Advocacy in Action
We had the benefit of being part of a number of meetings and presentations during the week of February 8-12 to continue to move our collective objectives forward. This included a presentation on Alberta's Public Trust in Agriculture, a presentation and Q & A with Restaurants Canada, a meeting and Q & A with Premier Kenney, a mid-cities Chamber meeting to discuss opportunities, challenges and solutions to common problems, a Tete-a-Tete with the Canadian Society of Association Executives to test out new platforms and find out about new strategies and ideas, a meeting with our large industrial manufacturers, a conversation with the Medicine Hat College about their upcoming start-up and scale-up courses, a discussion with Alberta Environment and Parks, along with the Regional Vitality Action Planning Summit to round out the week. Below are highlights from three of those meetings.
Meeting with Restaurants Canada
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce invited Restaurants Canada to present at one of our regular weekly meetings to provide Chambers across the province information on the outlook for restaurants and to discuss how we can bring our collective voices together to advocate for this industry. Their presentation can be found online.
Restaurants are one of Alberta's largest employers with 150,500 direct jobs and 6.4% of the provincial workforce. When you spend $10 at a restaurant, $3.08 goes to wages, $3.29 to food & beverage, $3.20 to operating expenses and $0.43 to pre-tax profit. The forecast for commercial food service sales isn't expected to pick up until 2023 and they expect the stats in the first quarter of 2021 to be similar to April-May 2020 because of the lockdowns. Employment declined by 53,600 in Alberta when comparing December 2020 to February 2020 employment with another 9,900 job losses in December and 17,000 job losses in January. Their survey showed 48% of restaurants stating that if conditions don’t improve in the next 6 months they will likely have to close permanently.
Unsurprising is that there's been a significant shift in buying habits with an increase in carryout and delivery services. In Oct-Dec 2019, 76% of traffic was on-premise services, compared to 34% in Oct-Dec 2020. Over 65% of restaurants are currently operating at a loss with just 19% operating at break even. There is a very small percentage of restaurants right now making small profits of less than 5% and only 5% are making a pre-tax profit of 5% or more.
What do restaurants need:
- Assistance with labour costs
- Assistance with commercial rent
- Lower operating costs
- Help with cash flow and rising debt levels
- Assistance in transition to takeout and delivery sales
- A need to reopen with fewer restrictions
- Consistent public health messaging and predictability
- Lower taxes and fees
- Better regulatory environment
- Consumer confidence!
We continue to encourage our region to support Our Restaurants and learn how you can help. With over 10,000 restaurants that have closed in Canada since March 2020, you can Support Restaurants through the Restaurants Canada and Canadian Chamber campaigns. You can take action and use the hashtag #RestaurantsAreFamily #OurRestaurants and tag your favourite restaurants.
Meeting with Premier Kenney
Chambers of Commerce across Alberta had an opportunity to hear from Premier Kenney and submit questions.
Some of the items addressed included:
- If industries not identified in the re-opening plan, it is recommended that those businesses submit their proposals to the Chief Medical Officer of Health and can also reach out to BizConnect@gov.ab.ca.
- The Government can’t provide guarantees to prevent further lockdowns or increased restrictions, so businesses will have to make a decision as to whether it’s worth their risk to re-open. It is up to Albertans to prevent increased cases, but they have no way to know whether there will be more increases or another wave.
- Their red tape reduction action plan is being overseen by MLA, Grant Hunter. Their goal is to reduce red tape by 1/3 either through orders in council, forms, policies, essentially anything that is law or regulation that impacts business. They have implemented a 12% reduction so far and are on track to hit 33% over the remaining term of this Government. Albertans are encouraged to submit their ideas online [or of course you can connect with your local Chamber].
- There are two companies in Alberta that have Covid-19 vaccines, but they still need to go through the proper approval process. The Government of Canada manages the importation of vaccines and any other drugs. However, as a province, they can source their own domestic products, as long as it has Health Canada approval. The province is working with other provinces on possible domestic vaccine security.
- Their path for jobs and recovery is in the economic recovery plan, but they will be working on an economic recovery plan 2.0.
We also submitted some additional questions to Alberta Biz connect that were not addressed through Premier Kenney's Q & A session. This is what we received:
Q. Is there a capacity limit on restaurants? The Public Health Order for Feb 8 doesn't seem to have capacity limits. Also, can business meetings or gatherings happen in restaurants if they maintain the distance between seats?
A. Under the eased restrictions for dine-in businesses, there are no capacity restrictions. Tables must be 2 metres apart or separated by an acceptable barrier. A maximum of 6 people may sit at one table. They must be from the same household or the close contact of a person living alone. Business meetings at restaurants are not permitted at this time.
Q. With the knowledge that lockdown support ended with the reopening, is the Government of Alberta advocating to the Government of Canada or looking themselves at any additional supports similar to HASCAP, but grants instead of loans? Or perhaps still having access to lockdown support if they voluntarily decide not to open because they can’t be profitable under the restrictions.
A. All current information on funding supports can be found at https://www.alberta.ca/sme-relaunch-grant.aspx. Business Link is also available to provide businesses with no or low-cost business advice and coaching.
Q. Not all individuals who require fitness facilities require a personal trainer, as they may have training or have a routine, but need access to equipment, why can’t individuals go in with all the safety protocols and distance to use equipment without the cost/expense of a personal trainer? In addition, some fitness facilities have gone to the length of creating semi-private space by putting up plexiglass around workout stations to keep people safe while still allowing more than one person in that space at a time, why can’t these types of businesses be allowed to open? With the training permitted, can hotels open their pools and fitness facilities on a per booking basis?
A: Fitness facilities are permitted to open for the following uses:
- One to one or one to one household personal training
- Children’s indoor fitness
- Exclusive use by one individual or one household
- All session must be booked by appointment
- No drop-ins or adult group classes are permitted
Q. Is the Government of Alberta working on funding guidelines and working with the Federal Government around the same regarding year over year comparisons? Funding should continue to be based on pre-Covid sales vs year over year once we roll into 2021.
A. There are currently no further details about the path forward steps aside from what was released on the website. We appreciate how difficult it can be to plan under these circumstances. The Government of Alberta’s response continues to evolve and we will provide information as soon as they are ready. Check the Biz Connect webpage (https://www.alberta.ca/biz-connect.aspx) often for updates.
Alberta Health continues to update COVID-19 information on the http://alberta.ca/COVID webpage. You are encouraged to visit this page regularly for the most up-to-date information.
We also asked about a regional approach, future funding and supports and future plans for events and event requirements. We will continue to ask for transparency, clarity and further supports for our business community.
Regional Vitality Planning Summit
On Friday, February 12th we participated in the Regional Vitality Planning Summit. The Summit will brought together over 60 community stakeholders to identify actions and resources needed to bring a Regional Vitality Action Plan to life. Three goals were presented, along with strategies to start a community conversation. We'll continue to share information as this process moves forward, but you can see the three high level goals and strategies developed below:
Goal 1: Our region is an attractive place to live, work and play
- We will offer access to resources people need to live the life they want
- We will minimize duplication through collaboration
- We will build community networks
Goal 2: Our region is resilient
- We will boost advances in agriculture, technology and resource industries
- We will pursue economic diversity
- We will source reliable internet
Goal 3: Our future mindset drives our momentum
- We will advocate collectively for regional vitality
- We will tape into our collective skills and expertise
- We will challenge conventional thinking
Find out more about the project.