CFIB Says BC’s Rules Have Been Far More Sensible

CFIB welcomes the careful, phased approach to the reopening of the economy which began today in several provinces. For background, 80 per cent of small firms are closed (fully or partially). Only 20 per cent are fully open. Alarmingly, over 40 per cent report that they may permanently close if the current restrictions remain in place until the end of May (four weeks from now).

Dan Kelly is President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)

So it is good news that some businesses in some provinces will be permitted to serve customers once again starting today. Quebec and Manitoba appear to be making the biggest moves, including allowing many retailers to resume in-store operations (outside of Montreal). Small firms feel they can play a positive role in continuing to flatten the curve. It doesn’t make sense that we force everyone to line up at Costco and Walmart to buy a t-shirt or frying pan just because they also sell groceries.

Small, independent businesses are more naturally able to adjust to the need for ongoing physical distancing given they serve far fewer customers than the big box stores. We’ve learned a lot in the past six weeks. BC’s rules have been far more sensible through the entire pandemic, allowing many small firms (including retailers) to remain open with significant adjustments and protections. Learning from the grocery model of limiting the number of customers in-store, disinfecting between customers, barriers at checkouts where needed, small firms can be part of the solution if given the opportunity.

But it will be a messy recovery. Employees may be nervous to return to work or prefer to remain on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Protective equipment may be difficult to find. Employers may not be sure what the rules of the game are.

My advice for governments, business owners, employees and customers: let’s be patient, careful and respect each other’s perspectives. We are in new territory—not everything will be clear or in place as it should. And we need to listen to the advice of medical officers. An uptick in COVID-19 cases or a handful of “yahoos” may prompt a quick end to the phased reopening.

CFIB’s Business Helpline is available to all Canadian independent business owners (not just our members) to offer advice and the latest on the reopening rules. Check out cfib.ca/covid19 or register to get free one-on-one help from our advisors: cfib.ca/introductoryoffer. The CFIB team has taken 18,000 calls from small business owners over the past two months (close to our annual call volume). We have added capacity to serve more. Small business owners are invited to lean on us whenever needed.

Dan Kelly, President, Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)