A sign notifying customers of a closed terrace is shown at food court in Montreal, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, as COVID-19 cases rise in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Why the feds aren’t closing the door on non-essential businesses

Some say a national message might still be more helpful, even if it leaves room for exception

While Canada’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak has taken off drastically in the last week, some have found it lopsided across the country.

In Ontario and Alberta, dine-in restaurants and bars are closed by provincial decree, while Quebec and B.C. have shut down bars and ordered restaurants to limit the number of customers.

Other provinces have made no such order.

Even in a single city like Ottawa, there’s variation between which businesses have stayed open and which have shuttered to the public.

Businesses need more federal direction to avoid confusion, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday.

“One of the things businesses are looking for is more coherence,” said Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Right now in Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and federal health minister provide advice to the provinces, but each province and territory is ultimately responsible for making its own decisions.

Beatty said the situation can be particularly vexing for companies that operate across jurisdictions.

“As rate of infection is growing, the same rules increasingly should apply across the board,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C.’s top doctor orders bars, some restaurants to close over COVID-19

For some, without specific advice from the federal government, it can be a difficult financial proposition to voluntarily shut their doors, he said.

Federal authorities say that have been co-ordinating with provincial counterparts, but that local context is important.

“We very much recognize … that there are specific conditions in specific cities, specific provinces,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“That’s why we have public health officers also at the provincial and the city level.”

The provinces’ decisions about whether to close non-essential businesses comes down to the reality on the ground, including the number of cases of COVID-19 in the region and whether the area is seeing community transmission.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said it may also come down to a particular health system’s ability to deal with an outbreak. A weaker health system may take a more cautious approach, for example, she said.

Beatty suggested a national message might still be more helpful, even if it leaves room for exceptions. At least then the information would be coming from one source, he explained.

He did complement the federal government though on its open lines of communication with the business community.

And to some extent, he said it will be up to businesses to do the right thing for their customers and employees.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FortisBC offers 90-day bill deferrals to customers impacted by COVID-19

Customers can apply for the relief program through the utility’s website

RCMP pursuit in Okanagan Falls leads to arrest of Penticton man

Seamus Kirby of Penticton is facing numerous charges including flight from police

North Okanagan bands together in support against COVID-19

New group launches website with tools to help endure crisis

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen cuts two positions

Management roles cut as a result of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Summerland couple sharing positive messages

Carsten and Val Nielsen are displaying professionally made signs during COVID-19 pandemic

WATCH: Salmon Arm artist hosts virtual art show amid COVID-19

Roxi Hermsen’s show “Into the Cosmos” is a tribute to her father Bill Sim

HERGOTT: COVID-19 and ICBC

Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer based in West Kelowna

COVID-19: Armstrong gym fined $345 after failure to close

The fitness centre was issued a ticket a day after province ordered all gyms to close

Bus rider who travelled to Golden tests positive for COVID-19

The passenger travelled from Calgary to Golden on March 15

Armed robbery of legal grow-op in Sicamous ends in arrest near Enderby

Residents alarmed over increased police presence Tuesday morning

Wildfire burns out-of-control on Adams Lake band land in the Shuswap

BC Wildfire Service reports Shuswap two-hectare fire is not threatening structures

COVID-19: Vernon homeless shelters combine in curling club

Gateway and Our Place shelter sites housed under one roof amid pandemic

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

Most Read