The Barrie Chamber of Commerce has joined several chambers across Ontario in asking the provincial government to revisit and refine the COVID-19 Operating Restrictions Framework to build business confidence and protect the economy.
In a letter to Premier Ford, the chambers say the current framework has resulted in rising business bankruptcies and bank delinquencies. And, while they appreciate what the government has done to combat the pandemic, the chambers believe it is time to refine the current colour-code system with better definitions of safe operating protocols, and put the onus on businesses to adhere to a safe operating framework.
The letter states, “Businesses feel that it is fundamentally unfair that their operations are required to shut down or forced to significantly change their service model not because of their adherence to safety protocols, but because of the products they sell or the services they offer. This shuts down some businesses while allowing others to operate with very few restrictions.”
The chambers are requesting the Ontario government establish a Responsible Business Protocol that includes the following elements:
- 1) A Safe Operating Framework (by business sector) – The framework should advise business owners on operating guidelines for their establishment (restaurant/hair salon/gym, etc) in order to protect their staff and clients from COVID-19 exposure.
Example/Idea: In a barbershop, how many chairs in the shop, consistent operating safety protocols (i.e. spacing of chairs/plexi-dividers) can be established and all businesses would then be treated equitably. The issue of capacity at which they would be allowed to operate is guided by the Community Contact Reduction Framework described in point #2 below.
Once a safe operating framework has been established by Ontario for each sector, the safety measures for each business should not vary based on what product you sell, geographic area or establishment size etc. This framework differs from the current one in that Ontarians can take comfort in knowing that the key issue is not business safety, but community contact.
- 2) A Community Contact Reduction Framework (based on regional virus spread). As the cases rise in a particular region, the government should enforce reduction in community contacts. We know it is not the business itself that becomes less safe, it is the contact between community members that is less safe. As such, we recommend that the new protocol establishes a framework that identifies how individual contacts must be reduced and would outline capacity restrictions, across the board, for public-facing businesses.
Example/Idea: In the Green level, for example, all public-facing businesses would operate at 100% customer capacity (because they are already implementing safe operating protocols as per point #1) and as the case level rises in that region, capacity is reduced by 20% (for example, yellow = 80%, Orange = 60%, Red = 40%, Grey = 25%). This allows more businesses to stay open and changes the message to the community.
“Essentially, the message to Ontarians is that these operating restrictions are about the community’s actions to reduce their own contacts rather than the current messaging, which unfairly closes or restricts trade for small businesses.”
The chamber group feels this Responsible Business Protocol, together with a safe operating framework by sector and community contact reduction framework, fairly applied across the board (i.e. both at national big-box and local retail stores) is a much better way to combat COVID, build consumer and business confidence, and not unduly harm the economy.