The following letter was submitted by Mayor Jim Romane to Premier Jason Kenney on Tuesday, Jan. 26:
Dear Premier Kenney,
As Albertans continue to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of ongoing restrictions on the well-being of small businesses continue to intensify and become more apparent. I am writing you today with the hopes of finding a solution to alleviate some of this burden, which we on Innisfail Town Council recognize as having an adverse impact on the lives and livelihoods of our community’s small business owners.
As elected officials at the municipal level, we appreciate the efforts the Government of Alberta has made to protect public health while attempting to limit the impact of the virus on the provincial economy. While we understand lessons have likely been learned along the way, it appears all restrictions and measures have been very carefully thought out, developed and implemented over the course of the last year.
In light of recent discussions both amongst ourselves and with some of our municipal neighbours, however, it is becoming increasingly evident ongoing restrictions will result in more and more of our community’s small businesses being unable to survive. Among those that were fortunate enough to prevail through earlier closures and restrictions, we are now anticipating many to unfortunately succumb. We fear for the well-being of the men and women — our valued citizens and community members — who own and operate these businesses. Their absence will result in unspeakable loss for the entire community.
To that end, we are respectfully requesting consideration be given to the following means of continuing to recognize and address the seriousness of the situation while at the same time affording small business owners the ability to safely and gradually re-open and resume operating:
1. Relax existing restrictions in a manner that reflects, and directly corresponds with, a geographic region’s number of active cases.
‘Blanket’ measures currently in place across the province mean geographic regions with few-to-no active cases must follow the same restrictions as those with much higher numbers (i.e., larger urban centres). Allow for the gradual re-opening of businesses and relaxing of restrictions in those areas that have successfully achieved low case rates, and eliminate the disparity between number of active cases and the level/nature of restrictions imposed, where appropriate.
2. Allow businesses to re-open/increase capacity in municipalities and geographic regions in which an appropriate per-capita rate of active cases (on the low end) has been achieved.
Ensure a degree of ‘equalization’ is achieved between, and among, municipalities of varying size and population. While the ability for migration to occur between higher- and lower-impacted communities remains, the ongoing diligent and consistent communication and enforcement of public health measures will help to both prevent and mitigate any risk of potential spread.
3. Revisit existing funding and relief programs to ensure the level of support being provided aligns with the true needs of small businesses.
Businesses are being required to close or operate at a significantly limited capacity — all as a result of circumstances beyond their control. These businesses need as much government support as they can get. Review existing funding supports to ensure they reflect the real-world costs of owning and operating a business and provide adequate financial support until such times as normal operations are permitted. Streamline the application process and reduce wait times as much as is feasibly possible.
While we recognize and appreciate there is no simple solution to the unprecedented issues we currently face, we, as a municipality, appreciate the efforts being made by all levels of government to protect the health and well-being of our citizens.
By continuing to work together toward solutions that are realistic, fair and equitable — and which continue to protect the health and safety of our citizens — we can all begin to look forward to eventual reprieve.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Mayor, Town of Innisfail