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Nov. 26, 2020 | Thursday
Editorials and Opinions
Letter: Newest restaurant restrictions are unfair

Dear editor:

Niagara public health issued an order under section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act on food and drink premises in Niagara.

This order contains many measures, including a requirement that nobody be seated or served with other patrons not from the same household or who are not persons essential to maintaining physical and mental health, such as caregivers.

This policy punishes the compliant for the transgressions of a few individuals. Niagara's restaurants and bars have, as Niagara public health stated, been compliant with orders and directives, with notably few exceptions.

A few individuals have taken it upon themselves to disregard the law and the guidelines put in place for their own health and safety, and for the well-being of others. In response to that, businesses that had nothing to do with these violations will be punished.

Last week's Canadian Survey of Business Conditions found that close to one-third (30.4 per cent) of businesses did not know how long they could continue to operate at their current level of revenue and expenditures before considering further staffing actions, closure or bankruptcy.

As well, 29.2 per cent of businesses in the accommodation and food service sector reported they could continue to operate at their current level of revenue and expenditures for less than six months before considering further staffing actions, closure, or bankruptcy. Last year, 24,000 people worked in this sector in the Niagara area.

The government of Ontario has already introduced legislation to penalize those who do not follow the law. The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce calls upon governments to enforce the laws they have already passed before making new ones.

Unenforced laws only penalize the law-abiding and undermine the authority of the government and of law enforcement.

We note that the "super spreader" event that precipitated the order involved 41 bars and restaurants, but also 23 retail stores, 17 sports and recreation teams, 12 family homes, and two long-term care homes.

This order does nothing to address the spread in those other venues, which collectively outnumber the bars and restaurants that are being blamed. It is entirely understandable that Niagara's restaurants and bars feel they are being singled out and punished.

The Chamber calls for this blanket order to be rescinded immediately. We believe governments at all levels should commit to punishing those who break the law and stop punishing the law-abiding with overreaching measures that harm responsible and well-intentioned businesses.

Mishka Balsom, president

Greater Niagara

Chamber of Commerce