While there was little to be joyous about having to follow the temporary protocols and the inconvenient adjustments and tough realities for so many of us, we stuck together and got the job done.


Now that our local business operators are able to reopen their doors and welcome us back, it is essential that we do get out there and show them just how valued they are in our communities. Many are still facing some harsh realities even now and their survival depends on us -- their customers. Some have not been able to pay their rent in months and know they still have this debt on their shoulders. Some owners even put their own business or personal financial health on the line in an effort to ensure they could continue to support their laid off workers who were not permitted to work.


So, it’s not over yet for everyone. We still must remember that we are in this together.


During the pandemic, many of us were forced to change our shopping habits to include online ordering from the huge corporations. We all appreciated having at least some access to the items we needed having things shipped to us. For some, the thought of how easy it is to sit with your laptop or phone in hand and order things to be delivered to your door may have given us inklings of, “Why not continue to enjoy this convenience?”


Well, I’ll tell you why we should shy away from this.


Think about how many jobs our local business operators provide for our economy. They employ our family, friends and neighbours. Unlike the big box stores, call centres and multinational online companies, when we go into our local businesses we get a genuine welcoming smile and are often called by name. Many even know our preferences and history of our products and services purchased from them. As well, we need to keep in mind who we turn to time and time again to sponsor our charities, sports teams, clubs and community initiatives. So many of our local business owners generously reinvest some of their profits right back to the communities that they serve.


Supporting local business is key to keeping the money flowing in and around our region. So be sure to let them know how glad we are to see them reopening and how much we value them as part of our community.


It is most unfortunate that Doug Ford has failed to appreciate the incredible value of our small business community. On camera, Doug Ford led people to believe that tough talk was all business owners needed to help them avoid eviction and keep their business from going under. Unfortunately, for small businesses across the province, the Conservatives refused to step up with direct rent subsidies or a ban on evictions.


The Conservative’s bill, as written, only protected businesses who qualified for the federal CECRA, but whose landlords refuse to apply for it – meaning they must have a whopping 70 per cent reduction in income. The bill is also retroactive to just June 3, leaving out all the commercial tenants whose eviction notices arrived between March and June 3.


As a result of Doug Ford’s callous attitude, too many businesses have in fact already had to shutter their doors permanently because he refuses to provide the kind of support that other provinces have for their businesses. Unemployment has grown in Ontario as business after business has received no help with rent, and no direct supports to keep them afloat, while there is economic recovery in other provinces.


The NDP proposed the Save Main Street plan to provide commercial rent supports, remote work set-up supports and more to help businesses outlast the COVID-19 pandemic. We also proposed amendments that included all businesses in a legislated moratorium on commercial evictions during the pandemic; and would make that protection retroactive to mid-March. New Democrats understand that small businesses are too important to the economic health of our communities, and to the families they employ.


As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at mmantha-co@ndp.on.ca or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.


Michael Mantha MPP/député

Algoma-Manitoulin