Mississauga’s mayor is trying to level the playing field for smaller stores which have been shuttered during Peel’s latest COVID-19 lockdown, by asking for more limitations on what big-box stores are allowed to sell.
In a recorded video, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said she and her council are trying to help smaller retailers who have been ordered to end in-person shopping. Crombie said a motion before the Region of Peel’s Council will ask its medical officer of health to order large stores to sell only essentials.
“We will be putting this motion forward for the health and safety of our residents,” said Crombie. “But also, to level the playing field for our smaller retailers.”
Crombie said many of her city’s smaller retailers are barely hanging on after being told to move to curb-side pickup and delivery models.
“It is simply unfair that big-box stores can continue to sell non-essential items to people in their stores while small retailers cannot,” she said. Crombie said big box stores were allowed to remain open to sell essentials, not televisions, sports equipment, or home décor.
“They do not need to have any further competitive advantage,” she said.
Since the Ford government unveiled the rules for the Grey-level lockdown measures, independent businesses have decried limitations placed on them. Many argue their small size allows them to better manage how many people are allowed in their businesses at a time.
In-person shopping is allowed at supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, discount and big-box retailers with full grocery components (like Walmart and Costco), hardware stores, safety supply stores, and pharmacies. But all of those exempt from the lockdown order have to cap their customers at 50 per cent of approved capacity.
The exemption for big box stores which sell essentials has already seen some trying to exploit loopholes to remain open. On Monday, a Hudson’s Bay location on Queen Street remained open insisting it was selling essential items. The province later issued a statement saying The Bay doesn’t qualify as a grocery retailer or a big-box retailer selling groceries.
Along with the motion to limit big box locations, Crombie again urged residents to support local businesses. Everything from jackets to coffee beans, she said, could be bought at a local retail location.
“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,” said Crombie.
When asked by Global News if Toronto could consider doing the same, Mayor John Tory acknowledged the frustration with the lockdown rules but the province said it wouldn’t be “feasible.”
“The lockdown was put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” Tory said in a statement. “The province has said this isn’t feasible but we will keep talking with them and our public health officials.”
The statement continued to urge residents to buy from local businesses as opposed to big-box stores.
—With files from Erica Vella, Miranda Anthistle, and Nick Westoll.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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