Ontario Premier Doug Ford is urging residents to "forget about the big box stores" and support small businesses as the province looks to enter its second state of emergency Thursday. 

"You want to help your local business? Go online. Don't go to the big box stores, go online to the small businesses," Ford said in a press conference Wednesday. 

"No one's stopping anyone from going online: Support your small businesses. I've said it 1,000 times, I'll say 1,000 and one: Support your small businesses, forget about the big box stores."

Ford's comments come a day after provincial officials were criticized for new COVID-19 measures that don't restrict shopping hours for retailers selling items which are deemed essential. The province is limiting non-essential retailers to open between 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and only offer curbside pickup services. 

"No other province has locked down small retailers while handing huge competitive advantages to big box stores," said Dan Kelly, CEO and president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, in a statement Tuesday. 

Ford said that small businesses will have access to a provincially-run portal on Friday that will provide financial assistance with taxes, rent, electricity, and other costs. The province is offering a one-time grant worth up to $20,000 to each small business that requires financial assistance during the state of emergency. 

"I'm doing everything I can to make sure that we get back to normal," Ford said.

"We have to focus on the vaccines. The quicker we get the vaccines here and the quicker we can get people vaccinated, we can start opening these [businesses] up again." 

Ontario said it expects to have 8.5 million residents that meet certain criteria vaccinated against COVID-19 by July. The province plans to open up vaccination for the general population in August, pending vaccine availability.