Federal government must 'save Main Street' from COVID-19

Federal Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly says the federal government absolutely has to “save Main Street” as the COVID-19 pandemic hits businesses hard. 

‘I know these are very, very anxious times’

Federal Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly took part in a video conference call with P.E.I. business owners Wednesday evening. (CBC)

Federal Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly says the federal government absolutely has to "save Main Street" as the COVID-19 pandemic hits businesses hard.

Joly took part in a video conference call with more than 85 P.E.I. business owners Wednesday evening. 

"I know these are very, very anxious times. My spouse is the owner of a small business," Joly told Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce members.

"It hits close to home."

The chamber hosted the event with the federal cabinet minister and Charlottetown MP Sean Casey. 

The hour-long event was hosted on the Zoom platform.

'A real challenge'

Dawn Binns, president of the Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce and the moderator of the event, said the goal of the video conference call was not only to provide clarity about federal government program already in place, but to highlight some of the challenges and gaps.

Dawn Binns, left, president of the Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce and Federal Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly took part in a video conference call with chamber members and P.E.I. business leaders Wednesday evening. (CBC)

Binns said Jolie acknowledged there is more to do.

"There's still sectors — seasonal, tourism, specific industries — that are going to have particular challenges over the coming months," said Binns.

Binns said business owners have dusted off the shock over the mass closures caused by the global pandemic and are eager to get back to work. She said P.E.I.'s strong economy before COVID-19 should help the Island rebound from these unprecedented times.

"While this has been a real challenge, I'd like to think and I do believe that continued momentum is going to help," she said.

During the question and answer session portion, Binns asked on behalf of a member if the federal government is looking at honouring front-line workers.

'Everyday heroes'

Joly said some provinces have already announced top ups for essential workers, from those who work in grocery stores to peoplein private long-term care homes. She said the prime minister is in talks with the provinces to do more.

An area outside Sobeys in Stratford is cordoned off for shoppers to line up if the store is full. Federal Minister Melanie Joly says essential workers from those who work in grocery stores to private long-term care homes are our everyday heroes. (Submitted by Sobeys)

"While we need to protect them, while providing them with the right medical equipment and personal protective equipment, we also need to make sure that we reward the fact that they are taking risks in terms of their own health," said Joly.

"They are our everyday heroes right now."

Casey said it's important that MPs hear about any challenges or gaps in current programs. He said those challenges are discussed during nightly caucus calls with the MPs and cabinet ministers. 

"Many of the tweaks that you've seen over the course of this pandemic have been as a result of the input provided on those calls, and the input that we provide on those calls comes from conversations like this one."  

The chamber plans more of these video conferencing sessions in the weeks ahead. 

Joly said these are dire times but she told P.E.I. business owners to not lose faith.

"My word to you is keep it up and trust the future. We will be there helping you cross the bridge. We will provide you with the right support to make sure that you can get on the other shore and things will get brighter," said Jolie.

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.


About the Author

Wayne Thibodeau

Prince Edward Island

Wayne Thibodeau is a reporter/editor with CBC Prince Edward Island. He has worked as a reporter, editor, photographer and video journalist in print, digital and TV for more than 20 years. He can be reached at


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