As Ontario continues to deal with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has a definite other-worldly, bad dream feeling to it, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, the Hon. Prabmeet Sarkaria has this week tabled two significant initiatives. Both of these are designed to provide real world, tangible help to Ontario businesses and the people who depend on them for their livelihoods.
On Tuesday, Minister Sarkaria tabled a bill entitled the Better for People, Smarter for Business Act. As our clients and regular readers know, the Ford government has committed to tabling two pieces of legislation per year with the goal of reducing and, where possible, eliminating red tape. Although many previously planned initiatives have been delayed or even cancelled because of the pandemic, Sarkaria deserves credit for managing to stay on course. The bill really does cover a myriad of subjects, so we encourage you to have a look, or review the government’s backgrounder or news release. For additional clarity please contact your Sussex consultant.
On Wednesday, Minister Sarkaria tabled another bill, this one called the Main Street Recovery Act. While this legislation is less about red tape and more about providing direct and immediate help to Ontario small businesses, there are regulatory changes as well as new funding initiatives proposed in the bill. For many small businesses struggling to stay afloat in 2020, the help that’s coming for a range of items including helping to pay for PPE, mental health supports, establishing Ontario’s COVID-19 Recovery Network, making temporary provisions enacted during the pandemic, such as including beverage alcohol and the 24/7 delivery of goods permanent, help with going digital, and streamlining payment processes for vendors who sell health-related assistive devices will all be welcome. The government news release details the Main Street Recovery Plan.
The increasing COVID case count has led to increased pressure to return Ontario businesses to a full shut down, as we experienced earlier this year. So far, the Ontario government has not wanted to do that. While the health of people versus the health of the economy continues, Minister Sarkaria has done his part to help Ontario businesses get through.
Will either of these bills by themselves insulate Ontario’s businesses and its economy? Of course neither one will. However, we think Sarkaria deserves credit for managing to get these on the legislative docket on back to back days. As we know all too well, the legislative agenda is crowded in ordinary times, and these are the most extraordinary times that we are living in. The pandemic has also affected the business of the Legislature itself; we’ll hear the Ontario Budget in November instead of March this year, with a reduced number of socially distanced MPPs in attendance.
Overall we like what Sarkaria has done here, and would be happy to discuss it with you. He has proven to be a capable minister notwithstanding his “Associate” status and the fact that he does not sit atop a line ministry like Health, Education, or Transportation. Job well done.