As companies reopen, ‘main street’ stores in urban cores need help, Joly says

Melanie Joly says cities like Toronto and Montreal continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic

OTTAWA — The federal minister in charge of regional economic development says more needs to be done to help companies in the centre of Canada’s biggest cities so they can stay open through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Melanie Joly says cities like Toronto and Montreal continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic, with case numbers fuelling restrictions that have kept workers home and businesses closed.

Usually, the economic development agencies Joly oversees are meant to support smaller communities that struggle more than urban centres.

But she says downtown cores will need more attention as the restrictions ease and economic activity resumes, part of what Joly describes as more targeted regional help during what is expected to be an uneven rebound across Canada.

The Bank of Canada has warned the desired economic recovery in the second half of the calendar year won’t be as sharp or sustained as the downturn the pandemic caused.

Nor will it happen at the same time and rates across various regions, with the oilpatch in the West likely suffering longer if oil prices don’t fully rebound.

A report this week from BMO Capital Markets forecasted single-digit economic declines in all provinces this year due to the pandemic, but noted the drop in GDP will be deeper and the jobless rates above the national average in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador due to lower oil prices.

Joly says her officials are delving deeper into the regional data as they craft the next phase of pandemic-related aid, moving from liquidity measures toward helping companies connect with customers.

As Joly put it in an interview this week, it will be like coming out of the “fog of war” during the early days of the pandemic towards a reopening and recovery.

That will include looking at the uptake on the $962 million given to regional development agencies for companies that can’t access the larger programs the Liberals have rolled out, and whether there is a need to support certain regions hit harder than others.

She pointed to a Thursday announcement as an example, where the Liberals partnered with the Ontario government to provide funding to help retail companies build a digital presence.

Federal coffers contribute $50 million to the program, while the province is kicking in $7.65 million.

Joly says that kind of program addressed a need for Ontario companies to build a digital presence if in-person shopping is slow to pick up.

She says “main street” Canadian companies in general have been slower to adopt online shopping compared to their American counterparts. The funding is designed to address the cost of going online that can act as a barrier to change in the retail sector, she says.

“Retail was going through an array of changes before the pandemic, and the pandemic made it very crystal clear that we needed to make sure that our retail sector, particularly our main street businesses, were able to reach their customers in different ways,” Joly says.

“That’s why we’re using this crisis as an opportunity to help businesses grow and that’s why we’re providing this help.”

Federal support through the pandemic has had varying degrees of success. The total spending package now tops $153.6 billion, not including roughly $80 billion in federal loan programs, as detailed by the Finance Department in its latest report to MPs.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

230 new COVID-19 cases reported over the weekend

City of Red Deer has nine active cases

Lacombe County Council meeting highlights – July 9

Lacombe County Council amended its Land Use Bylaw No. 1237/17 at the recent meeting

Conservatives call for Trudeau to testify at committee on WE Charity deal

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is already investigating whether Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Quebec police continue search for father, one day after missing girls found dead

Bodies were found in a wooded area of Quebec City suburb

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

PODCAST: The Expert tackles the return of sports

Cam Moon, Joe Whitbread, Byron Hackett and Todd Vaughan discuss how sports can come back

Canadian professional chuckwagon racer reflects on cancelled season

This year would have marked Troy Dorchester’s 28th year of racing.

Crowds in Sylvan Lake “commonplace” during summer months

The Town of Sylvan Lake looking for solutions from Province for large crowds not social distancing

Look out, Mars: Here we come with a fleet of spacecraft

Three countries sending unmanned spacecraft

Canmore RCMP respond to multiple hiking injury calls this weekend

EMS and RCMP responded to three separate and unrelated hiking accidents in Kananaskis Country.

Most Read