by Stephen Dafoe
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says the UCP’s new public health restrictions raise “significant questions and concerns for affected businesses,” as well as creating new costs and challenges for staff.
“We appreciate the Alberta government is trying to avoid another full-out lockdown, as it would be devastating to small businesses. However, the Alberta government must also think of the logistical challenges the incoming public health restrictions will have for small businesses,” said CFIB’s Alberta Provincial Affairs Director Annie Dormuth in a media release Thursday. “In other provinces with a proof of vaccination program, CFIB has received hundreds of calls expressing concerns and questions, from how to implement such programs, to what supports are available to train staff and what their legal liability is.”
CFIB suggests the following questions on the minds of Alberta business owners:
- What can they do to protect their staff who have to refuse entry to unvaccinated patrons?
- Do event venues have to refund contracts (such as a wedding) if the clients are unvaccinated? Do they have liability immunity protecting them from being taken to small claims court for a cancelled event?
- How can they avoid fraud? Are they liable if a customer presents fraudulent or doctored documents?
- If the business owner or staff are unvaccinated, does that mean they cannot enter their own business as a patron?
The business lobby group is also looking to the province for more support as 73 per cent of business owners, according to a CFIB poll, do not feel that the government has provided necessary business guarantees to avoid legal actions related to the use of government-mandated proof of vaccination.
As such, CFIB wants the Government of Alberta to create a strong financial support program to help small business owners deal with increased labour costs, loss of customers and new costs for smart devices. Additionally, they want the government to make sure Alberta businesses aren’t hit with new or prolonged restrictions while required to carry out a government-mandated proof of vaccine program. CFIB also feels that capacity limits should be reconsidered if only fully vaccinated patrons can use the business.
Other supports CFIB are looking for from the UCP include:
- Developing an official government poster/signage explaining the rules on vaccine passports and what customers must show to gain entry
- Developing training for small businesses and their staff to help them when it comes to dealing with a very divided public, including what to do if a customer refuses to comply with the rules
- Explaining the legal aspects of vaccine passports and develop clear guidelines addressing concerns around data collection
- Ensuring a system exists to allow businesses, such as gyms, to check the credentials only once for regular customers
- Clarifying that a business will have to use its best efforts, but will not be liable if facing a fraudulent or doctored piece of evidence or if a customer refuses to comply with the rules
- Developing alternatives for areas without readily available internet and who cannot use QR codes
“Let’s not forget businesses that will check vaccine credentials are also among the hardest hit by 18 months of closures and restrictions, such as restaurants, fitness facilities and event venues,” Dormuth said, noting many are still not operating at full capacity. “[T]hey are carrying massive levels of debt, facing historic labour shortages and navigating the health and safety of their employees and customers. The Alberta government needs to provide significant support to these businesses if they expect them to take on yet another burden.”