‘Canada United’ Initiative Aims to Support Local Businesses with Major Partnerships

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A national movement — Canada United — has been launched to support local businesses in communities across the country.

The initiative was spearheaded by RBC which brought together more than 50 of Canada’s leading brands, the national Chamber of Commerce network, and business associations to rally Canadians to “show local some love” by buying, dining, and shopping local.


“As Canadians continue to work hard to limit the spread of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to come together with one voice to safely support the re-opening of Canada’s local businesses and our economy,” said Neil McLaughlin, Group Head, Personal & Commercial Banking, Royal Bank of Canada.


“Canada United was created to kick-start an economic rebound by rallying consumers to give local businesses the support they need to re-open during these uncertain times. By bringing together government, business associations, and corporate Canada, we are looking to start a movement to get Canadians to buy local and support businesses across the country. We are genuinely excited by the energy that all of our partners are bringing to this effort.”

Officials said Canadians are invited to join the Canada United movement by buying and dining local, including celebrating and supporting local businesses during the Canada United Weekend from August 28 to 30.

Canadians are also encouraged to watch the Canada United videos online at GoCanadaUnited.ca, like posts from @GoCanadaUnited on social media and use #CanadaUnited on Twitter to demonstrate their support. For each of these actions until August 31, RBC will contribute five cents up to a maximum contribution amount of $2 million to the Canada United Small Business Relief Fund.

The Fund will provide small Canadian businesses with grants of up to $5,000 to cover expenses related to personal protective equipment (PPE), renovations to accommodate re-opening guidelines, and developing or improving e-commerce capabilities.

“If there has been one silver lining in all the tragedy and sacrifices of the current crisis, it has been the spirit of collaboration and unity of purpose that has been evident between levels of government, across provinces and across sectors,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “We are calling on that same unity of purpose with Canada United. Small, local businesses are the heart of our communities, our Main Streets and our economy. Together, it is time to show locals some love.

“We were blown away by the scope of vision that RBC had to do something to really celebrate and help small business across the country that has been hit so hard by this crisis. There are lots of great buy local campaigns across the country. But no one has put together this kind of coalition of iconic Canadian brands and media companies that in addition to wanting to do a media campaign to encourage people to support local businesses, to buy local, support small business, to add a component that each time there’s a social media interaction, a tweet, a post, a share, a like, that RBC and the coalition is prepared to put five cents into a fund that then will be used to fund relief grants for small businesses to help them with PPE (personal protective equipment) and restructuring costs to open safely.

“That breadth of vision was extremely attractive and the unity of purpose that it represents because these are large businesses that understand that small businesses are at the heart of our economy. They’re key to the supply chain. They’re key to our Main Streets and the vibrancy of our towns and cities. So for them willing to say ‘look Canada we’ve got to show local some love’ is a pretty powerful message.”

Rossi said the businesses continue to face a very rough time and thousands of businesses have already been lost due to the economic crisis.

“We will end up losing more as we go because going into the crisis the average small medium size business had 20 to 30 days of cash on hand. We’re into four months. So they’ve blown past what they had and yet the bills keep coming. They’ve maxed out their credit cards. They’ve borrowed from friends and family. They’ve taken out what loans they can. They’ve tried to take advantage of whatever programs, and there have been many programs that the government has introduced,” said Rossi.

“But even with all of that, we’re going to lose more businesses.”

Mike Dobbins, Chief Strategy and Corporate Development Officer at RBC, said the bank has been working with small businesses throughout the crisis.

“In order for them to fully recover you need to have a massive economic stimulus. That kind of led us to what role can we play and ultimately what we concluded was we really needed to create unity of purpose. We need to band together and create something large enough but in one voice. Send the right message to Canadian consumers to support their Main Streets,” said Dobbins, adding that the media campaign is intended for any business to plug into.

“If you’re a small business, you have the benefit of a massive advertising campaign that obviously small businesses can’t run.”

The intent is that in one voice with unity of purpose to create a movement.

“We want customers to come out and take micro actions,” said Dobbins.


Retail giant Roots announced it was joining Canada United.

“Roots was started in 1973 by two friends who opened a small footwear store in Toronto,” said Meghan Roach, Chief Executive Officer of Roots. “Without the support of Canadians, we would not have grown into the brand and business we are today. We have partnered with RBC and joined Canada United to encourage all those living in Canada to support their local small businesses during this challenging period. Our support is needed today so these incredible businesses can thrive well into the future.”

Darryl Julott, Senior Manager at Digital Main Street, which is a supporting partner in Canada United, said one-third of small businesses are at risk of closing their doors due to the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think a movement like this is at the right time,” said Julott.

“What’s really interesting about this campaign now, and the way it’s positioned around Canada United, is we are seeing this conscious shift within consumer behaviour. It’s not just a fad. We’re at a time right now where the consumer is justifiably changing their habits. Having something like this, bringing together some of the largest organizations in the world and some of the associations that represent this industry in Canada and some of the niche groups like Digital Main Street, I think you’ve got a very unique opportunity.

Digital Main Street is a non-profit organization that supports the growth of small businesses through the adoption of digital tools and technology.

Small business owners who are interested in the program can visit GoCanadaUnited.ca to learn more about grant application details, including eligibility criteria, and to apply.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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