Following is an excerpt from a press release sent to Sault Business Matters via the constituency office of Sault Ste. Marie member of parliament Terry Sheehan.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on businesses of all sizes across the country.
In particular, retail-oriented “main street” businesses have suffered with stores closed and in-person commerce halted.
From the outset, the Government of Canada has taken action to support sectors affected by the pandemic, including the ‘Regional Relief and Recovery Fund’ which launched on May 13.
The national $962-million fund, delivered through Canada’s regional development agencies, supports small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Canada that have been unable to get access to existing relief measures. In Northern Ontario, FedNor received $49.5 million to provide short-term financial relief and help businesses recover.
Support for “Main Street” businesses and SMEs
With Ontario’s economy reopening, the federal and provincial governments have joined together to help small businesses go digital — both to recover and generate revenue through a pan-Ontario collaborative project.
Today, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, and the Honourable Prabmeet Sarkaria, Ontario Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, announced a $57-million investment to help main street businesses and SMEs across the region adopt digital technologies to compete now and in the future.
Building on Toronto’s foundational investments in Digital Main Street and, most recently, ShopHERE, this investment of $50 million from the Government of Canada and $7.5 million from the Government of Ontario will extend the support to businesses across the province. Support will be offered through two main platforms.
Digital Main Street Program
With $42.5-million from Government of Canada, and $7.45 million from Ontario, the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association, the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech and Invest Ottawa will support over 21,900 small businesses across Ontario, to pivot their operations to include digital business models, regain lost revenue and become more resilient and competitive as the economy recovers.
This investment will also create jobs for more than 1,400 co-op students. Over the summer and fall work terms, students will gain valuable work experience creating online storefronts.
The Recovery Activation Program
To complement the E-Storefront Ontario Program, the Toronto Region Board of Trade will receive $7.5 million from the Government of Canada and $200,000 from Ontario for the Recovery Activation Program to help more than 1,000 businesses grow by embracing a digital future.
Participating firms will receive training, advice and a customized blueprint for digitizing their supply chains, customer acquisition systems and other operations. This investment means that businesses across Ontario will be connected with RAP through an extensive network of chambers of commerce, industry associations and program delivery partners, with at least half of the firms supported coming from regions outside of the Greater Toronto Area.
In Northern Ontario four chambers of commerce are participating so far: Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Sudbury and Thunder Bay.
“As local economies across Ontario reopen, we’re focused on ensuring that our main streets don’t just survive, but thrive. These businesses are the backbone of our economy, a source of local jobs – and local pride. Thanks to this major investment, they’ll be able to expand their offerings and seize the many opportunities presented by online commerce. Our message to Ontario’s small businesses and those whose livelihoods rely on them is clear: we’re working with you to help our economy come back stronger than ever.”
— The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
“Like consumers all over the world, we Canadians have been forced to change our shopping strategies in response to the pressures of the COVID-19 epidemic. The marketplace is moving even more online. Canada’s federal government is stepping up once more, to help small businesses adapt to this change by partnering with key business organizations to provide the equipment, the expertise, the training and the workforce needed to re-direct sales efforts to the online marketplace. This exhilarating paradigm shift will be challenging, but support from the federal government will enable our businesses to keep up with the pace of change, to recover, and then go on to thrive on a local and global scale.”
— Terry Sheehan, Member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedNor
“Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and their economic recovery is critical to Ontario’s recovery. The COVID-19 pandemic saw thousands of small businesses across the province close their doors and halt business as many had no ability to shift sales or services online. I am very pleased, that together with Minister Joly and our federal partners, we are providing small businesses with the tools they need to not only adapt to the challenges of today, but to re-establish, recover and flourish throughout this phased reopening and into the future.”
— The Honourable Prabmeet Sarkaria, Ontario Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction