‘Right back up that slope’: Businesses want to reopen, but Kenney says it’s not the right time

CALGARY — Business owners pushed back against the Jason Kenney government Wednesday, calling for more leniency and fairness that could potentially lead to them reopening to the public once more.

However, Kenney says Alberta is still at risk because of COVID-19 and the closure rules will remain in place as planned until at least Jan. 21.

Restaurants, salons and gyms have been closed to most of their clientele since Dec. 13, but owners say since they’re not a main contributor of new cases and should be allowed to reopen.

They also say their health measures work and the government is punishing them unfairly by telling them they should stay closed.

Ernie Tsu, owner of Calgary’s Trolley 5 Brewpub, says the restrictions are taking a real toll on their staff members.

“The number one focus right now is the feedback we’ve gotten on the mental health of all of our unemployed staff. That is a huge component that does not seem be being addressed. Public safety is still our number one priority (but) what we need to know is – what is the plan?”

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Meanwhile, Kenney said in a Facebook livestream Tuesday night that he wants to allow businesses to reopen as much as any Albertan, but now is not the right time.

“If we do that now and we go right back up that slope as other provinces are seeing, then we just end up having the slam on the brakes all over again, like other provinces are doing right now,” he said.

“That hurts all those organizations that have had to restart their activities, businesses that have reopened their doors, reordered inventory (and) rehire staff.”

During her daily update Tuesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said the rules were put in place to reduce the number of deaths and burden on the province’s health-care system.

“We need to work together to be able to prevent the spread of COVID, and for those who are impacted by the restrictions needing to be supported by the community, so that we can again reach out and work together to support those whose health is being impacted by our measures, and those whose health is being impacted by COVID-19.”

When Kenney announced an extension of the current health restrictions last week, he also said that he would notify businesses a week ahead of time if they were allowed to reopen.

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