Canadian Manufacturing

Alberta businesses call for vaccine passport

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce is also in favour of a vaccine passport system.

September 8, 2021  The Canadian Press

As a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases pushes Alberta’s hospitals to the brink, many local businesses are increasingly frustrated with the provincial government’s refusal so far to introduce a vaccine passport program.

On Sept. 7, Edmonton’s Arcadia Brewing Co. announced it will begin requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from its customers later this month. It joins a handful of other bars and restaurants — including Edmonton’s Fleisch Delikatessen and Calgary establishments Dickens Pub and The Palomino Smokehouse — that have recently done the same.

Arcadia owner Darren McGeown said the decision “had to be made” in light of what he called the United Conservative government’s lack of action.

“It doesn’t look like they’re going to be making the right decision to move forward with this, even though every other province is doing it,” McGeown said, adding he is concerned about rising hospitalizations as well as the possibility that businesses could face another lockdown if case counts continue to surge.

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“It’s not the easiest decision to make, business-wise, but it’s the right thing to do,” McGeown said. “It’s the only way to move forward.”

Alberta leads the country in COVID-19 cases and only 70 per cent of Albertans are fully vaccinated. The province’s intensive care units are filled to 95 per cent of capacity.

While Quebec, B.C., Ontario and Manitoba are already implementing rules that would allow only vaccinated people to access restaurants, bars and sports events, Alberta premier Jason Kenney has repeatedly said his province won’t follow suit. Instead, private businesses and organizations can make their own decisions on whether to require vaccination.

On Sept. 3, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, the government of Alberta implemented a number of new measures, including a provincewide mask mandate and a new program that will reward unvaccinated individuals who get the jab with $100.

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce is also in favour of a vaccine passport system. President and chief executive Deborah Yedlin said in an emailed statement that businesses are looking for a “safe way forward” that does not involve restrictions or limit their ability to recover.

“The Calgary business community has told us vaccine certification will help keep them, employees and customers safe, and prevent further lockdowns,” Yedlin said.

However, Jonathan Alward, prairies director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said not all business owners feel that way. He said a survey of CFIB members in August indicated only about 40 per cent of Alberta-based respondents support a vaccine passport, even when weighed against the possibility of another lockdown.

“There’s a lot of valid reasons why business owners would have reservations,” Alward said. “There’s a lot of grey area about requiring mandatory vaccinations of staff, for example…if you’re a restaurant, you just can’t ask your staff to work from home.”

Businesses also have practical concerns around the administration and policing of such a program. And some fear harassment or pushback from the public, Alward said.