Main street retailers are vital to the city and have been severely impacted over the past two years. As part of a recovery effort, Toronto City Council has approved a 15 per cent commercial tax cut for small businesses that have an assessed commercial tax rate of $7 million or less.
This is a welcome relief to many small business owners who will most likely be struggling with cash flow and worrying about the pending increase to interest rates that will increase the cost of managing the debt that was accumulated to make it through months of closures.
However, it will take more than government tax policy and forgivable loans to help small businesses. It will be up to members of the community to make sure that local retailers survive and return. It is up to each and every one of us to make a concerted effort to buy local and return to our local shops.
Although ordering from Amazon may have been a necessity during the pandemic, it is now becoming a significant threat to small business. Consider that during the pandemic small retailers were closed for many months to stop the spread of the pandemic, whereas Amazon distribution centres only had to close for 10 days after repeated COVID outbreaks amongst employees.
Even though pandemic restrictions are easing and shops are open to the public, Amazon continues to negatively impact small business. Although everyone notionally supports the idea of buying locally, the reality is that many of us prefer the ease of shopping through scrolling and clicking instead of by strolling down the street.
Although some shops have tried to develop an online presence, it is just not possible to compete with Amazon ads. Also, small shops are not in a position to offer free shipping, so the best way to shop locally is to go to the store.
Buying locally is not just important for main street business, it is also important for the environment. In 2019, the amount of CO2 emitted by Amazon was the equivalent of 13 coal-burning power plants running for a year. Although the Seattle-based company made pledges to reduce its carbon footprint, its CO2 emissions rose another 19 per cent in 2020. The company can make pledges to reduce its carbon footprint in warehouses, but the reality of its distribution is that it relies on planes, trucks and automobiles to move goods from its warehouses to the consumer, using vast amounts of non-renewable resources in the process.
For example, Amazon currently has 73 planes and has purchased 11 more for next year to keep up with demand for shipping goods. The Amazon fleet is more than Porter and Sunwing combined.
Our local shops and restaurants are so important for our communities. The next time you are thinking about scrolling and clicking, take a stroll instead. Walk to the shops to see what they have in-store. This season will be hard because supply chains have been disrupted everywhere, and so it is all the more reason why we need to continue to support the shops that keep our communities vibrant.
Karen Stintz is a former city councillor, elected in 2003, and was a chair of the TTC. She lives in Ward 8.