ICA joins Canadian business groups calling for clear plan to reopen the country

The Institute of Communication Agencies has joined some of Canada’s top business associations in a formal request for Ottawa to produce a plan for reopening the economy as vaccines pass important benchmarks and case counts go down.

The letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, co-signed by seven business associations including the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Council of Canada, points out that other countries have produced plans and guidelines with reopening steps tied to specific targets and benchmarks.

“It is time for the federal government to take the lead in establishing similar parameters,” the letter states. “Canadians in all parts of the country deserve to know what standards will be used to determine when restrictions can be eased. We urge you to work closely with the premiers to develop a clear and consistent pan-Canadian approach to reopening our communities, schools and businesses.”

This is not a request to open but a request for a plan to reopen, explained ICA president and CEO Scott Knox. “What we need is some clarity,” he said. “We’re just saying, ‘Get a plan, stick to it, pull the provinces in line and let’s give people and businesses a pathway.'”

He said that Monday’s suggestion by Ontario’s Minister of Health that some outdoor activities could be allowed to reopen before the scheduled lockdown ends on June 2 is an example of the absence of a clearly articulated plan. “That sort of throwaway comment is really irresponsible,” he said.

The letter points to the U.K., EU the United States and Saskatchewan as examples of how Ottawa could provide much-needed clarity in terms of how Canada could start to reopen in the weeks and months ahead. Saskatchewan’s “Re-opening Roadmap” sets out steps that can be taken as the province reaches various vaccination thresholds. Three weeks after 70% of people aged 40 and over have had their first dose, restaurants and bars can open with a maximum of six people at a table, for example.

Other business groups to sign the letter include the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Business Council of Canada and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

The ICA, which is part of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, signed the letter as an advocate for an industry that makes a significant contribution to the national GDP. “We have a voice, and that voice needs to be listened to… the ICA, through the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is taking a seat at the table, speaking on behalf of part of our economy,” said Knox.

But agency members also need a plan to help themselves and their employees cope with the pandemic, he said. The ICA has been surveying its members about how they are coping during the pandemic, and after 14 months, people all across the industry are struggling.

Many are feeling “utterly pandemic fatigued,” said Knox. “They’ve had enough, they are struggling, they don’t know what’s ahead. There’s no plan in place, we can’t see anything, we can’t prepare, and we can’t help our people navigate.”

“A clear and predictable plan for a gradual and safe return to a more normal life would instill public confidence while demonstrating concern for the physical, mental and economic health of Canadians,” reads the letter. “As business and community leaders we stand ready to work with you to ensure a safe and sustainable recovery.”

Photo: Shridhar Gupta on Unsplash

David Brown