The Government of Canada invests $50 million towards helping businesses across the region adopt digital technologies to recover from the pandemic and emerge stronger

Helping businesses in the wake of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on businesses of all sizes across the country. In particular, retail-oriented main street businesses have suffered with stores closed and in-person commerce halted. From the outset, the Government of Canada has taken action to support sectors affected by the pandemic, including the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), launched on May 13.

The national $962-million fund, delivered through Canada’s regional development agencies, supports small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Canada that have been unable to get access to existing relief measures. In southern Ontario, FedDev Ontario is delivering $213 million to provide short-term financial relief and help businesses recover. 

Support for Main Street businesses and SMEs

With Ontario’s economy reopening, the federal and provincial governments are working together to help small businesses go digital through a pan-Ontario project that will support businesses’ recovery and generate new revenue.

Today, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario, and the Honourable Prabmeet Sarkaria, Ontario Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, announced a $57-million investment to help main street businesses across the province adopt digital technologies to compete now and in the future.

Building on Toronto’s foundational investments in Digital Main Street and, most recently, ShopHERE, this investment of $50 million from the Government of Canada (through FedDev Ontario) and $7.65 million from the Government of Ontario will extend the support to businesses across the province. Support will be offered through two main platforms.

Digital Main Street Platform

With $42.5-million from the Government of Canada (through FedDev Ontario) and $7.45 million from Ontario, the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association, the Toronto Association of Business Improvement AreasCommunitech and Invest Ottawa will support over 21,900 small businesses across Ontario, to pivot their operations to include digital business models, regain lost revenue and become more resilient and competitive as the economy recovers.

This investment will also create jobs for more than 1,400 co-op students. Over the summer and fall work terms, students will gain valuable work experience creating online storefronts.

Recovery Activation Program

To complement the Digital Main Street Platform, the Toronto Region Board of Trade will receive $7.5 million from the Government of Canada through FedDev Ontario and $200,000 from Ontario for the Recovery Activation Program to help more than 1,000 businesses grow by embracing a digital future. Participating firms will receive training, advice and a customized blueprint for digitizing their supply chains, customer acquisition systems and other operations. This investment means that businesses across Ontario will be connected with RAP through an extensive network of chambers of commerce, industry associations and program delivery partners, with at least half of the firms supported coming from regions outside of the Greater Toronto Area.

For more information, read the Backgrounder.


“As local economies across Ontario reopen, we’re focused on ensuring that our main streets don’t just survive, but thrive. These businesses are the backbone of our economy, a source of local jobs – and local pride. Thanks to the expanded Digital Main Street platform, they’ll be able to expand their offerings and take advantage of more and more people shopping online. Our message to Ontario’s small businesses, and those whose livelihoods rely on them, is clear: we’re working with you to support good jobs and help our economy come back stronger than ever.”
— The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario

“The stores that line downtown streets in communities across Ontario are a big part of civic identity and pride. FedDev Ontario and its partners will offer the support these businesses’ need to rebuild and retool in the digital world, while providing valuable work experience to students that may have been displaced from other opportunities by the pandemic.”
—Kate Young, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (FedDev Ontario) 

“Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and their recovery is critical to Ontario’s recovery. As thousands of small businesses across the province closed their doors and halted business during the COVID-19 outbreak, many struggled to shift sales or services online. I am very pleased, that together with Minister Joly and our federal partners, we are providing small businesses with the tools they need to recover and flourish as Ontario reopens.”
—The Honourable Prabmeet Sarkaria, Ontario Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction

Quick Facts

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many Canadian households to purchase goods online rather than in store. As such, retail e-commerce sales surged 16.3 percent in March.
  • The strategic partners involved in this project have a broad reach to tens of thousands of the region’s businesses. They offer a wealth of expertise ranging from business improvement, technology, innovation, marketing and economic development. Therefore they are best-suited to deliver this widespread support and make the greatest possible impact across the region.
  • Support through the Digital Main Street Platform will be offered in three tiers customized to the level of support required by each company to develop or strengthen their online presence. More information on the levels of support is available in the Backgrounder.

Source: Government of Canada