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

First Energy Metals set to start gold exploration work in the West Kootenay

The work will be conducted at two of its sites near Nakusp and Nelson

Nelson skateboarders charged with assaulting Trail police officer

Incident happened at the skate park in Trail

RDCK closes all indoor recreational facilities until at least August 18

The district said closures are necessary to meet financial plan and to deliver safe programming

Flooding: Why the RDCK ordered hundreds of properties evacuated

All evacuation orders have now been rescinded

PHOTOS: Nelson joins protests against racism, police brutality

The protest was similar to those being held throughout Canada and the United States

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Help the Nelson Star continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Black Press is now accepting donations to keep its papers operating

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Bateman program encourages people to sketch outside, connect with nature

#MyNatureSketch initiative encourages Canadians to become ‘bright-eyed three year olds’

Be cautious expanding COVID-19 bubble, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.

Senior homes stay off-limits as schools, businesses reopen

Most Read