POLITICS
10/09/2020 17:15 EDT

Ford Says New Restrictions On Businesses ‘Single Toughest Decision I’ve Made’

The premier said the decision is weighing heavily on him.

THE CANADIAN PRESS
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his medical team hold a press conference regarding new pandemic restrictions, at Queen's Park, Toronto, Ont., Oct. 2, 2020.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford made an emotional plea for Ontarians to support small businesses Friday as the province imposed new measures in COVID-19 hotspots. 

“I can’t stress this enough, on how difficult, how painful it was to make this decision. My heart just breaks for these folks. And I understand what this decision means to each and every one of you,” Ford, whose family owns a label business, said at a press conference. 

“And I can tell you, I didn’t sleep last night. Believe me, this weighs heavy on me, for making this decision. I know what this will do to businesses who are already struggling.”

The new restrictions mean an end to indoor dining at restaurants and bars in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa for at least the next 28 days. Gyms, movie theatres and casinos in those regions also have to close. Ontario reported a record new 939 COVID-19 cases Friday. 

These temporary measures will help, but every one of us right now, we need to rally around these small businesses.Doug Ford

Ford spoke directly to business owners at the press conference, saying he will “continue to fight” for them. 

“I’ll do everything in my power to support you, and we’ll never forget the sacrifices you’re making,” he said.

The provincial and federal governments announced new business measures Friday. 

Ontario announced it will make available $300 million to help affected businesses with fixed and overhead costs like property taxes and hydro bills. 

Meanwhile, the federal government announced the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, to provide direct support to businesses that have lost revenue. It also extended the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy until June 2021. 

WATCH: Ontario could hit 1,000 daily COVID-19 cases in weeks. Story continues below.

 

“These temporary measures will help, but every one of us right now, we need to rally around these small businesses,” Ford said. “Please support them as much as possible. Please order take out.”

Ford said earlier this week he wanted to “exhaust every single avenue” before making the decision to close restaurants and bars. That decision, he said at the time, would “ruin thousands and thousands of people’s livelihoods.”

The new restrictions were “the single toughest decision I’ve made since I’ve taken office, bar none,” he said Friday.

The premier, who is known for being reachable by his personal phone, said he has been getting calls “all night” from business owners asking for help.

“So that hits you in the heart, believe me,” he said. “Trying to help these people that work day in and day out, work 18 hours, and they’re holding on and then I get this news and I’m the guy that has to make the decision? Talk about weighing on you.”

Last week, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s chief medical officer of health, called for the province to stop indoor service at restaurants for four weeks. The Ontario Hospital Association has been calling since the end of September for the province to move COVID-19 hotspots back to Stage 2 so that hospitals don’t become overwhelmed with patients. 

On Friday, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, dean of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health said access to care would be limited under any scenario. It depends on the speed that the pandemic accelerates but it’s “a matter of weeks and days, not a matter of months” before hospitals are overwhelmed, he said.

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said that the public health measures announced today could be expanded at some point between now and when a vaccine is ready. 

“This provincial government will be there, we’ll work with, whether it’s our municipal partners or our federal partners, to make sure that the businesses get the support that the premier asked for,” he said.

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