Governments should not be bringing back capacity restrictions for businesses and must avoid “sparking panic,” urged the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) on Friday. 

The CFIB made the statements in two press releases on Friday – one directed at the Ontario government for its new capacity restrictions, and the other aimed at Canadian governments in general.

“Many of the businesses restricted today have lost over a year’s worth of business to government closures,” said the CFIB. “To be limited again during one of the most important times of the year is a bitter pill to swallow.” 

“Restrictions should be a last resort, science-based, and only considered if accompanied with an immediate new round of emergency business supports from both provincial and federal governments.”

Provinces across Canada have imposed strict new measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 over the holidays.

Ontario announced that it will be requiring businesses such as restaurants, gyms and retail stores to be at 50% capacity effective Sunday. Food and drinks cannot be served at sporting events. 

According to the CFIB, only about 35% of small businesses are now earning what they do during a normal year. In Ontario, the average COVID-19-related debt is $190,000, and over a third of small businesses are losing money every day they stay open. 

The CFIB said new measures will not allay the fears that have kept people from shopping while businesses stay open. 

All of Ontario’s support programs for businesses have ended. The Canadian government introduced Bill C-2 on Thursday, which could restrict wage and rent support for many small businesses. 

“Restrictions of any kind at this time of year – especially for retailers who rely on the holiday season for revenues – could be the tipping point for many small businesses that can’t be expected to survive two consecutive years of poor holiday sales,” the CFIB stated. 

Other provinces have introduced similar measures for businesses. 

Manitoba announced that further restrictions will be implemented in various businesses effective Tuesday. Gyms, movie theatres, museums and libraries have been restricted to 50% capacity. Restaurants and bars are allowed to operate at 50% capacity, and tables are limited to a maximum of 10 people. 

British Columbia has introduced more restrictions for businesses starting Monday. Venues that can seat more than 1,000 people have been limited to 50% capacity. All New Year’s Eve events are restricted to being seated only, and mingling and dancing is prohibited. 

A survey by the CFIB in October showed that 68% of hospitality businesses and 62% of arts and recreation businesses across Canada have seen lower sales since vaccine passports were implemented. 

Only 4% of hospitality businesses and 9% of arts and recreation businesses have reported higher sales since vaccine passports came out. 

“Regardless of one’s views on vaccine passports, there is no doubt they’ve led to a further drop in sales for the small businesses required to use them,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly in a tweet. “Extending this policy extends the losses among hospitality & arts/recreation businesses.”

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