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“As consumer behavior shifts, the ability of small businesses to adapt and pivot will be a major determinant of Ontario’s long-term economic recovery,” said Rocco Rossi, chief executive of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
There are some success stories of businesses adjusting to selling products online, providing virtual services or even offering entirely new products and services, he said. However, reopening poses serious challenges for others, “especially those with limited capital or for those located in parts of the province with poor or unreliable broadband internet.”
The RBC report recommends a five-year investment in regional tech accelerators, and boosting a 2019 federal budget commitment to high-speed internet for every Canadian and business by 2030, with tax credits available for small firms to invest in Canadian-designed software and hardware to promote digital transactions and services.
It also suggests creating national programs that would help Canadian businesses boost their online channels — with a goal of one million businesses deriving at least 25 per cent of their revenue from online channels by 2025 — and establishing virtual Main Streets and farmers’ markets.
In addition, the report proposes that business groups and governments could launch safety certification for small and medium-size business to encourage customers to return, beginning with hard-hit restaurants, hotels and retail outlets.