Small Businesses Mark Second Anniversary of COVID

Two years into the pandemic, small businesses are a long way from recovery, according to the latest Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) Small Business Recovery Dashboard. Only 35% of businesses have returned to normal sales, while debt levels and the share of businesses considering bankruptcy remain high.

“While it is good news that COVID restrictions are finally being lifted across Canada, the economic damage to small business has been massive and has left many in a very precarious position,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly. “As we enter the recovery phase of the pandemic, governments need to hold off on any cost increases, especially given that one in seven (14%) of small firms are actively considering bankruptcy or permanently winding down operations.”

On a national level, two thirds of businesses (67%) report taking on debt, at an average of $158,000 per business. However, businesses in some sectors are faring considerably worse than the national average.

“Businesses in hospitality and arts and recreation have been the hardest hit by the pandemic, with the potential for a full quarter to permanently close as a result of the damage they’ve taken on due to COVID restrictions,” Kelly added.

Small business debt and share of businesses considering bankruptcy

$ Average debt per business % Considering bankruptcy
National 158,128 14
Hospitality 206,462 28
Arts and recreation 182,876 23

 

Since the start of 2022, the share of businesses reporting normal sales has risen very slowly, from 31% to 35%. Until more businesses can get back to normal sales, their capacity to face new costs or repay debt remains significantly reduced. To give small businesses time to recover, CFIB is urging the federal government to:

  • Announce a freeze in the carbon tax and work to immediately reduce energy costs for small business owners
  • Halt all current and future tax increases, including the alcohol excise tax, Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance premiums
  • Extend the Canada Recovery Hiring Program for six months and expand eligibility to new businesses
  • Accelerate plans to reduce credit card processing fees for small businesses

“Small businesses have borne the brunt of two years of COVID restrictions and will be dealing with the fallout of the pandemic for months, if not years,” added Kelly. “Imposing new costs and higher taxes on them right now could be the final nail in the coffin for some.”

Methodology

This press release presents findings from the following recent CFIB surveys:

  • Your Voice – February 2022: An online survey completed by 4,001 CFIB members between February 9-25, 2022. For comparison purposes, a probability sample with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error of ±1.5%, 19 times out of 20.
  • Your Voice – January 2022: An online survey completed by 5,630 CFIB members between January 18-27, 2022. For comparison purposes, a probability sample with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error of ±1.3% 19 times out of 20.

Source: Cision News Wire


Ontario to Drop Most Mask Mandates on March 21, Remaining Pandemic Rules to Lift by End of April

Ontario will scrap most mask mandates — including in schools, restaurants and stores — across the province on March 21, with remaining COVID-19 regulations also set to drop by the end of April. The province says improving health indicators, such as a stable COVID-19 test positivity rate and declining hospitalizations, as well as Ontario’s high vaccination rate and the availability of antiviral treatments, allow for these steps.

The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, announced the new changes on March 9. However, Moore said removing the mask mandate “does not mean the risk is gone” or the pandemic is over. He noted masking requirements may need to be reinstated if there is another spike in COVID-19 cases, adding that vulnerable people should continue to take precautions despite the easing of restrictions.

“We should all be prepared that we may need to resume mask wearing,” he said, adding that he hopes anyone who remains vulnerable will continue to wear a mask.

All restrictions to lift on April 27

On March 21, masking requirements will be removed in most indoor settings in the province, including restaurants, retail and grocery stores and schools. Mandates will still remain in place for a period of time for public transit, long-term care and retirement homes, shelters, jails and congregate care and living settings.

Other measures in schools will also be lifted on that date, including removing cohorting and daily on-site screening. In addition, all other regulatory requirements for businesses will be removed, including passive screening and safety plans. Then on April 27, all remaining mask requirements and emergency orders will expire. 

‘Not supported by science,’ head of science table says

Shortly before Moore’s announcement, Premier Doug Ford said Ontario will remain cautious even after mask mandates are dropped, adding that “anyone who wants to wear a mask [is] more than welcome to. The province has already begun rolling back some pandemic health measures, as it lifted proof-of-vaccination rules for certain businesses as well as capacity limits for businesses and social gatherings on March 1.

Dr. Peter Jüni, who heads Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said “it’s too early to tell” if removing mask mandates is the right move at this time. Speaking to CBC Radio’s Metro Morning before the announcement, Jüni was asked if the province’s move was a scientific or political decision. “It’s not supported by science right now because it’s just too early. We would need at least one to two weeks more data to say, ‘okay we’re stable’ and we just make it to the next step,” he said.

However, he said Ontarians have done well when it comes to masking and said he hopes many will continue to wear them — adding he will continue to do so himself. “There’s a lot of solidarity going on,” Jüni said. “For the majority of us, masks are not a big deal.” 

The government’s plan was also met with backlash from one of the largest education unions in the country. In a news release, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) called the plan “premature” and said this will put students at risk of having in-person learning once again disrupted.

Isolation guideline changes starting March 9

Isolation guidelines are also being changed for close contacts of someone with COVID-19 or who is symptomatic. No one who is a close contact of a person outside their household with COVID-19 has to isolate now, though they are still recommended to wear a mask outside the home for 10 days and avoid high-risk people and settings. If a household member tests positive or has symptoms, people do not need to isolate if they are 18 or older and have received a booster dose, if they are under 18 and have two vaccine doses, or if they tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days.

Source: CBC


Quebec to Soon Lift Public Masking Requirements

Quebec will be lifting several public health restrictions as early as March 12, according to the Health Ministry. A number of health measures were due to be lifted on March 14, including showing a vaccine passport to enter certain venues.

“This is a very important step, and we can be proud of all our efforts to get here,” Health Minister Christian Dubé said in a statement. “However, we must learn to live with the virus, which is still circulating, and remain cautious.”

As of March 12, all public venues may operate at 100% capacity. Restaurants, bars, taverns and casinos can resume regular business hours without enforcing seating limits at tables. Dancing and karaoke will be permitted once again. Private seniors’ residences will no longer need to keep a registry of visitors.

Timeline for mask use

The ministry will announce at a later time the exact date masking will no longer be required in public spaces, depending on the epidemiological situation. “Wearing a mask, even when it is no longer mandatory, will be part of the arsenal we have to reduce the risk of transmission in certain circumstances,” Dubé said. 

The tentative timeline to end masking in public spaces with the exception of public transportation will be implemented no later than mid-April, the statement reads. The last service that will require a mask will be public transit, but even that requirement is likely to be lifted in May.

CNESST rule changes

The Health Ministry said masks will continue to be required in workplaces and health-care settings, such as long-term care homes. Quebec’s workplace health and safety board (CNESST) provided details of how workplaces, other than in health care, will evolve.

Starting March 7, minimum physical distancing requirements will drop from two metres to one between workers. Wearing a proper mask will continue to be mandatory if there is no physical distancing, the board said in a news release.

More changes will be made to workplace health rules no later than mid-April following public health’s announcement. At that time, wearing a mask in the workplace will no longer be mandatory, but there will be exceptions. Workers must wear masks when being transported by bus or plane. By May at the earliest, the masking mandate will be lifted in workplaces ⁠and when workers are being transported by bus or plane.

Utility of vaccine passports

Vincent Marissal, Québec Solidaire health critic and MNA for Rosemont, welcomed the news of restrictions lifting, but called on the government to justify the use of the vaccine passport. Quebec has not ruled out bringing back vaccine passport and mask mandates at a later date. “I asked this week for a scientific report on the usefulness of this tool in the fight against COVID-19,” he said in a statement. “We need to have an accurate picture of the effectiveness of the vaccine passport, justified by rigorous scientific criteria.” He also urged the government to announce an end to the state of emergency because, he says, it has become “increasingly unjustifiable.”

Source: CBC


Saskatchewan Businesses Mandate Respect Among Customers as COVID-19 Restrictions Change

While businesses in Saskatchewan no longer require mandatory indoor masking, many customers are still making the personal choice to wear one. Even without the controversial mandate, the face coverings are still a point of contention for some.

“We are not enforcing any mask policy but we are encouraging customers and employees to continue to wear them if it makes them feel comfortable. We think everyone has that right and we want to support the people who feel it’s necessary,” said Julie Nickerson, the general manager for The Fat Badger.

The Fat Badger in Regina doesn’t have a policy for mandatory mask use but they recently posted a sign on their storefront which says: “The Fat Badger welcomes and supports the continued use of masking in our establishment. Harassment of any sort towards other patrons, masked or unmasked, will not be tolerated.”

In the absence of mandatory masks, many businesses like The Fat Badger are happy to let you make that choice for yourself — but they are mandating respect during the transition. “Because we don’t want to see customers belittling other customers or just being like, ‘You don’t need that. That’s stupid.’ No it’s not stupid to them and we are going to support them,” said Nickerson.

At the Fat Badger, Nickerson says they have already seen too many examples of harassment based just on the decision to wear or not wear a mask. “I’ve had people rip masks off my face when the vax passport ended just cause they don’t think that they need to so I know if I’m receiving that just by working I know other people are going to have criticisms as well and it’s just not fair,” recalled Nickerson.

Business owners want to remind customers that everyone has a reason for their mask choice. At the Queen City Gymnastics Club they have chosen to have spectators and non-athletes wear masks for the first 13 days of March. The club says they are putting the athletes’ safety first.

“Because we’re competitive. We are right in the middle of competitive season. If a group of kids falls ill, they’re done. They’re out. If a coach falls out because they’re ill then their entire group of kids is effected,” said Jeff Toth, the executive director for the Queen City Gymnastics Club. “We just want people to remember, yes, we are getting back to regular day in and day out but you still need to think of other people during this. It’s not over for everybody,” said Nickerson.

For businesses and more, navigating this transition is proving to be a true balancing act between safety, comfort and kindness. “It’s a very difficult decision is what it ends up being, because you’re trying to balance everybody’s feelings without taking such a hard stance that alienates you from one sector of the population or another,” said Toth.

Source: Global News