Transcript: Is Budget 2021 Good for Ontario Business? | Mar 24, 2021

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit, checkered blue shirt, and blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Is budget 2021 good for Ontario business? @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says ALL RIGHT THEN. WE'VE HEARD FROM THE POLITICIANS ON ALL SIDES. BUT WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD FOR MANY PEOPLE LOOKING AT TODAY'S BUDGET: CAN THEIR BUSINESS, THEIR EMPLOYERS, THEIR EMPLOYEES, HANG ON UNTIL BETTER DAYS ARRIVE? LET'S ASK THREE SMALL BUSINESS PEOPLE FACING EXACTLY THOSE QUESTIONS: IN THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO: TONY MUIA, OWNER, SERENITY SALON and WELLNESS...

Tony is in his fifties, balding with a trimmed beard. He's wearing glasses and a gray zip-up sweater.

Steve continues IN THE NATION'S CAPITAL: MICHAEL WOOD, SMALL BUSINESS ADVOCATE AND PARTNER WITH THE COMPANY OTTAWA SPECIAL EVENTS...

Michael is in his late forties, with short spiky gray hair and a full beard. He's wearing glasses, a gray suit and a white shirt.

Steve continues AND HERE IN THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL: GINGER ROBERTSON, CO-OWNER, THE EDMUND BURKE PUB AND OFF THE HOOK RESTAURANT, BOTH IN THE CITY'S EAST END...

Ginger is in her thirties, with long straight blond hair. She's wearing glasses and a black jacket.

Steve continues WE'RE REALLY GRATEFUL TO YOU THREE FOR COMING ONTO TVO TONIGHT AND SHARING YOUR WISDOM WITH US. WE WANT TO START BY JUST PUTTING A LITTLE BIT OF BACKGROUND ON THE RECORD FOR YOU AND OUR VIEWERS TO GET HOLD OF HERE. SHELDON, LET'S BRING THIS GRAPHIC UP.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "COVID-19's wrath. Small businesses in Canada."

Steve reads data from the slate and says
IN THE YEAR 2020, 58,000 SMALL BUSINESSES CLOSED THEIR DOORS. THANK YOU, COVID-19. TODAY, ONE IN SIX... THAT'S ABOUT 181,000... ARE AT RISK OF CLOSING FOR GOOD. 62 percent OF BUSINESSES IN CANADA REPORT BEING FULLY OPEN. 44 percent OF BUSINESSES REPORT BEING FULLY STAFFED. THE AVERAGE SMALL BUSINESS IS NOW 170,000 dollars IN DEBT. AND CANADA COULD LOSE 20 percent OF ITS SMALL BUSINESSES BY THE END OF THE PANDEMIC AS A DIRECT RESULT OF THE VIRUS, SO SAYS THE CANADIAN FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS. ALL RIGHT. LET'S GO THROUGH THIS. TONY, START US OFF. HOW BAD HAS COVID-19 BEEN FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

The caption changes to "Tony Muia. Serenity Salon and Wellness."
Then, it changes again to "In need of a life raft."

Tony says IT'S BEEN ABSOLUTELY CATASTROPHIC. NOT JUST BUSINESS-WISE BUT PERSONALLY. WHAT'S HAPPENED FOR US IS OUR NUMBERS ARE SO FAR DOWN, IT'S CRAZY. WHAT'S WORSE, MORE THAN OUR NUMBERS BEING DOWN IS WHAT THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT HAS DONE TO REALLY RUIN THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING A HAIR STYLIST OR A SPA TECHNICIAN IN THUNDER BAY. WE ARE ONLY FOUR DIFFERENT BUSINESSES THAT ARE STILL CLOSED IN THE GRAY ZONE. SO MANY OF MY FRIENDS AND I, WE WALK AROUND AND THINK, YOU KNOW, WE'RE ALMOST BETTER OFF DEAD THAN WE ARE ALIVE. WE'RE WORTH MORE DEAD THAN WE ARE ALIVE. THE MOVIE "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE." IT'S SAD. MY NUMBERS ARE SO FAR DOWN, I'M DOWN OVER 70,000 dollars IN THE FIRST THREE MONTHS OF THIS YEAR. WE'VE ONLY BEEN OPEN TWO WEEKS. WHAT THE GOVERNMENT PROPOSED TODAY WITH THE NEW BUDGET OF AN ADDITIONAL 10,000 TO 20,000 dollars, DOESN'T EVEN SCRAPE THE SURFACE. IT'S NOT GOING TO HELP US AT ALL. THAT'S NOT EVEN CLOSE TO WHAT WE WERE THINKING WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.

Steve says TONY, THANKS FOR SETTING THE SCENE. WE'LL FIND OUT MORE DETAILS AS WE GO ALONG. MICHAEL WOOD, WHAT'S YOUR STORY?

The caption changes to "Michael Wood. Ottawa Special Events."

Michael says I CAN ECHO TONY. WE ARE A SPECIAL EVENTS COMPANY SO WE RENT STAGES, PIPE, TABLES AND CHAIRS. WITH THE CRUSHING NUMBERS OF PUBLIC GATHERINGS, IT'S REALLY HARD FOR US TO OPERATE. IN 2020, WE WERE DOWN 97 percent, WHICH EQUATES TO MORE THAN 3 MILLION Dollars. WE UNFORTUNATELY HAD TO LAY OFF OUR ENTIRE STAFF OF 22 PEOPLE LAST MARCH. AND EXCEPT FOR SOME PIECEMEAL STUFF HERE AND THERE, WE HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO BRING ANYBODY BACK YET.

Steve says IF YOU'RE DOWN 97 percent, HOW ARE YOU EVEN ALIVE AT ALL?

The caption changes to "Michael Wood, @mikewoodottawa."

Michael says IT'S A GREAT QUESTION. WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO NEGOTIATE WITH SOME OF THE CREDITORS ALONG THE WAY, AND AT THE SAME TIME TOO, WE'VE HAD THE ODD THING COME IN. OUR LANDLORD, AT A TIME WHEN LANDLORDS PERHAPS WEREN'T BEING AS FAVOURABLE TO SMALL BUSINESS AS OTHERS, OURS WAS INCREDIBLE, THEY SAID THEY WERE RIGHT THERE WITH US. WE'VE WORKED REALLY HARD TO GET THE LITTLE AMOUNT OF BUSINESS TO COVER OPERATING COSTS.

Steve says GOTCHA. GINGER, WHAT'S COVID DONE TO YOUR TWO ESTABLISHMENTS?

Ginger says OFF THE HOOK WE PURCHASED MARCH 9TH OF 2020.

Steve says YOU'RE KIDDING.

The caption changes to "Ginger Robertson. The Edmund Burke. Off the Hook."

Ginger says IT WAS DEVASTATING OFF THE HOP FOR US. THAT GRAPHIC YOU THREW UP AT THE BEGINNING IS A PAINFUL REMINDER OF HOW MUCH TROUBLE WE'RE ACTUALLY IN AND SOME OF THOSE PERMANENTLY CLOSED BUSINESSES ARE SOME OF MY FRIENDS, YOU KNOW, IN THE BUSINESS. WHAT WAS ANNOUNCED TODAY... IT'S PATHETIC.

Steve says THE WORD IS "PATHETIC," EH?

Ginger says YUP. WE DIDN'T EVEN GET THE GRANT THAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT AT OFF THE HOOK BECAUSE WE OWN THE SECOND BUSINESS AND WERE CONSIDERED AN ENTERPRISE. SO WE ARE ONLY GOING TO GET SUPPORT FOR ONE OF OUR RESTAURANTS AND NOT THE OTHER. IT'S LIKE SAYING YOU HAVE A HOUSE AND A COTTAGE AND NOW YOU'RE A REAL ESTATE MOGUL. IT'S UNFAIR.

Steve says EXPLAIN THAT TO US. HOW COME YOU ONLY GET FOR ONE PROPERTY BUT NOT THE OTHER?

The caption changes to "Ginger Robertson, @TheEdmundBurke1."

Ginger says BECAUSE THERE'S SOME FINE PRINT IN THE APPLICATION THAT STATES THAT IF YOUR CORPORATE STRUCTURE IS SIMILAR IN YOUR TWO BUSINESSES, AND IN MY CASE, MY HUSBAND AND I OWN BOTH RESTAURANTS 50-50, SO WE ARE CONSIDERED A RELATED ENTERPRISE AND THEREFORE ONE OF THE BUSINESSES IS DENIED.

Steve says DO I TAKE IT IF YOU HAD TO DO IT AGAIN, YOU WOULD NOT HAVE PURCHASED THE OTHER BUSINESS YOU DID ON MARCH THE 9TH OF LAST YEAR?

Ginger says WELL, HINDSIGHT IS ALWAYS 20-20.

The caption changes to "Staunch the bleeding."

Steve says AIN'T IT, THOUGH? 20-20 IN THE YEAR 2020. YIKES! MIKE, DO I HEAR THIS RIGHT? YOU ACTUALLY PARTOOK IN BUDGET CONSULTATIONS WITH EITHER THE MINISTER OR THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE? CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH THAT?

Michael says ABSOLUTELY. SO I WAS FORTUNATE TO BE ONE OF THE PEOPLE IN OTTAWA THAT WAS SELECTED TO PRESENT THE CASE, THE SMALL BUSINESS CASE, TO THE MINISTER OF FINANCE. ON THAT CALL WAS ALSO THE MAYOR AND THE BOARD OF TRADE AND OTHER KEY STAKEHOLDERS IN THE BUSINESS WORLD IN OTTAWA. AND, YOU KNOW, I WAS ABLE TO PRESENT SOME KEY THINGS THAT I THOUGHT WERE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. THE IDEA, STEVE, THAT THIS GRANT PROGRAM, THAT ONE SIZE FITS ALL, IT JUST DOESN'T WORK. SO THAT WAS ONE OF MY KEY SPEAKING POINTS, THAT WE NEED THE GRANT TO, YOU KNOW, RUN A SECOND TIME, MAYBE A THIRD TIME, DEPENDING ON THESE VARIANTS, AND OTHER THINGS. YOU KNOW, MORE EDUCATION. IF PEOPLE LOSE THEIR BUSINESSES THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN, THEY SHOULD BE AWARDED THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO BACK TO POSTSECONDARY AND REEDUCATE THEMSELVES FOR A NEW CAREER. SO IT WAS A GREAT EXPERIENCE, AND, YOU KNOW, I WOULDN'T TRADE IT FOR THE WORLD.

Steve says HOW MUCH OF THAT ADVICE DID YOU SEE REFLECTED IN TODAY'S BUDGET?

Michael says GREAT QUESTION. I OBVIOUSLY... THE GRANT CAME OUT THAT IF YOU QUALIFIED ONCE, YOU WOULD GET IT AGAIN. WE SEE THAT THERE IS MORE TRAINING. I ALSO SPOKE... VERY SIMILAR TO THE FEDERAL PROGRAM FOR HIGHLY AFFECTED SECTORS, I DID ASK FOR SOMETHING FOR THE PROVINCE TO DO THE SAME. AND WE DID SEE SOMETHING FOR THE TRAVEL AND TOURISM WORLD THAT WILL BE MADE ANNOUNCED... AN ANNOUNCEMENT WILL BE COMING SHORTLY.

Steve says TONY, LET ME GO BACK TO YOU IN NORTHWESTERN ONTARIO. THE GOVERNMENT DID ANNOUNCE A SECOND ROUND OF THE SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT GRANT PAYMENTS, THAT'S 10,000 TO 20,000 dollars. 1.7 BILLION DOLLARS ALTOGETHER IF YOU CONSIDER THE ENTIRE PROVINCE. HOW HELPFUL WILL THAT BE TO YOUR EFFORTS?

Tony says AS FAR AS THE 20,000 dollar GRANT THAT THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO GIVE US, HOPEFULLY, IF WE QUALIFY, I THINK THAT'S GREAT, ALTHOUGH WHAT I REALLY WOULD LIKE TO SEE IS WHAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS DONE WITH THEIR 40,000 dollar LOAN WITH A 20,000 dollar GRANT IF WE COULD REPAY THE 40,000 dollars, WHICH ABSOLUTELY NOBODY CAN UNLESS WE TAKE A LOAN OUT, IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. SO WE'D LIKE TO SEE THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT TO LEAN ON THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO TURN THAT LOAN INTO A GRANT FOR US AS WELL OF NON-REPAYMENT, ONLY FOR THE BUSINESSES, I WILL ADD, IN MY OPINION, THAT ARE STILL CLOSED, BECAUSE SOME BUSINESSES HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO REOPEN AND DO HAVE CASH FLOW COMING IN. WE HAVE ZERO CASH FLOW COMING IN. MY BIGGEST ISSUE HERE AND OUR FEDERATION OF HAIRDRESSERS AND BARBERS IN THUNDER BAY, IS THE FUTURE OF OUR INDUSTRY. WE ARE GOING TO FACE AN ABSOLUTE ONSLAUGHT OF PEOPLE GETTING OUT OF OUR INDUSTRY THAT ARE ALREADY IN IT AND PEOPLE NOT WANTING TO BECOME HAIR STYLISTS. BECAUSE AT THE END OF THE DAY WE'RE NON-ESSENTIAL. THE NEXT TIME THERE'S A PANDEMIC, THE NEXT TIME THERE'S ANYTHING, WHAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS PAINTED OUR HAIRDRESSING COMMUNITY AND SPA AND GYMS IS WE ARE NOT NECESSARY AT ALL SO...

Steve says HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DOING THIS?

Tony says I'VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR 32 YEARS.

Steve says 32 YEARS.

Tony says 32 YEARS.

Steve says TALK TO US ABOUT THE NEXT GENERATION. YOU'VE BEEN AT THIS A LONG TIME. WOULD YOU GIVE ADVICE TO ANYBODY TO GO INTO THIS LINE OF WORK TODAY?

Tony says UNLESS THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PUT FORTH SOME KIND OF PLATFORM THAT MAKES OUR INDUSTRY A VIABLE INDUSTRY THAT CAN WORK, ABSOLUTELY NOT. I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND ANYBODY TO GET INTO THIS INDUSTRY BECAUSE I HAD A FULL BOOK, MAKING GREAT MONEY. I FELT SO IMPORTANT TO MY GUESTS. MY GUESTS LOVE COMING IN. AND AT THIS POINT RIGHT NOW, OUR INDUSTRY IS NOTHING. WE'RE DEEMED AS, "WE DON'T NEED YOU." AND IT JUST SEEMS LIKE, IT'S BEEN SIX AND A HALF MONTHS THAT WE'VE BEEN CLOSED OUT OF TWELVE, AND AT THE END OF THE DAY THE GOVERNMENT HAS SHOWN NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER, EVEN WHEN I READ ALL THE MONEY THAT THEY'RE PUTTING FORWARD TO RETRAIN PEOPLE, BUT HOW ABOUT SOME MONEY PUT FORTH TO PUT TH E CONFIDENCE BACK INTO THE NEXT GENERATION OF KIDS COMING UP AND YOUNG ADULTS TO ACTUALLY GET INTO OUR INDUSTRY? BECAUSE IT IS AN AMAZING INDUSTRY. THERE'S NOTHING IN THIS BUDGET THAT ALLOWS FOR MONEY TO BRING BACK THE SENSE THAT THIS IS AN ACTUAL PROFESSIONAL INDUSTRY, THAT'S A VIABLE, NECESSARY INDUSTRY. AND THAT'S A BIG SHORTFALL FOR MR. FORD AND HIS CABINET TODAY.

Steve says GINGER, I'VE GOT A BIT OF A TRICKY QUESTION FOR YOU HERE, SO BUCKLE UP, AS THEY SAY. WE'RE A YEAR INTO THIS PANDEMIC. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THIS PREMIER'S RECORD ON ASSISTING SMALL BUSINESS?

The caption changes to "tvo.org/theagenda; agendaconnect@tvo.org."

Ginger says UH, AM I GIVING HIM A GRADE? IT'S NOT A GOOD ONE. LIKE, IF WE RAN OUR BUSINESSES THIS WAY, WE WOULDN'T BE IN BUSINESS. I MEAN, I DON'T THINK YOU CAN... LIKE, LET'S JUST TAKE ALL OF THE RELIEF ON ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT RIGHT NOW. IT'S BASED ON REVENUE. SO WE BOUGHT A BUSINESS THAT WAS AROUND FOR 10 YEARS. THE LAST TWO YEARS OF THAT BUSINESS WASN'T GREAT. THE PREVIOUS OWNER WASN'T OPEN, YOU KNOW, THE SAME HOURS WE ARE. WE'RE OPEN LONGER THAN HE IS. WE HAVE MORE... WE HAVE A BIGGER MENU. THERE'S LOTS OF REASONS WHY OUR REVENUE IS UP. BUT REVENUE DOESN'T EQUAL PROFIT. YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT A WHOLE SLEW OF OTHER EXPENSES. YOU HAVE TAKEOUT CONTAINERS. WE HAVE ALL THIS PPE. THERE'S LIKE A WHOLE GIANT SECTOR OF STUFF WE HAVE TO BUY THAT WE NEVER, YOU KNOW, HAD TO DO BEFORE. SO REVENUE BEING UP IS NOT A GOOD INDICATOR THAT SOMEONE'S, YOU KNOW, DOING GREAT. WE'RE ABSOLUTELY NOT. WE'RE SURVIVING.

Steve says I HEAR YOU. BUT THE GOVERNMENT ALSO SAYS WE ARE HELPING PEOPLE HAVE AN ONLINE PRESENCE. THEY'VE SPENT MILLIONS ON THAT. THEY'VE BEEN PREPARED TO HELP PEOPLE PURCHASE PPE AND OTHER SPECIFICS TO RETROFIT YOUR ESTABLISHMENT TO MAKE IT MORE COVID-19-FRIENDLY, IF I CAN PUT IT THAT WAY. HAS ANY OF THAT BEEN HELPFUL?

Ginger says YOU KNOW, A BOX OF GLOVES THAT USED TO COST 50 dollars IS NOW 280 dollars. SO THAT THOUSAND DOLLARS WAS PRETTY MUCH GONE IN A MONTH JUST FROM DISPOSABLE ITEMS, MASKS, ALL THE THINGS. SO, YOU KNOW, I'M GRATEFUL FOR ANYTHING THAT WE ARE GIVEN, BUT I AGREE, IT'S NOT A ONE SIZE FITS ALL FOR EVERYBODY. LIKE, WE... LIKE, WE'RE NOT... YOU SHOULDN'T BE BASING IT JUST STRICTLY ON REVENUE. THIS HAS TO BE ON A CASE-BY-CASE BASIS IN SOME INSTANCES FOR SURE. LIKE, US BEING ALLOWED TO SELL ALCOHOL. I CAN'T GO ONLINE. I SELL WINGS AND FISH AND CHIPS. WE DO TAKEOUT AND THAT'S ALL WE CAN DO. THE PUB, WE CLOSED, BECAUSE WE WERE LOSING MONEY EVERY DAY. IT'S NOT... IT'S A PLACE YOU GO TO SOCIALIZE. IT'S A LOT OF REGULARS. IT'S AN INDUSTRY BAR. SO FOR US, THAT'S... YOU KNOW, WE OBVIOUSLY CAN'T GO ONLINE. YEAH. SO, I DON'T KNOW. I JUST FEEL LIKE... THE SELLING OF ALCOHOL, THERE'S AN LCBO ACROSS THE STREET FROM MY RESTAURANT. NOBODY IS COMING IN TO BUY RETAIL-PRICED ALCOHOL WHEN THEY CAN GO ACROSS THE STREET AND GET IT FOR LESS. THAT'S NOT A BIG HELP. CAPPING DELIVERY FEES, I WILL SAY, IF THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS, WOULD BE A HUGE HELP, BUT WE HAVE TO REMEMBER, THERE WERE FIVE MONTHS BEFORE THIS WHICH IS WHEN WE ALL ACCUMULATED OUR DEBT. WE DIDN'T GET ANY HELP. WHEN THE LANDLORDS WEREN'T GIVING US A BREAK ON RENT BECAUSE IT WAS UP TO THEM TO DECIDE, YOU KNOW? THERE WAS NO... THERE WERE NO LOANS. THERE WERE NO GRANTS. THERE WAS NO PPE. WE DID ALL THAT ALREADY WITHOUT HELP. THAT'S WHERE WE ALL GOT INTO TROUBLE.

The caption changes to "For more Ontario Budget 2021 coverage go to TVO.org."

Steve says MICHAEL WOOD, LET ME ASK YOU WHAT YOU THINK THE PROVINCE COULD BE DOING THAT ISN'T DOING YET THAT YOU THINK WOULD BE HELPFUL?

Michael says WELL, I'VE BEEN ADVOCATING FOR SMALL BUSINESS FOR A YEAR NOW, AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT GINGER JUST SAID WAS THAT ALCOHOL BEING PURCHASED IN A RESTAURANT IS AT A RETAIL PRICE. I THINK IF WE WANT TO HELP THE RESTAURANTS... YOU KNOW, THERE REALLY IS NOT A COST, IF YOU WILL, A COST PRICE FOR ALCOHOL, FOR RESTAURANTS AND BARS. THERE'S SOME SAVINGS, BUT NOT SIGNIFICANT ENOUGH. SO I THINK THAT IF THE GOVERNMENT WERE TO GO BACK AND RE-EXAMINE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE HOSPITALITY WORLD AND THE LCBO, I THINK THAT WOULD BE HELPFUL. I THINK THAT WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO NEED ENERGY SUPPORT FOR HYDRO AND GAS MOVING FORWARD. AND ONE OF THE THINGS, YOU KNOW, GETTING BACK TO THE PRESENTATION TOWARDS THE PROVINCE THAT, YOU KNOW, THE GAP IN RENT... IN THE RENT SUBSIDY, YOU KNOW, I DID ASK THE PROVINCE TO BACKFILL THAT. YOU KNOW, THERE'S 35 percent IN RENT THAT SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS NEED TO STILL COME UP WITH, AND IF YOU'RE LIKE TONI AND MYSELF AND YOU HAVE LIMITED TO NO CASH FLOW, I DON'T KNOW WHERE THAT 35 percent IS SUPPOSED TO COME FROM. SO I'M GOING TO CONTINUE TO PUSH THE GOVERNMENT FOR MORE SUPPORT, MORE FINANCIAL SUPPORT, AND, YOU KNOW, IF THIS CONTINUES, STEVE, I THINK WE'RE GOING TO NEED A LOT OF MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT MOVING FORWARD AS WELL.

Steve says THERE IS SOMETHING IN TODAY'S BUDGET THAT DOES SPEAK TO THAT. I WANT TO GET BACK TO THE PREMIERS FOR A SECOND. WE HAVEN'T HAD THAT MANY PREMIERS OF ONTARIO WHO HAVE BEEN SMALL BUSINESS OPERATORS, BUT THIS GUY WAS. THIS GUY HAD A FAMILY BUSINESS. THEY MAKE, YOU KNOW, DECALS. SO THE THINKING WAS, HE SURELY OUGHT TO UNDERSTAND THE PLIGHT OF SMALL BUSINESS PEOPLE IN THE PROVINCE. DO YOU THINK HE DOES?

Michael says THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION, AND A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE ASKED ME THIS. YOU KNOW, WHEN IT COMES TO THE LOCKDOWNS, I'VE ALWAYS TRIED TO HAVE A BALANCED APPROACH. I'VE BEEN VERY FORTUNATE. I'VE MET WITH MANY PEOPLE IN THE PREMIER'S OFFICE AND OTHER MINISTERS BY TAKING A BALANCED APPROACH. I HAD A CONVERSATION WITH SOMEBODY LAST NIGHT AND I SAID I UNDERSTAND THAT AS SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS WE'RE NOT IN THE ROOM WHILE DECISIONS ARE BEING MADE. WE DON'T HAVE ALL OF THE FACTS. SO THE FACTS THAT ARE MADE AVAILABLE, YES, WE CAN EITHER AGREE WITH OR DISAGREE WITH. AND I THINK THIS IS WHERE SMALL BUSINESS NEEDS TO BE AT THE TABLE FOR THESE DISCUSSIONS SO WE CAN ACTUALLY HEAR AND ENSURE THAT EVERYTHING THAT, MOVING FORWARD, DOES HELP US... BECAUSE THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT NEED A TON OF SUPPORT, AND I TRULY HOPE THAT THE PREMIER DOES REMEMBER HIS DAYS AS A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER AND CAN PROVIDE THAT FOR US.

Steve says TONY, LET ME GET YOU BACK IN HERE. DO YOU THINK, GIVEN THE CHANGES YOU KNOW YOU ARE CAPABLE OF MAKING, DO YOU THINK YOU COULD REOPEN YOUR SALON TOMORROW AND IT WOULD BE A SAFE PLACE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS TO COME?

Tony says WE'VE BEEN A SAFE PLACE SINCE DAY ONE. WE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES THAT OUR LOCAL HEALTH UNIT, IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT, PUT INTO PLACE. WE SPENT THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN PLEXIGLAS AND BETWEEN STATIONS, FRONT DESK... WE SPENT SO MUCH MONEY ON PPEs IN OUR SALON. HAVING SAID THAT, BEING A BUSINESS WHICH, RIGHT FROM THE GET-GO, WE ARE ONE OF THE CLEANEST INDUSTRIES OUT THERE. WE ARE CONSTANTLY REGULATED BY OUR HEALTH UNIT. SO WE WERE SET UP FOR THAT LAST MARCH. SO WHEN WE GOT CLOSED DOWN AGAIN, THERE IS NOTHING ELSE THAT THE GOVERNMENT CAN PUT INTO PLACE THAT MAKES OUR BUSINESS ANY SAFER THAN WHAT IT WAS A YEAR AGO. THAT'S IT. THERE'S NOTHING ELSE WE CAN DO.

Steve says ALL RIGHT. I'VE GOT TO ASK YOU A FOLLOW-UP QUESTION THEN, WHICH IS... AGAIN, THIS IS A PREMIER WHO IS A SMALL BUSINESSPERSON, WHO UNDERSTANDS THE PLIGHT OF SMALL BUSINESS. WHAT DOES HE, IN YOUR VIEW, NOT GET ABOUT WHAT'S GOING ON RIGHT NOW?

Tony says I THINK THE PREMIER OF ONTARIO NEEDS TO ACTUALLY WALK INTO SOME HAIR SALONS AND SEE WHAT WE'VE DONE. AND THE ONE THING THAT I HAVE SUGGESTED TO MY COLLEAGUES HERE IN THUNDER BAY AND SURROUNDING AREA IS, YOU HAVE TO CUT YOUR STAFF DOWN. I DID. I ONLY BROUGHT HALF OF MY STAFF BACK WHEN WE WERE ALLOWED TO OPEN, AND THEY WENT FROM FIVE DAYS A WEEK TO SEVEN DAYS A WEEK, INSTEAD OF 8-HOUR DAYS TO 12-HOUR DAYS, AND WE SPREAD EVERYBODY OUT. AND IF EVERYBODY DOES THAT, AND THE PREMIER WAS TO PUT THAT IN THEIR MANDATE, THAT ONCE YOU DO GET THE GREEN LIGHT TO OPEN UP AGAIN, IT'S NOT 220 MILES DOWN THE INTERSTATE AT ONCE. YOU HAVE TO COME BACK SLOW. YOU HAVE TO SOCIAL DISTANCE PROPERLY. IF WE DO THAT, THERE'S NO REASON WHY MY DOORS ARE CLOSED. I'M HAPPY WITH COMING BACK TO WORK WITH MYSELF WORKING IN THE SALON AND SO ARE MY CLIENTS. I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY THE PREMIER KEEPS SAYING THAT IT'S NOT A SAFE PLACE. IT IS. AND THAT'S WHERE, AGAIN, SO MANY PEOPLE ARE WONDERING, OKAY, SO WHAT DO WE HAVE TO DO AS HAIR STYLISTS AND BARBERS TO MAKE THIS A SAFE PLACE? THERE'S NOTHING ELSE SAFER.

Steve says TONY, YOU KNOW, I HEAR THE ADAMANCE AND FORCE IN YOUR POSITION. DID YOU THINK ABOUT WORKING UP ILLEGALLY AND SAYING TO HELL WITH IT?

The caption changes to "Putting the word out."

Tony says ABSOLUTELY. I WAS GOING TO DO THAT ACTUALLY THREE WEEKS AGO. THE LOCAL TELEVISION STATION WAS HERE. WE HAD DONE THE REPORT. I HAD MY CLIENT. I WAS JUST ABOUT TO CUT HER HAIR, AND MY LAWYER PHONED ME, AND MY LAWYER ADVISED ME AGAINST IT BECAUSE OF THE FIGURE THAT I AM IN THE COMMUNITY AND FACING THE LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS THAT I WOULD. I WAS GOING TO OPEN UP ILLEGALLY, AND I DECIDED AGAINST IT WITH THE... MY LAWYER TELLING ME NOT TO. BECAUSE I'M AT A POINT WHERE THERE IS NOTHING THAT DOUG FORD OR HIS CABINET OR THE HEALTH UNIT CAN SAY, "THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO DO NOW SO YOU CAN OPEN UP." WE'RE READY. THERE'S NOTHING ELSE WE COULD DO. THERE ISN'T. SO I DON'T KNOW WHAT HE'S WAITING FOR. WE'RE AT WIT'S END. WE JUST FEEL LIKE THIS GOVERNMENT IS LIKE A GAMBLER WHO GOES TO A CASINO, LOSES ALL OF HIS MONEY AND ONLY HAS 20 LEFT IN HIS POCKET, AND INSTEAD OF THINKING, "OKAY, I'VE GOT THAT 20 BUCKS. I MADE ALL THESE MISTAKES. LET ME TAKE THAT 20 dollars, GO HOME, START INVESTING AND START BUILDING MY MONEY UP AGAIN. I'M JUST GOING TO BLOW IT ALL." IT'S ALMOST LIKE THE PREMIER KNOWS HE HAS DROPPED THE BALL, SO DOES HIS CABINET AND THE HEALTH UNIT, BUT THEY'RE TOO PROUD TO ADMIT THEY DROPPED THE BALL IN OUR SECTOR TO LET US GO BACK TO WORK SO THEY'RE JUST GOING TO KEEP US CLOSED, AND THAT IS WRONG.

The caption changes to "Producer: Harrison Lowman, @harrisonlowman; Producer: Steve Paikin, @spaikin."

Steve says TONY, MICHAEL WOOD, AND GINGER, I CAN'T THANK YOU ENOUGH FOR TELLING US WHAT YOU'VE BEEN UP AGAINST THE LAST YEAR. NEEDLESS TO SAY, I WISH ALL OF YOU GREAT GOOD FORTUNE GOING FORWARD. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

The guests say THANK YOU.

Watch: Is Budget 2021 Good for Ontario Business?