The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 has dramatically shifted every facet of Canadian life, including our spending habits. Sectors that have performed well during the pandemic include remote working and e-learning, streaming services, personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturing, and delivery services.

Harder-hit industries include retail, tourism, arts and recreation, gyms, food service and dining, dry cleaning, event planning and many more.

What is particularly concerning in the latter industries is the market share (in per cent GDP) that small businesses occupy in these sectors. Simple “mom-and-pop” shops, run by hard-working Ontarians, are trying their best to make ends meet.

In spite of these tough times, small businesses have acted as leaders in their community, cooking meals for retirement homes or offering free virtual recreation services to combat isolation. Our small businesses have a long history of donating their resources toward community events or charitable causes.

In order to support these amazing heroes, our government has introduced a number of targeted relief measures.

The recently launched Ontario Small Business Support Grant has seen an overwhelming 42,000 applications since mid-January, providing up to $20,000 to be used flexibly according to the needs of the business. This complements the existing wage and rent subsidies (Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy), as well as the interest-free federal Canada Emergency Business Account loans. There are additionally generous rebates to assist with property taxes, energy costs and PPE.

Our government is working to ensure the “big box” stores are playing by rules. In January alone, health inspectors visited over 1,500 big box stores in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, identified several dozen contraventions and issued fines.

Our work is not done, however. As a former small business owner myself, I will continue working with our government to ensure there is, in fact, adequate supports for our local enterprises.

Finally, to all my constituents, please buy local. We must adopt a hand-in-hand approach, where both the government and the community step in to support these generators of local commerce. Together, we will decisively vanquish the virus.