Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce CEO Rick More is disappointed the provincial government is rolling back business re-opening to Phase 1 because of the spread of COVID-19 variants. (Advocate file photo).

Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce CEO Rick More is disappointed the provincial government is rolling back business re-opening to Phase 1 because of the spread of COVID-19 variants. (Advocate file photo).

Red Deer Chamber says rollback to Step 1 of relaunch ‘betrays’ businesses

‘Step backwards is a huge blow,’ says Chamber CEO

The Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce says the provincial decision to revert back to phase 1 of the relaunch plan ‘betrays’ businesses and is a ‘huge blow.’

CEO Rick More said rolling back Alberta’s business opening has fundamentally shifted the goals, parameters and trigger points of Alberta’s relaunch strategy.

When first introduced, the provincial government’s phased plan was a welcome addition for the certainty it provided and businesses ability to plan, based on public data relating to hospitalizations and ICU capacity, said More.

When Step 2 was modified, despite hospitalizations being well below the target, “business owners felt misled, betrayed and lacking confidence in government plans.”

More believes these feelings were exacerbated with the postponement of Step 3, along with Tuesday’s announcement, which “represented a structural change in the plan.”

Premier Jason Kenney explained on Tuesday that he’s had to re-think his initial inclination to wait it out and hope COVID cases decline in the next weeks because of modelling that showed the province could hit 2,000 daily viral cases by the end of April.

Kenney feared this would lead to 1,000 Albertans becoming hospitalized by the end of the month.

But More elaborated his position, saying: “Businesses do not turn on and off like a light switch. Operators and owners must have adequate staffing, inventory and so on. For the government to ‘switch-off’ a big portion of our hospitality industry is a devastating blow to weakened industries that made significant investments and adaptations to operate in a safe manner.”

Working with local businesses and the Alberta Hospitality Association, the chamber sent a letter to the premier and members of the Emergency Cabinet Committee. It advocates for the government to create a plan that enables a sustainable business-led recovery with better communication and a focus on risk-mitigation and safe-as-possible operation – not additional restrictions.

More added, “this step backwards is clearly a huge blow to business confidence and hope for a sooner than later economic recovery.”

He said effected businesses cannot survive these types of restrictions without additional and ongoing supports from the provincial and federal governments. “On a local level, we are continuing discussions with the City of Red Deer and pressing the urgency of measures they can take …to alleviate the financial stress and help our local businesses.”

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