Economic impacts of COVID-19 a concern for chamber

The continued restrictions on business remain a concern for members of the Battlefords Chamber of Commerce.

At their board meeting Feb. 16, board members expressed concerns about the impact of the restrictions on businesses. In particular, they wanted to see stepped up advocacy efforts for re-opening.

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The issue was raised by vice-chair of the board, Derek Schmidt, who asked if the Saskatchewan Chamber was always in regular communication and advocating with the province on the importance of reopening.

Chief Operating Officer Linda Machniak responded in the affirmative, noting the Saskatchewan Chamber business council had been meeting with trade and export minister Jeremy Harrison the previous week.

Machniak said they are in regular contact not only with the government but with other stakeholder groups as well. There has been lots of discussion, she said, about not having competing messages out there.

For example, she said, the medical community at one point talked about a shutdown, and the provincial chamber president Steve McLellan reached out to them to make sure “everybody’s on the same page — we all want the same things, it’s just the different interest groups have perhaps different items on the discussion block, if you will.”

Machniak suggested inviting McLellan to the next meeting to provide an update on those advocacy efforts. That seems likely to happen next month.

The discussion at the chamber board meeting came on the same day that the province had extended the public health order again to March 19. It was pointed out at the meeting this means restrictions on businesses have stayed in effect for upwards of four months.

Schmidt made the point that one of the biggest employers in the city couldn’t even open up their doors — that being SIGA, who operates Gold Eagle Casino.

All SIGA casinos have been closed since Dec. 19, as per the provincial public health order.

“We need to know when there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” said Schmidt.

Machniak noted that regarding SIGA, they had sent a letter to the province advocating for them and pointing to their use of PPE and other safety measures, but the province responded there would be no change at that moment. That was still when cases were trending pretty strongly, she said.

Battlefords chamber chair Melanie Roberts also wanted to see further advocacy, particularly in advance of the provincial budget in April.

In particular, she expressed concern about those businesses that “have invested in making their business a safe place, but are not reaping the rewards of adhering to those guidelines.”

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