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

Deadline passes for ‘unattractive’ Port Alberni building

Squash and Billiards Club on Third Avenue has been under construction for several years

Teachers in Port Alberni show the love for their students

Virtual message meant to give families hope in uncertain times

Port Alberni’s Judy Plater works magic with a chainsaw

Bald eagle carving unveiled at Alberni Valley Golf Club

EDITORIAL: Port Alberni’s loud thanks well deserved

Stay at home, stay the course so we can beat coronavirus

ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre looking for artists to exhibit in 2021

Gallery is currently closed due to COVID-19 concerns

‘We don’t need this right now’: B.C. man breaks up road rage incident

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road in Saanich on Vancouver Island

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

COVID-19: ‘The Ballad of Bonnie Henry’ recorded and released

LISTEN: Quick turnaround for song penned by B.C. Order of Canada musician Phil Dwyer

B.C. adding $300 to monthly income and disability assistance payments

‘Crisis supplement’ for COVID-19 for April, May and June

‘A matter of human decency’: Truckers’ union calls on gas stations, rest stops to fully re-open

Teamsters Canada wants feds, provinces to put pressure on facilities to re-open for transport workers

Hip tradition sing-along planned again for Canadians April 2

The Tragically Hip’s Paul Langlois is encouraging all to join him virtually in a’Porch Session.’

Migrant worker advocates blame feds, employers for COVID-19 outbreak at B.C. garden store

Migrant farm worker group calls on government for adequate health and safety requirements

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

Most Read