KAPUSKASING — It’s clear that the Ford government hasn’t done enough to help local businesses and organizations weather the COVID-19 crisis, said MPP Guy Bourgouin after virtual consultations with local community and business leaders on Thursday.
“During the virtual consultation, I heard that provincial measures are unclear and insufficient, and that the concerns of small, medium-sized businesses and community organizations in our region have not been taken into consideration,” said Bourgouin, NDP MPP for Mushkegowuk-James Bay.
The virtual consultations found that local businesses and organizations are struggling to make ends meet while the Ford government’s programs are difficult to access and their guidelines are unclear.
“I had to turn to online sales to survive while facing the unknown and having to navigate unclear program guidelines,” said Fanny Lachance, owner of a beauty spa in Hearst.
“Provincial measures, such as the rent relief program, were incredibly difficult to navigate and understand for our businesses,” said Julie Joncas, the Executive Director of the Far Northeast Training Board (FNETB).
MPP Bourgouin also received input that supports reopening Mushkegowuk-James Bay’s economy as safely and effectively as possible.
“We heard it loud and clear – Doug Ford’s province-wide, blanket approach simply won’t work up here,” said Bourgouin. “Our businesses and community organizations support a regional reopening that is led by our regional public health units and is geared to our local needs.”
“Re-opening a business in a post-pandemic economy requires large investments in personal protective equipment and renovations, and we have not seen any programs for that,” said Joncas.
“The tourism sector received a one-day notice to open our businesses,” said Melanie Veilleux, the owner of Hearst Air Service, a local outfitter. “We are very grateful for the decision to open. However, I heard of the announcement through the media and we currently have no clear public health guidelines.
“Even today, we still can’t confirm to our guests who will be allowed to come in.”
Bourgouin thanked everyone who participated in the consultation and called for more local input. “As we move forward, it is critical that the ideas and concerns of Mushkegowuk-James Bay’s business community be seriously considered by the Ford government,” said Bourgouin. “As Mme Veilleux said, ‘We northerners know what’s best for the North.’
“It’s time for Doug Ford to to start listening,” said Bourgouin.
Local business owners, community and municipal leaders can still offer feedback by filling out an online survey available until June 10: https://forms.gle/VCn4xizQrNhckX4n8