Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. businesses want plan for restarting economy, but parks could reopen before stores do

A group that looks out for businesses owners in this province says its members need to see a plan for firing up the economy.

CFIB says public health measures, while necessary, have had a 'staggering effect' on small businesses

A 'Stay Safe' sign hangs on the door of the Alpine Country Lodge in St. John's. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

A business advocacy group in Newfoundland and Labrador says its members want the provincial government to release a plan to start reopening shop doors, but it looks like parks might reopen before stores do. 

The head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business's provincial branch says he understands the province has to take a responsible approach to relaxing public health restrictions, but the group needs to see some sort of strategy.

"It has to be recognized that, while necessary, the public health measures have had a staggering effect on small businesses," said Vaughn Hammond, the CFIB's director of provincial affairs in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In a recent survey of members, 82 per cent of respondents said it is "critical for their business" to make sales and not rely on subsidies from government. 

"We need to start a conversation as to what what we need to do in order to start reopening the economy," said Hammond.

Vaughn Hammond is the director of provincial affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in Newfoundland and Labrador. File photo. (CBC)

While some businesses have been able to adapt — such as restaurants offering contactless delivery or curbside pickup — others haven't been as lucky, he said.

"Some sectors have been completely shut down, particularly those who rely on face-to-face meetings or personal contact," said Hammond.

In the weekly survey, 76 per cent of those who replied said it's possible to be open while respecting physical distancing rules and ensuring employees are safe. 

But a plan from the province is desperately needed to do that, said Hammond.

"Many business owners right now are wondering what the future looks like for them," he said.

Fort Amherst Pub is one of many restaurants offering food via takeout or curbside delivery. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

While businesses plead for a plan from the province, one St. John's city councillor is pushing to reopen parks. 

At Monday's council meeting, Ward 4 Coun. Ian Froude said he will put forward a motion at the May 11 meeting to modify city restriction to allow people to move through parks and open spaces, while keeping playgrounds, sports courts and dog parks closed.

Froude said the warmer weather has filled the city's sidewalks with people looking to get outside — and walking past empty parks and green spaces.

"I've gotten a bunch of people ask for us to open them and not really understanding why they're closed," Froude said.

"We had a really hard winter. People are feeling the stresses of life with this virus, and the outdoors and exercise provides them some relief."

A 'Closed Due to COVID-19 sign' hangs at Bannerman Park in St. John's. Coun. Ian Froude hopes to change that. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Froude said hard surfaces, like playgrounds, should still be off limits, adding the city will have to put up signs to let people know the dos and don'ts.

Park cleanup needs to be done right: Haggie

The issue of parks was brought up by provincial Health Minister Dr. John Haggie during the province's daily COVID-19 briefing Tuesday.

Haggie said he has spoken with St. John's Mayor Danny Breen about the possibility of reopening the parks, and said his concern is that the employees cleaning them — about 80 workers, according to the City of St. John's — are able to do so safely.

"As long as it can be done with physical distancing, [it's] entirely appropriate and not specifically forbidden in terms of an order," said Haggie. 

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