'A safe and responsible approach': Ontario mayors react to Ford's reopening plan
April 29, 2020
Iva Poshnjari and Polina Lake
Some mayors across Ontario support the province’s latest framework for reopening the economy, though some admit they are “anxiously awaiting” more details.
As he outlined the new plan Monday, Premier Doug Ford didn’t set a date for restarting the economy, noting that decision would be led by guidance from medical experts.
Instead, the Ford government provided a three-stage plan on how the economy will move forward once the decision to do so is made.
The update comes after the province first declared a state of emergency in mid-March.
And though the plans are encouraging, municipalities recognize that things might never truly return to what they once were.
Here's what some of the mayors across Ontario have told BNN Bloomberg about the impact COVID-19 has had on their municipalities, and their hopes of reopening the economy.
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati
“It’s been devastating. Tourism is the lifeblood of Niagara Falls. We are the number-one leisure destination in Canada with 40,000 people depending on it to put food on the table.
Anything that plans for the eventual re-opening and recovery of the economy and society in a safe way is welcome news.
We are all anxiously awaiting specific dates as we transition toward the recovery.”
Oakville Mayor Rob Burton
“I support a phased-in approach to reopening the province and economy that keeps public health at the forefront. We can’t rush this or any efforts, or sacrifices that we have made thus far may be wasted.”
Smiths Falls Mayor Shawn Pankow
“Smiths Falls is a community that has previously suffered from significant job loss and economic decline.
Much of the business growth we have seen in recent years are sectors which have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. For most small businesses, the early years are the most difficult and most owners have poured their heart, soul and life savings into getting their venture up and running. The commercial rent relief program announced last week should help if landlords are co-operative, but it still leaves many of our small businesses on very fragile footing. As much as we all want to see life return to normal, we all understand that the normal of the future is not the normal of the past.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory (from his media availability April 27, 2020)
“[Ontario’s framework] sets out the broad parameters around a phased restart. This is a safe and responsible approach. This will help guide the work that the city is doing to make sure that we have a strong and safe restart and recovery. We’ve undertaken to work closely with the Government of Ontario, as the success in getting Ontario back on its feet will be directly related to the success we have in getting its largest city and its economic engine back on its feet. The city was booming before the global pandemic struck, and we will come back.”
Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua
“I know that the road to recovery will be a marathon, not a sprint. The next step in government response ought to include a plan that is specific to supporting municipalities. Cities are the purveyor of many essential services.
The reality we are living through is one of increasing unemployment, declining economic growth, climbing deficits and ballooning debt. We are all eager to open the economy, but we know that it must be done cautiously and responsibly.
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti
“We need to have ongoing discussions with the business community and public health officials as to what the new requirements will be for different industries in the new normal.
Any reopening of the economy and our communities would have to be based on thoughtful and careful decision making. And based on advice from public health officials and data, including from other jurisdictions around the world, especially those hit with a second wave of COVID-19.”