By Tristan Marks
West Niagara business owners have received news about upcoming provincial supports straight from the source.
The province has to prepare for recovery, Finance Minister of Ontario, Rod Phillips told an electronic Town Hall event organized Thursday, Nov. 12 by the Chambers of Commerce of Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln for their members.
Minister Phillips and Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff overviewed relief items included in the budget aimed at helping local businesses during Covid.
He said that this November 2020 budget came late due to the pandemic, calling it “the first part of a two-part play,” the second part coming March 2021.
The Province will lower the Business Education Tax, a 10 per cent reduction for most Niagara businesses and specifically 30 per cent for industrial, to “help level the playing field” explained Min. Phillips.
“We need to plan now for recovery,” said the Minister.
Other supports include a 14 per cent reduction to electricity bills, a $1000 for business-related personal protective equipment (PPEs), relief grants to help mitigate electricity and heating bills for shutdown businesses in regions affected by restrictions and the Digital Main Street grant which provides up to $2,500 to help businesses build their online presence.
Min. Phillips explained that his government has invested $26 million into its ‘Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program’, which offers a $15,000 rebate for preventative measures as well as other supports for farm businesses facing losses related to workers who have needed to isolate due to a positive COVID-19 test result or orders from a public health authority.
Minister Phillips added that support for agriculture will also be included in the upcoming March 2021 budget.
Likewise, the Minister foreshadowed an ‘Invest Ontario’ program which would be introduced for the March 2021 budget.
Lincoln Chamber executive director Anna Murre asked how the government would support the hospitality and tourism sector in Niagara, noting its central place alongside agriculture in the Region.
Min. Phillips said that his government aims to help the tourism industry in Ontario by promoting 2021 as the ‘Year of the Ontario Staycation’, and would rebate up to 20 per cent of tourism expenses.
Lastly, one participant asked about the support for women’s employment, noting that women were disproportionally affected by the lockdowns.
Min. Phillips said that although this imbalance is “starting to equalize” as industries that tend to employ a larger proportion of women reopen, his government will have a number of supports for women employees planned such as opening 15,000 new child care spaces and offering tax credits for child care.