Northern Ontario lodge owner wants fairness with small business grant

COVID-19 restrictions and precautions have had a huge impact on the tourism sector and the provincial government recently announced a new support grant for Ontario small businesses. However, it does not include operators who provide tourist accommodations, and lodge owner in the French River area questions the fairness of the grant designed to help small businesses.

Great Escape Cabins is normally bustling in the winter with tourists snowmobiling, ice fishing, skating and enjoying the vast scenery.

This season, there are no tourists and no money from the Ontario Small Business Support grant to help the tourist operator survive the second wave of the pandemic.

"All of our guests that we had booked in, in all of our cabins, we contacted them and asked them if they would like to reschedule or have a refund? Because this is a lockdown and no one kind of anticipated this. We are honouring that refund and cancellation if they would like," said Caitland Nobbs, co-owner of Great Escape Cabins.

She said the majority of guests have requested refunds.

"Everyone is very unsure whether the lockdown is actually going to be lifted on the 11th and if we will be able to have them back before the winter season is over," said Caitland Nobbs.

The mayor of the Municipality of French River, Gisele Pageau, called it yet another blow for operators offering accommodations.

"It was the same position that they were for the fires, for the floods that we had, and even for the pandemic. They were delayed in reopening back in the summer, so again, that small group of tourists operators are forgotten within the legislation and the benefits that they could take advantage of," said Pageau.

The owner of Great Escape Cabins is hopeful the government will review how the grant is written.

"I emailed Doug Ford on Sunday asking him for his support and even just clarification as to why we are (excluded) from that small business support grant," said Nobbs. "I have not heard back from Doug Ford yet. I am hoping he reads my email and replies to it and understands that this is a small business that is taking a big hit."

CTV News reached out to the provincial government to find out if this gap in the grant program is being reviewed and has not yet received an answer.

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