Mississauga to ask region to temporarily ban the sale of non-essential goods at big box stores


Published November 26, 2020 at 2:41 am


Although big-box stores in Mississauga are currently permitted to sell non-essential products such as toys, books, clothes and electronics, that could change if the Region of Peel decides to restrict such sales in the coming days.

At a Nov. 25 press conference, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie announced that she will be tabling a motion at regional council calling on Peel Public Health to prohibit big-box stores such as Costco and Walmart from selling “non-essential” goods in Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga. Crombie said the motion, should it pass, will work to “level the playing field” between corporate operations and smaller, independently-owned retailers. 

Crombie also suggested that people buying non-essentials might be spending too much time wandering through stores, something the region wants to discourage during Peel’s 28-day (at a minimum) lockdown. 

“It…truly concerns me that people are going out to these big box outlets and buying more than just the essentials. This can only lead to longer visits at the stores and increases the chance of transmission and because of that, I and my council members will be putting a motion forward at regional council tomorrow that will ask our Medical Officer of Health to limit big box stores from selling non-essentials,” Crombie told reporters. 

“We will be putting this motion forward for the health and safety of our residents, but also to level the playing field for our smaller retailers.” 

Crombie’s comments come just two days after Mississauga went into lockdown in a bid to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Peel. 

Under the province’s lockdown measures, non-essential retailers must close or restrict service to curbside pickup only. Big box stores that sell groceries and other crucial goods are permitted to remain open with no restrictions on what they can and cannot sell. Earlier this week, Premier Doug Ford said that stopping major retailers from selling non-essential goods would be too logistically challenging for retailers. 

Crombie’s motion will put the decision in the hands of Peel Public Health, which has the power to enforce region-specific rules regarding health and safety. 

Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, said the region is currently evaluating Crombie’s request. 

“I know that many of our small retailers are barely hanging on and they’ve been asked to close their in-person shopping at the most critical time of year for their bottom line. At a time when they make upwards of 50 to 60 per cent of their annual revenues, it is simply unfair that big box stores can continue to sell non-essential items,” Crombie said.

If regional council approves the motion, Peel won’t be the first region to restrict sales at big-box stores. Earlier this month, the Province of Manitoba announced that retailers that are permitted to remain open amid lockdown are not allowed to sell such “non-essential” goods as flowers, Christmas decorations and more.

The policy has generated a great deal of pushback, with residents taking to social media to criticize the move for making life significantly more difficult for residents–particularly those who cannot shop online because they do not have internet or use credit cards. 

At the press conference, Crombie asked residents to buy products from local retailers who have been asked to shutter for at least 28 days. 

“Big-box stores are open right now to sell essential goods, not televisions, not sports equipment, and not home decor. They do not need to have any further competitive advantage over our small businesses that are run by our families, our friends, and our neighbours in our community. We cannot afford to see them close their doors permanently as a result of this lockdown,” Crombie told reporters.  

“I’m again urging residents to buy Mississauga-made this Christmas through online orders, through curbside pickup and delivery.” 

When asked if the move will simply frustrate local residents and compel them to do their shopping in Halton or York Region (which have not been placed in lockdown), Crombie said that she’s hoping residents “do the right thing.”

“I understand it’s an inconvenience for people. However, I’m asking them to do the right thing. COVID is inconvenient for everyone and we have struggling small businesses that we all need to step up and support,” she said. 

Crombie’s plan received a mixed response on Twitter.

“How do you determine what’s essential? Who enforces it? This is the most hysterical and illogical reactions I’ve seen all day and I’ve seen some seriously flawed and incompetent gov actions and deflections already,” one poster wrote on Twitter. 

“This is a big mistake. Big. Mistake.” 

Other people argued that this policy will harm lower-income earners who shop at more affordable retailers and cannot easily travel from neighbourhood to neighbourhood to purchase products from independent shops. 

“[People] with disabilities cannot afford the prices of both bus fare & small businesses jacking of prices, most do not have credit cards,” one woman said.

Others, however, support the motion. 

“This has been done on other jurisdictions and makes sense. Walmart should not benefit at expense of small biz plus unnecessary shopping will compromise the lockdown,” one poster wrote on Twitter. 

The motion will come before regional council on Nov. 26. 

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