Government of Canada investments in Digital Main Street support BruceGreySimcoe businesses and students

News release

November 27, 2020 – Barrie, Ontario

Helping businesses in the wake of COVID-19

All businesses have felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, retail-oriented main street businesses have suffered, with stores closed and in-person commerce halted. In order to survive, many of these businesses have had to pivot their operations from brick and mortar locations to the digital marketplace. With support from the Government of Canada through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), many main street businesses are turning to digital solutions as a way to maintain their operations and strengthen their resilience for future growth.

Targeted Support for Main Street businesses and SMEs

On June 11, 2020, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, announced a $42.5 million FedDev Ontario investment to expand the Digital Main Street (DMS) platform. Building on Toronto’s foundational investments in Digital Main Street and ShopHERE, this Government of Canada investment extended the support to businesses across the province to go digital while creating jobs for post-secondary youth and graduate students. In less than five months since the funding was announced, over 6,900 businesses have received free digital training, consultations and hands-on support in enhancing online presence and e-commerce opportunities.

Supporting BruceGreySimcoe region businesses to go digital

Today, Parliamentary Secretary Kate Young met virtually with Digital Main Street partners, recipients and students in the BruceGreySimcoe region to hear about their experiences with the program. Business owners shared how the vital support received has helped them regain lost revenue, strengthened their resilience and opened new opportunities for growth.

Hundreds of businesses in the region have benefited from Digital Main Street support, with local students and recent graduates hired to provide tailored advice and services to help local businesses go digital.

As an example, Casey Thomson of The Cheese Gallery, a gourmet food shop in Thornbury, faced uncertainty when the pandemic forced her to close her shop doors. Through a Digital Transformation Grant, Thomson was able to create a website, move her entire inventory of products online and enhance the company’s social media presence.

The Creemore Refillery is a Clearview-based company that is on a plastic-free mission, offering eco-friendly home and personal care products and providing customers the opportunity to refill containers for home cleaning and bath and body care products. Owner Jacquie Rushlow had to close her doors as a result of COVID-19 and was forced to move her entire product and service offering online overnight. With the help of a Digital Transformation Grant, the company was able to purchase professional photography equipment to improve its social media presence and move products online. DMS support also helped the company get e-commerce ready.

For more information on the Digital Main Street program, please visit


“The pandemic has impacted every community across the country – both big and small. By making Digital Main Street support available across Ontario, the Government of Canada is helping our businesses here in Barrie to pivot their operations, expand to wider markets and position themselves not only to weather the COVID-19 storm, but succeed in a growing digital economy.”
Kate Young, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (FedDev Ontario) 

“As local economies continue to deal with the impacts of the pandemic, our government is 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. With Government of Canada support, thousands of entrepreneurs across Ontario have adopted and expanded their digital presence and more than 1,000 students have been provided jobs in the past five months.”
The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts for all Canadians, including small businesses that are a critical part of local economies. Through this project, bringing together the Ontario Business Improvement Association, the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech and Invest Ottawa – we have been able to continue the expansion of the highly successful Digital Main Street program, providing the knowledge transfer, resources, and critical support for small businesses to implement digital tools and services they need to respond to the evolving challenges currently being faced.”
Digital Main Street Platform Partners

“COVID-19 forced a reshaping of The Cheese Gallery business model.  Government relief funding allowed us to create on an online business that is now being merged with our bricks and mortar location integrating one Point of Sale system for both stores.  Funding ensured online development, supporting our financial stability and giving us flexibility to meet the needs of our clients, manage all COVID-19 protocols and ensure a successful pivot for The Cheese Gallery.
Casey Thomson, Owner, The Cheese Gallery

"Like many other businesses, we had to build our online store overnight in order to keep up with COVID-19 restrictions. With a Digital Transformation Grant from Digital Main Street, The Creemore Refillery was able to revamp our look online and in social media.  We've gone from DIY photos with an iPhone to professional product shots and are now competing with leading brands.  It will be easier for people to shop online as there is a clear, concise and consistent look to our brand.”
Jacquie Rushlow, Owner, The Creemore Refillery

Quick facts

  • The expansion of the Digital Main Street program, through the Government of Canada’s investment of $42.5 million, will support nearly 22,000 businesses and create more than 1,400 student jobs. The Government of Ontario is also contributing an additional $7.45 million to support this project.

  • The Digital Main Street partners include: Ontario Business Improvement Area Association, Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech and Invest Ottawa. These partners have a broad reach to tens of thousands of the region’s businesses and offer a wealth of expertise ranging from business improvement, technology, innovation, marketing and economic development.

  • FedDev Ontario’s investment in Digital Main Street is through the national $1.5 billion Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF). Delivered by Canada’s regional development agencies, the RRRF provides liquidity support to businesses and not-for-profit organizations affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, that are unable to access other federal relief measures, or require additional support. In southern Ontario, FedDev Ontario is delivering $436.4 million to provide financial relief and help businesses recover.

Associated links


Catherine Mounier-Desrochers
Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages

Media Relations
FedDev Ontario

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