Information discussed in the Barrie Chamber Virtual Town Hall Friday April 17th (with MPs, MPPs and the OCC)

Please note: These are notes that I took during the call and this is NOT a transcription. I apologize in advance if the wording is not exact (E&OE excepted)

Introductions of the Panel

  • Mayor Jeff Lehman
    • Has created a task force to get Barrie businesses on a fast recovery track involving organizations like the Chamber, The Sandbox, Georgian College, Tourism Barrie, The Downtown BIA as well as a social support task force.
    • Looking at how to create pent-up demand in construction projects by restarting applications.
    • Starting to think about how we might come out of this situation (it is not now). Asked people to advise local government on ideas about how we might do this. Can organize on the local level – and kudos to the local initiatives that are supporting our community.
    • He hopes that this heightened awareness will continue of the needs of the community, the protection of the vulnerable and the incredible work that people in long term care support do.
    • Council will begin to meet again a week Monday (April 27th)
    • Applauds non-partisan approach being taken by governments at all levels.

    MPP Andrea Khanjin 

    • A provincial committee has been struck to look at business recovery
    • Ontario Together – seeking help from business:
      • Remote learning solutions are being sought
      • Also seeking companies who want to retool to produce needed equipment (primarily for masks, shields, swabs and less immediately for hand sanitizers)
    • Her office is still fully functional – although they are doing this safely.
    • Is holding a tele-call on Monday April 20th at 7 pm with MP John Brassard
    • Don’t forget the sectors that do need volunteers. She noted that Barrie Families Unite and Innisfil Families Unite Facebook groups are offering assistance
    • Thank you to everyone for bearing through this:  It’s not easy but we’ll get through it.

    MPP and Attorney General Doug Downey

    • State of emergency has been extended another 28 days this week (it began March 17th provincially)
    • Social distancing must remain in effect
    • Long term care homes are experiencing issues – and the province is focusing on helping these organizations
    • Cabinet meets every day to ensure adjustments are made to policy where needed
    • The Essential Business committee and restrictions is impacting members of the Chamber but requirements have been driven by medical data and are continually being re-evaluated.

    MP John Brassard

    • Many start-ups, innovators, and others are calling his office to advise they are not covered for the CERB, Wage Subsidies and the CEBA. Assured us that they will continue to look at solutions.
    • Parliament is scheduled to resume on Monday (and the opposition is advocating for continued sitting – with social distancing to give the government feedback)
    • Given the magnitude of applications (e.g. over 6 million have applied for the CERB) – please be patient and continue to call. Once you reach them, Service Canada has been helpful.
    • A Corona Virus Response and Recovery Committee has been put together by the Opposition to be able to advise and challenge the government
    • A tremendous amount of liquidity has been put into the market, including tax dollars with which the government has back-stopped the loan program. Feedback his office is receiving is that some banks are great – some are not – but the have to realize tax dollars are involved.
    • Summer Jobs: Local MPs – funding has been extended to (May 11 2020 – February 29 2021). They generally extend the program to not-for-profit – but will encourage everyone to apply. Will post later instructions later today. They will look at how they extend that opportunity to other organizations (e.g. social institutions)
    • Has 5 staff who are working to update the website, and social media, as well as to return calls and emails.
    • People are looking for a sign of hope that we will get through this. And we will. We are all working on behalf of the people we serve and we want to make sure that we continue this collaboration.

    MP Doug Shipley was not available for today’s call.

    Michelle Eaton, Ontario Chamber

    • The OCC is communicating business concerns to all levels of the government, including individual as well as common issues.
    • Incredible the amount of engagement with the business community and government bodies to ensure they are responding to the needs of the business community.
    • Programs may not be perfect out of the gate – but changes are being made.
    • A COVID-19 group has been established to look at issues – has weekly calls with the Chambers on advocacy.
    • Recognized the incredible team at the Barrie Chamber.
    • http://occ.ca/covid19 has been established (includes: pandemic toolkit, resources for work from home, mental health resources, FAQ reflects questions as they come in). This is a portal for business concerns that are being forwarded is checked daily.
    • Difference makers: they are recognizing organizations that are helping our province pull together.

Questions raised on the call

  • Pre-revenue companies have an issue that doesn’t meet loan eligibility requirements. Those that don’t have any payroll with much of revenue going into structural development and growth.
    • John Brassard: In an Innovation community call with the Minister of Innovation these gaps were raised. Given our entrepreneurial community, many of these organizations are in our community.
    • Andrea Khanjin noted that on the COVID support website, FaceBook is working on a business support grant (businesses will be able to apply for funds although it is a world-wide organization). Note from Patricia: I recorded that on the Grow Vantage COVID-19 page a month ago. No new information has been made available (I will check the CNN broadcast from April 15th to see if Zuckerburg has elaborated on the program).
  • Residential renovation is still on the essentials list (it is a sector that employs many people in Ontario)
    • Doug Downey: The province is looking at how to restart the economy – and construction is a big consideration, including the supply chain (e.g. hardware stores).
    • Mayor Lehman is aware that there will be a surge of permits when renovations can be done safely.
  • Commercial rents: Are any details available?
    • John Brassard reported that a meeting between the premiers and the PM was held last night but no details are available right now.
  • Is the wearing of masks in public to be mandated?
    • Doug Downey: The Minister of Health has moved her position to masks “are okay”. The structure of the law makes it difficult to make people do things – it’s structured to prevent people from doing things – unless perhaps if there a national state of emergency were to be declared (which has not been deemed necessary at this time).
  • Festivals: what is the city’s thoughts on running them?
    • Mayor Lehman: it’s impossible to know what the Minister of Health’s guidance is going to be on this right now. There will be a way to proceed but it will be based 100% on the Ministry of Health; and factors such as testing and track and trace efforts. Barrie has cancelled events up to June 30th at this point.
    • Doug Downey: Grants will continue to festival organizations whether or not they are able to hold that event this year.
    • Andrea Khanjin: Tourism is a critical area of recovery for the Province.
    • Michelle Eaton: Our best economic recovery is based on economic health. They are not really two separate things.
  • Has there been any planning on how we will open up again? How do you think it should roll out?
    • Mayor Lehman: Locally, we need to watch the successful transitions that other countries (such as New Zealand, Austria, and Norway) have made and what the unsuccessful countries have done (e.g. Singapore, Sweden and to some extent the US). In Austria they began with small shops first, restaurants with distancing provisions and service organizations with distancing capabilities – but we’re nowhere near that. To avoid a second wave we need to have track and trace technology, and mass testing to do this. This will be one of the key indicators. Note: Jeff Lehman’s tweet: https://twitter.com/Mayor_Jeff/status/1250852137040596992?cn=ZmxleGlibGVfcmVjc18y&refsrc=email
    • John Brassard: We need to look at successful modelling around the world, and have mass testing, What we are doing now is not sustainable (a feeling particularly among the business community). Governments are starting to look at the process of recovery and what it will look like. As uncomfortable as this must be for businesses we have to maintain for the time being.We’ll get there – but we’ll do it right.
    • Andrea Khanjin: On the health front, in talking to a colleague, they indicated the reproduction rate of the virus would be an indicator. Right now it’s at 1.5% and if it were below 1% that would be a good thing. But the numbers are going up because we’re testing more. Right now with social distancing we’re providing fewer bodies for the virus to infect. On the business side, if you are struggling – keep talking to us so we know how to help you because of the gaps. We have an innovation fund – should we have technology to help in tracking?
Patricia Dent

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