Toronto businesses should be paid for construction disruptions

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The leaves may have just turned colour in the city, but Toronto business owners are already a little sick of seeing orange, as another construction season winds down.

For most Torontonians, the seemingly neverending construction is a headache. An extra detour adding a few more minutes to the daily commute. For the small business owners operating on noisy, torn up and dusty streets, it can be a threat to their livelihoods.

In a Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) survey released last year, 65,000 businesses across the country reported that they have had issues with road work during the past five years. Some of them never manage to recover and are forced to close down. The years of work that go into bringing a business plan to life can be wiped out by just a few months of poorly planned construction projects.

Shutting down sections of streets, taking away parking options and diverting public transit routes for construction often leaves customers seeking out more accessible options. Restaurants lose patrons over noise or dust complaints during their busiest season, deliveries go missing as building access points are cut off, and trucking companies are forced to divert routes to get around the added congestion.

Will the city be better off for the Light Rail Transit project along Eglinton or a long-awaited downtown relief line in the long run? Of course. But it’s going to take time. A lot of time, and no business has a rainy-day fund to keep them going for years.

They’re going to need some help.

When neighbourhood businesses close, the neighbourhood loses part of its soul. With hundreds of businesses across the city impacted, it’s a serious problem that calls for a real solution.

Toronto needs to step up and do more to mitigate the impacts major construction projects have on small businesses, to incentivize work crews to complete projects on time and ensure better communication to address issues as they arise.