Kingsville businesses lament Stage 1 status
WINDSOR, ONT. -- While most of Ontario has entered Stage 2 of the province’s reopening strategy for the economy, Kingsville and Leamington remain stuck a step back — and businesses don’t see the point.
The province announced yesterday that the two southern municipalities, host to hundreds of greenhouse and farm operations, cannot move ahead because of the recent spike of cases amongst those workers.
That means restaurants, salons and barbershops will have to wait to open their doors.
“Everywhere in Ontario, everywhere in North America is open except for these two little communities here,” says Shane Harrison, the general manager at The Grove in downtown Kingsville. “We’re stuck and we’re not able to make any money.”
“Five minutes away is Harrow, they can open. 10 minutes is Essex, they can open. Wheatley is 20 minutes away, they can open,” Harrison adds. “It seems a little unfair to shut us out.”
Down the street, Keely Coon feels the same way.
“I kind of expected it because of how high our numbers are, but people will still go to Windsor and do the exact same thing,” says Coon, a waitress at Vernon’s Tap and Grill in downtown Kingsville. “They’ll go to the patios, shopping, so no matter what’ it’s going to be spread between all of us.”
Wendy Parsons of The Leamington District Chamber of Commerce says her phone is ringing off the hook with inquiries from businesses about what to do next.
“Businesses - now they’re angry, they’re feeling like they’re segregated and everybody’s against Leamington, Kingsville,” Parsons says. She’s currently working with the Ontario Chamber — and government — pushing to get the entire region open.
“Get us back up and get us back with the rest of Ontario,” Parsons says.
Kingsville’s Mayor says he’s now spoken with Premier Doug Ford and some ministers in government. Nelson Santos says after those conversations, he has some optimism that progress is being made through on-farm testing and Kingsville and Leamington could receive some good news sooner, rather than later.
“It’s absolutely monumental, it’s absolutely critical for our businesses to be able to open their doors, just like they are five minutes down the road,” says Santos. “This is a significant blow to them, it’s a blow to our economy.”
Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald believes the government needs to provide more financial assistance for small businesses in the remaining two municipalities not yet at Stage 2.
“We need help. Our businesses need help,” said a frustrated MacDonald, shortly after learning her community would have to wait. “We need some money and we would need it quick.”
While nothing is etched in stone, Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls says he’s been working behind the scenes and says if the virus can be contained — a Stage 2 announcement could come as early as next week.
“My advice to them is simply this: Get ready,” he says. “Don’t wait for the OK, get ready now so that when the OK happens, it’s full service as soon as the doors open up.”
Nicholls says a lot of this optimism hinges on the level of testing and positive cases at area farms and greenhouses.
But there is progress. After a disappointing turnout at a Leamington assessment centre geared toward workers in the agri-food sector, by the end of this week — the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) believe more than 60 per cent will have been tested.
“We understand the frustration felt by the communities of Kingsville and Leamington and we assure you that we are taking all steps to ensure we can move forward into Phase 2 as quickly as possible,” read a statement from the OGVG.