The latest COVID-19 shutdown: Province can’t afford to have businesses go out of business

city_scope_logo-cmykYou had to have seen it coming. After a week of new COVID-19 cases above 2,000 per day across the province, we will spend the month of April in another shutdown.
In reality, however, there are very few changes from our region’s past few weeks in the Orange zone of the COVID-19 colour-coded restrictions.
As asked of Premier Doug Ford during Thursday’s announcement, these restrictions have been in effect in the province’s hotspots with little effect, what makes you think they will have an impact now?
We asked Downtown Development Board chairman Earl Taylor how the small, independent businesses in the city are faring so far and what impact will this latest strategy have on their bottom line?
Being able to open to 25 per cent capacity “I think is better than what we had last time,” observed Taylor.
“I think the government has finally come to terms with the fact they can’t afford to have these businesses go out of business. So, I think it is better than nothing.”As to being able to operate at 25 per cent capacity this time around instead of conceding all of their business to the big players as was the case in the first two shutdowns is a positive, although Taylor suggests, “I am under the impression most of our downtown businesses have already been operating at that capacity anyway.
“I think if you are downtown buying shoes, it’s not 20 people at once. I think it will be fine (the new capacity limit) but it’s going to cause more due diligence on the business owners to manage that.
Earl Taylor“And, spend time and energy making sure people are doing this properly. I think our businesses have struggled and survived quite nicely.
“I don’t think,” continued Taylor, “things are going to be as bad.
“Governments being governments, are lobbied, I’m sure, by many groups. When we did the first lockdown, there were organizations, and our DDB was the same.
“We lobbied Karen (MP Karen Vecchio) and Jeff (MPP Jeff Yurek) that it wasn’t a level playing field that these stores, the big box stores, were allowed to stay open and our businesses were shut down.”
Taylor added, “I think the government is seeing we better not do that. We did it the first time and people didn’t like it. So we want them to keep liking us.
“So, they modify it (the shutdown restrictions).”
Once again, suggests Taylor, shutting down just before a significant long weekend may just aggravate the situation.
“What are people trying to do? They’re out shopping, trying to get Easter eggs or hams or whatever and then there’s a huge push to stock the house and the government says this is the weekend we’re going to lockdown.
“People ignore it.”
That was certainly the case if you were out shopping Thursday evening. Stores were packed, there were long line-ups and patience was wearing thin.
“Costco in London was lined up out the doors,” Taylor pointed out.
With small downtown businesses struggling, Taylor stressed the community has been there for them.
“They know the businesses and the struggles they’re going through and I think they have rallied around them quite nicely.
“I really appreciate the community for doing that.”

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Last month we delved into a letter to council members from Michelle and Murray Watson, long-time owners of Red Line Transportation, dealing with a review of the city’s taxi bylaw.
The two taxi operators in the city and now they are being asked to participate in the public engagement process related to opening up the private transportation market.
Your TaxiOn Tuesday’s agenda, is a detailed letter from James Donnelly, owner of Your Taxi, expressing concerns about the public review process and, in particular, the city’s online survey which he argues “is accompanied by extremely leading information provided by city staff, including references to Wikipedia as a legal reference. This clearly has not been carefully considered in an unbiased manner.”
Donnelly reminds mayor and council, “The City of St. Thomas has regulated the taxicab and vehicle for hire industry for a very good reason, to ensure safety and consistent availability.
“At the same time ensuring a reliable price for consumers.”
While the two city taxi firms provide 24/7 reliable service to all residents – not just those with credit cards and smartphone access as is the case with rideshares – Donnelly stresses these operators “just take the cream off the top.”

“The safety and reliability that is presumed by our community after its existence for over half a century being quietly removed is not a matter to be taken lightly or in haste.”

He continues, “Two companies maintain competition on the level of service, as prices of taxis are set by the city.
“This ensures the best service for a fair price. With a loss of volume to international firms, which take 25 per cent or more of the fares directly out of the community, our local taxi companies will not have sufficient volumes to maintain service.”
Donnelly directs council’s attention to a quote on the Railway City Tourism website:
“We have some incredible businesses run by some incredible people here in St. Thomas. Let’s show them some love during these trying times and support them as they work hard to get themselves ready to navigate these current circumstances.”
According to a report to council last November on the taxi bylaw, repealing it “will usher St. Thomas into a more modern framework that allows ridesharing programs, limousines, vehicles for hire and taxis to operate, without prejudice, in an arena that should be dictated by supply, demand and consumer choice, without municipal interference.”
This modern framework seems entirely contrary to the above let’s love local sentiment, suggests Donnelly.
He concludes the two taxi operators aim to illustrate “the extraordinary hazards this approach (repealing the existing bylaw) would introduce to our community.
“The safety and reliability that is presumed by our community after its existence for over half a century being quietly removed is not a matter to be taken lightly or in haste.”

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http://”The safety and reliability that is presumed by our community after its existence for over half a century being quietly removed is not a matter to be taken lightly or in haste.”


The medical officer of health for the Southwestern Public Health region, Dr. Joyce Lock, offered the following point to ponder as we headed into the Easter long weekend.
It was an insightful takeaway from her COVID-19 media update this past Thursday.
COVID-19 percent positivity graph

“After watching a year of numbers go up and down, it can feel like too much for all of us. And we can’t become complacent, particularly as we go into this Easter weekend.
“We can’t forget the numbers are more than numbers. Each of these numbers reflects a person who is sick.
“Fortunately, some are only mildly sick, but some are very seriously ill.”

“What we need to do most right now is to prevent the variants of concern from spreading further. These variants can derail all the work we’ve done over the past year.”

Dr. Lock continued, “It can also be easy to point to the numbers and rationalize it is happening to someone else or somewhere else in a school or a workplace or a long-term care home. And, it’s not going to impact me.
“But, the reality is that COVID-19 is everywhere right now. It’s in every demographic in our community and in every single community.
“So, when numbers are increasing, and trends are worrisome, we can’t turn away from the numbers. We need to use these numbers to fuel our resolve to make us more determined to continue on our journey to mitigate transmission.”
She offered the following advice.
“What we need to do most right now is to prevent the variants of concern from spreading further. These variants can derail all the work we’ve done over the past year.
“They spread more quickly and we’ve seen that in households and they are making people sicker and we’ve certainly seen that in our ICUs and hospital admissions in the larger urban centres.
“These variants of concern are deadlier in some populations.”


Frank Marsh, president of Amalgamated Transit Union ATU 1415 had few kind words concerning this week’s launch of the revamped Railway City Transit.
Amalgamated Transit UnionIn a letter to Mayor Joe Preston prior to the announcement of the provincial shutdown he advised, “I send this email with absolute disappointment on your decision to open your single door entry embarking and disembarking transit vehicles to full capacity.
“You are not only putting our transit members in harm’s way, but you are also putting the travelling public at risk. Your own residents are voicing concern on full capacity buses and are claiming they will refuse to board a fully loaded bus.
“Please explain how your campaign to improve transit will succeed by exposing all to COVID-19 and the variants.

“I encourage you to do the right thing and reconsider your thoughtless decision.”

Not sure if you have heard the news regarding the increase in numbers and some areas going back into Grey-Lockdown. The variants are on the incline and killing people at a much faster rate.
“Are you aware of the Brampton transit operator that has passed after a short six weeks after contracting the virus?
“Are you opening your Wendy’s restaurants to full capacity seating as well?
“This pandemic has caused inconvenience for millions and you continue to push forward with your plan of destruction. I will move forward to the provincial and federal governments if you do not come to your senses.
“I do not expect a reply since you did not respond to my last request, however, I encourage you to do the right thing and reconsider your thoughtless decision.”
Did you take advantage of the free transit this week? What are your thoughts on the routes, schedules and did you have a chance to try out the demand-responsive transit?
Let us know.

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.


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