QUEEN’S PARK – NDP MPP Wayne Gates (Niagara Falls) has demanded Doug Ford immediately release emergency funding for Niagara restaurants and bars, after new restrictions were introduced by the local public health unit.
“The premier knows, Niagara is a tourist destination, we depend on our restaurant and bar industry. In fact, 13 per cent of all jobs in Niagara are tied directly to this sector which doesn’t include thousands of spin-off jobs. These businesses cannot survive without financial help – the premier holds that power in his hands,” said Gates in the Ontario legislature Tuesday.
Will the premier stand up today, tell the restaurant and bar owners of Niagara that he hears their cries for help and immediately announce emergency funding to ensure they can weather the storm of these new mandatory public health restrictions?,” asked Gates during question period.
Last week, using his powers under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, Niagara’s acting medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, implemented a regulation that restricts restaurants to only allowing six guests from the same household to a table. The most recent measures from the province reduce that further to a maximum of four people.
According to a report released by the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO), the Ford Government has not used $9.3 billion earmarked for pandemic funding that Ford is sitting on, refusing to allocate. That figure includes $6.7 billion specifically earmarked to combat the pandemic, and $2.6 billion in contingency funds.
“Restaurants and bars are reaching out to elected officials for help – and I am echoing their voice in this House to the premier directly. When we heard about this regulation from the Region, myself and my fellow MPPs in Niagara, immediately wrote the premier asking for emergency financial help for these businesses. They don’t want to be closed, they want to be open and serving guests – but if they are going to be closed then the premier has an obligation to make sure they don’t close permanently and drown in debt” said Gates.
“We’ve waited five days for a response – five days too many. Will the premier answer that letter right here and now? Look into the camera and tell the restaurants and bars of Niagara that help is on the way. Tell them that he’ll be using his powers today to help them survive this storm financially rather than them losing everything?,” asked Gates.
Gates noted that Doug Ford refused to answer his question, and instead the response in the came from the Minister of Tourism who refused to commit any funding for Niagara and instead accused Gates of not mentioning tourism in the Ontario legislature during the pandemic. As the Hansard record shows this is incorrect, and Gates currently has two tourism industry support bills before the legislature including Bill 199, Taxation Amendment Act (Travel Ontario Tax Credit), that would provide a non-refundable tax credit of up to $1,000 for residents of Ontario for travel in Ontario for the purposes of tourism.