Niagara Health issued an order under section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act on food and drink premises in Niagara. This order includes many measures, including a requirement that nobody be seated or served with other patrons not in the same household or who are not persons essential to maintaining physical and mental health, such as caregivers.
This is a policy that punishes the compliant for the transgressions of a few individuals. Niagara’s restaurants and bars have, as Niagara Health stated, been compliant with orders and directives, with notably few exceptions. A few individuals have taken it upon themselves to disregard the law and the guidelines put in place for their own health and safety, and for the wellbeing of others. In response to that, businesses who had nothing to do with these violations will be punished.
Today’s Canadian Survey of Business Conditions found that close to one-third (30.4%) of businesses did not know how long they could continue to operate at their current level of revenue and expenditures before considering further staffing actions, closure or bankruptcy. 29.2% of businesses in the accommodation and food service sector reported that they could continue to operate at their current level of revenue and expenditures for less than six months before considering further staffing actions, closure, or bankruptcy. Last year, 24,000 people worked in this sector in the Niagara CMA.
The Government of Ontario has already introduced legislation to penalize those who do not follow the law. The GNCC calls upon governments to enforce the laws they have already passed before making new ones. Unenforced laws only penalize the law-abiding and undermine the authority of the government and of law enforcement.
We note that the “super spreader” event that precipitated the order involved 41 bars and restaurants, but also 23 retail stores, 17 sports and recreation teams, 12 family homes, and 2 long-term care homes. This order does nothing to address the spread in those other venues, which collectively outnumber the bars and restaurants who are being blamed. It is entirely understandable that Niagara’s restaurants and bars feel they are being singled out and punished.
The GNCC calls for this blanket order to be rescinded immediately. We believe that governments at all levels should commit to punishing those who break the law, and stop punishing the law-abiding with overreaching measures that harm responsible and well-intentioned businesses.
The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce is the largest business organization in Niagara and the third-largest Chamber of Commerce in Ontario, with 1,600 members representing 50,000 employees. More information on the GNCC is available at gncc.ca.
Mishka Balsom, President & CEO of GNCC
Mishka@gncc.ca or 905-684-2361