Council demands fair play for small business

Gregg Chamberlain
EAP
Clarence-Rockland council wants the provincial government to guarantee fair play competition between small businesses and “Big Box” stores during the pandemic.

Large department stores that include groceries as part of their inventory are allowed to open their doors to customers because they fall under the provincial government’s essential services category for retailers during the lockdown. But council is hearing complaints about those same stores allowing customers to also purchase non-essential items like furniture or home electronics.

Mayor Guy Desjardins noted that this means unfair competition for small businesses classed as “non-essential” because those are the only items they sell. Those businesses are limited to offering curbside pickup or home delivery of their goods to customers who have to phone ahead or go online to place orders.

“If they (Big Box stores) want to sell groceries, that’s fine,” said Mayor Desjardins during a phone interview about the issue. “Otherwise, they should cordon off the other areas.”

 During the open discussion portion of their February 1 session, Clarence-Rockland council members reviewed a proposal for a resolution to send to Premier Doug Ford concerning the unfair advantage some Big Box stores have over local small businesses during the lockdown. A provincial government announcement is expected soon about changes to the present lockdown restrictions on businesses but Mayor Desjardins still thinks council should send the premier a message in case another lockdown occurs because of a rise in COVID-19 cases.

“If we should fall back,” Mayor Desjardins said, “I want to make sure we do get the same rules for all businesses.”