Submitted by Medicine Hat and District Chamber of Commerce
Medicine Hat and District Chamber of Commerce president Marcus Campbell sent a letter to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Jan. 12 requesting more transparency and a safe re-opening plan for Alberta businesses.
The Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce has been working diligently over the past 10 months to provide pandemic support to our entire business community of close to 3,000 businesses, whether a Chamber member or not. We have assisted in navigating and providing information and resources during this very challenging time. We have had direct contact with our entire business community and have first-hand knowledge of the impacts they are experiencing.
The Chamber of Commerce also understands the Government has been in a very difficult position, with very complex information and decisions to make. We have continuously communicated the Government’s guidelines and recommendations and the funding assistance available, while also working with our Alberta Chamber network to provide recommendations to Government on business challenges, gaps and supports needed.
Through all of this, we have worked to keep a pulse on impacts that have been felt and to listen to the stories and challenges felt each and every day. We know that the extension of restrictions and the closures of some businesses more recently is having a significant impact on lives and livelihoods. In a recent business research survey that we concluded at the end of December, with over 500 responses, we heard from our businesses that 76 per cent of them have been impacted by this pandemic and 70 per cent are still being impacted. There were 75 per cent of those that had to close up to four months with over 55 per cent experiencing decreases in revenue. We also know that 30 per cent of our businesses can’t survive at this level of economic activity, which is concerning given the ongoing, unpredictable economic environment.
We commend the Alberta government’s decision to allow all retail businesses to remain open, in an albeit limited capacity, and we agree with the approach to not pick and choose “essential” vs “non-essential”. However, some of the decisions are still picking winners and losers, essentially deeming certain types of businesses essential, while others are non-essential. The business closures since December and the recent extension of those measures, requires more information and communication and more short- mid- and long- term certainty in order to continue to operate and keep their businesses open.
The Government has often stated in their updates that transmission hasn’t come from many of these businesses and businesses have put tremendous effort in ensuring their staff, customers and the public are safe.
There are increasing concerns from salons, personal wellness services and anyone that ‘teaches’/’instructs’ children (dance/gymnastics, etc). What we are hearing is that they just desire the same standards as other similar types of businesses. For example, other health services can be open, retail business can be open, schools are open, all with standards in place to provide safety and protection for people. The question is why can’t similar styles or types of businesses operate in a similar fashion with restrictions in place.
With some health services allowed to be open, and other personal services not; some training being allowed, but others unable, there is question as to the data and information used in making those decisions and more clarity, transparency and certainty is needed with the data reported and decisions made.
Businesses who have been forced to close once again have followed health protocols, implemented new processes and procedures, spending valuable time and resources to do their part to protect people. While we can all support measures taken to protect the well-being of business, employees and the general public within our community, there is confusion and frustration with the current information dictating which businesses are and are not able to operate.
From our survey, businesses need clarity, financial supports and many are asking for an end to lockdowns, as they have made investments of both time and money to stay open safely and keep their staff, customers and the public safe.
We are asking the Alberta government to provide greater clarity and transparency around the data and the expectations of operators to safely reopen and remain open to keep our communities and economy open and reconsider enabling businesses to reopen with safety standards in place before January 21st.
Our Chamber of Commerce respects that there is a balance that needs to be considered between protecting our citizens, our health system and the economy. We also know that information, communication and clarity are key factors in our success moving forward.
Our entrepreneurs have invested so much of the time, effort, energy, personal savings and personal risk into our businesses to support not only their own lives and livelihoods, but also contributing and giving back in an effort to support the overall social fabric of our community. While business appreciates the revised relaunch grant, it still does not make up for the costs endured and the uncertainty faced by operators every day and the impacts to the long-term sustainability within our community.
The pandemic has proven to be difficult to predict, anticipate and control, each decision having broad reaching impacts to all Albertans. We just ask that careful consideration be given to Alberta businesses, our job creators, investors, donors, volunteers and champions of our communities who, each day, are fearful that they will reach a point where they can no longer go on, having immense impacts on the fiscal future of our province and our individual communities.