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Ontario-wide lockdown 'absolutely devastating' for many small businesses – CTV News

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TORONTO —
For many small businesses in Ontario, the province-wide lockdown that began on Boxing Day is the last straw.

One business that couldn’t survive another lockdown is the Pickering Flea Market in the Greater Toronto Area. After almost half a century, the large indoor market with hundreds of vendors is closing its doors.

“The COVID outbreak has made it very, very hard to operate,” Erik Tamm, general manager of the Pickering Markets, told CTV News.

More than 400 vendors will now have to find a new outlet to sell their goods.

“I’ve grown up with a lot of these people,” Tamm said. “These are people we consider family here that are small business owners, and it’s absolutely devastating to them.”

The lockdown is a move to fight against COVID-19, which has been showing no signs of slowing in the province. But it’s also a blow to many small retailers.

In December, ahead of the province-wide lockdown, the Ontario government announced a new small business support in the form of a one-time grant between $10,000 and $20,000, which businesses can apply for.

A federal program to assist small businesses, the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA), was extended three times, in July, August, and September. This month, the Ontario government also extended the ban on commercial evictions until Jan. 31 for any businesses that were eligible for CECRA.

But with rent still piling up, and businesses facing fewer sales due to the new lockdown, it’s still not enough for many small retailers.

“For some of them, this will mean the difference between staying in business and going out of business unfortunately,” Bruce Winder, a retail expert, told CTV News.

The lockdown will be in place in southern Ontario until Jan. 23. Provincial measures will lift for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.

Malls and retail stores are closed for in-person shopping — although they can provide curbside pickup — while restaurants can only provide takeout, drive-thru and delivery orders.

“Small businesses are getting creamed here,” John Borsten told CTV News. “Like, it’s bad.”

Borsten is the owner of five restaurants in Ottawa, and believes it’s “non-sensical” for his city to be under restrictions as stringent as places in Ontario with much higher case levels.

“Just because Toronto has high cases, I don’t understand why they would do that,” he said. “We were happy with [the earlier] system, at least we can see where we can prepare — this came out of nowhere.”

During the lockdown, essential businesses such as supermarkets, pharmacies and retailers that sell primarily food can stay open.

It’s dealt a blow to sales across the whole province.

“Typically on a day like today we would have seen 25 million transactions take place,” said Marvin Ryder, a professor at McMaster University’s Degroote School of Business. “We don’t think we’re going to see half of that, and that’s really going to put a damper on retailers.”

Gyms and fitness facilities are also forced to close their doors.

That has prompted one gym owner to push back against the Ford government, saying fitness is even more important right now.

“We have a role that we can play, to actively help in the fight against this pandemic, by making sure that people in our community are staying healthy,” Pete Shaw, owner of CrossFit NCR, told CTV News.

Some small businesses are trying to adapt by shifting their sales online, something that has been good for Dr. Disc’s business, a record store in Hamilton.

“We interacted with the community, we have a lot of community support, so I can’t thank our community enough,” Mark Fukawara, owner of Dr. Disc, told CTV News.

For small business owners impacted by business closures, the new COVID-19 vaccines being approved in Canada are the light at the end of this very long tunnel.

They hope that by the summer, life — and business — will be back to normal. 

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Canada will not approve new thermal coal mining projects

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Canada will not approve new thermal coal mining projects or plans to expand existing mines because of the potential for environmental damage, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said on Friday.

“The government considers that these projects are likely to cause unacceptable environmental effects within federal jurisdiction and are not aligned with Canada‘s domestic and international climate change commitments,” he said.

In a statement, Wilkinson said thermal coal – primarily used for generating electricity – was the single largest contributor to climate change.

Canada produced 57 million tonnes of coal in 2019, just 1% of the overall global total. Canadian output in 2019 comprised 47% thermal coal and 53% metallurgical coal, which is used for steel manufacturing, according to official data.

“The continued mining and use of thermal coal for energy production in the world runs counter to what is needed to effectively combat climate change,” Wilkinson said. In 2018, Ottawa introduced regulations to phase-out conventional coal-fired electricity across Canada by 2030.

The new policy would apply to privately-held firm Coalspur’s plans to expand an existing thermal coal mine in the western province of Alberta, he said.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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Victoria cancels Canada Day celebration after mass grave discovery

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Victoria British Columbia has decided to cancel a virtual celebration of the national Canada Day holiday on July 1 after discovery of unmarked graves of children at a now-defunct indigenous boarding school.

The city council of Victoria voted on Thursday instead to air programming led by the local indigenous nation at a later date. Local indigenous leaders who usually participate in Canada Day ceremonies declined after remains of 215 children were found at the former school in Kamlooops, northern British Columbia.

“They’re grief-struck and reeling, as are many indigenous people across the country,” Lisa Helps, mayor of Victoria, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Thursday.

Victoria will “produce a broadcast to air later this summer guided by the Lekwungen people and featuring local artists, that explores what it means to be Canadian, in light of recent events,” she said.

The Songhees Nation, of which the Lekwungen people are members, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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NATO summit seeks return to gravitas with Biden

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NATO leaders will seek reassurance on Monday from that after four years of denigration by his predecessor Donald Trump, the alliance can count on the support of the United States, its most powerful member.

In a more pared-back gathering than past NATO summits in part due to COVID-19 restrictions, without fighter jet fly-pasts, the 30 allies will gather in their glass and steel headquarters to agree reforms for a multipolar, post-Cold War world where China’s military rise presents a new challenge.

The summit is a “unique opportunity” to renew transatlantic ties, according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Brussels’ town hall in the historic Grand Place will be illuminated in NATO’s signature blue on Sunday night while the Belgian capital’s famed bronze fountain of a boy urinating will also don a NATO-branded outfit on Monday.

“The first thing is for Biden to recommit to NATO’s collective defence,” Jamie Shea, a former senior NATO official who was at a 2018 summit at which Trump considered quitting the alliance.

Trump brought a television reality-show quality to the NATO summits he attended from 2017 to 2019, diplomats said, attracting international attention but also wearing down allies whom he called “delinquent” for not spending enough on defence.

Biden has already annulled a Trump decision to pull U.S. troops out of Germany, although there is still American pressure for European allies to pay more towards their own security. Stoltenberg said on Friday that European allies, Turkey and Canada will have collectively increased their defence budgets by $260 billion by the end of 2021, compared to 2014.

“This summit with Biden should be a signal to the world that NATO is back,” said a senior European NATO diplomat who was also at the alliance during the Trump years.

“There was so much noise and it was a difficult time. But now we can actually talk about the things that matter, the defining security challenges of our time,” the envoy said.

Founded in 1949 to contain a military threat from the Soviet Union, NATO celebrated its 70th anniversary at a summit in London in December 2019.

Russia, climate change, Afghanistan and new technologies are on the menu of the day-long summit, which will culminate in a special leaders’ session in the amphitheatre-like North Atlantic Council chamber.

“I expect Allies will agree a new cyber defence policy for NATO,” Stoltenberg said. “It will recognise that cyberspace is contested at all times,” he told a news conference.

Having strengthened its capability to carry out its core mission of defending Europe following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, NATO now aims to be more ambitious.

In a twist of fate, the NATO summit will agree reforms to the alliance, known as NATO 2030, which were set in motion after Trump questioned its relevance.

Stoltenberg will set out nine areas where NATO could modernise over the medium term, including more joint allied funding of military operations. However, France has already expressed concern about the proposal, fearing it will take money away from national military priorities.

Leaders are likely to agree to draw up a new master strategy document, known as NATO’s Strategic Concept, to include China’s military rise as a challenge for the first time.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Giles Elgood and Angus MacSwan)

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