Mustard Seed Town Hall
A letter from The Lethbridge Chamber to Premier Jason Kenney on behalf of our members
Dear Premier Kenney:
We respect the extraordinary efforts and leadership that you and your administration are making to safeguard the public interest and the business community during this extremely challenging time. We share your commitment to the principle that unless we address the public health crisis there can be no sustainable economic recovery.
The Lethbridge Chamber feels that the latest round of closures, that have impacted those in the personal service industry, require more information and communication than the Government of Alberta has provided to date. These businesses have proven that they are Alberta Services compliant, with appropriate health protocols and policies in place. We hear everyday that our members have purchased and wear masks and surgical grade gloves, ensure clients are socially distanced, allow for time in between clients so that they can recreate a sanitary environment, and wipe everything down, with hospital grade, Health Canada approved disinfectant. We share the frustration and fear with our members, many of whom are self-employed in the personal service industry, and therefore unable to access programs such as the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant. For these members, they are renting a room or rent a chair within a business, making them ineligible for grants such as this or for employment insurance. Many of our members that can leverage government programs have noted that the assistance is negligible compared to normal revenues, with the ongoing costs of rent and utility bills, along with personal expenses, not always sufficiently covered by the grants.
Additionally, the Labour Force data for the Lethbridge-Medicine Hat region has indicated that the unemployment rate has shifted from being the second lowest rate in the province to now having the highest. This was the second consecutive monthly spike in the unemployment rate, with the December figure up 0.9 percentage points to 10.5%. This is the highest figure recorded this year and the highest comparative figure among all Economic Regions in the province. Perhaps most troubling trend has been the decline in full-time employment; data from the Labour Force Survey indicated that this segment declined by 3,700 (or -3.5%) in December and is now down by 6,100 (or -6%) since October. The Government of Alberta imposed further restrictions after the Labour Force Survey data reference week from December 6-12, indicating that the impact of the shutdown and restrictions is much more dire than this data illustrates.
With the COVID-19 numbers that are communicated through the daily update decreasing, alongside the positivity rates, we are asking that you please provide a benchmark for when businesses will reopen or when the Government of Alberta will consider moving back restrictions. Specifically, we are asking for a reopening plan that correlates data points in detail with policy that clearly outlines what actions are expected for operators to undertake so that they may begin reopening and contributing to our vibrant ecosystem.
We are asking that you join us in common cause and a shared commitment to keeping Albertan families safe and secure through this extraordinary challenging period.
On behalf of our respective companies, members and all the various businesses and individuals, your thoughtful consideration and bold leadership on this matter is greatly appreciated.
Cyndi Vos, M.Ed
Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce