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Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce to survey businesses on COVID-19 vaccine passports

Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce. Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce.
LETHBRIDGE -

The Lethbridge business community is preparing to have a tough conversation over whether proof of vaccination or other COVID-19 testing should be required for the public to attend events, take in a movie or dine out.

The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce will be sending out a survey this week, seeking input from its more than 800 members before establishing a formal position.

“We want to see what the local business voice is saying,” said chamber CEO Cindy Vos.

“How they can adapt, what are they willing to adapt to, and how fast can we help them?”

A new poll from KPMG found many small and medium-sized Canadian businesses are relying heavily on vaccines in their efforts to return to normal.

It found 84 per cent of the businesses that responded to the survey support the idea of requiring vaccine passports.

In Calgary, some restaurants have announced plans to turn away customers who can’t prove they are fully vaccinated, or can’t provide proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

Palomino Smokehouse owner Arlen Smith said it was a public health and business decision.

“When it comes to stuff like public safety, the wellbeing and safety of others and my ability to make a living, then I feel these sacrifices are pretty minor,” said Smith.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, British Columbia became the third province to require proof of vaccination for anyone wanting to attend a concert, sporting event, movie, restaurant, nightclub, casino, fitness class, or even a wedding.

“This action around a B.C. vaccine card is a key step in making sure that we continue to move forward in B.C. and that we overcome COVID-19 together,” said B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix.

The B.C. government said as of Sept. 13, one dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be required for entry into certain social and recreational events.

“It’s not surprising,” said Sparwood Mayor David Wilks.

“They aren’t were they want to be from the perspective of double vaccinated people within the province.”

Wilks said he has not received any messaging from the government on how it plans to implement or enforce the new system.

“It’s going to be quite interesting, that’s for sure,” added Wilks, whose community is only 16 kilometers from the Alberta boundary.

“We have so many Albertans that come in all the time, and your regulations are far different than ours,” he said.

Wilks added, “I don’t know how that’s going to be regulated or who is going to police it.”

“It’s a really tough conversation to have right now,” said Vos.

“Businesses have just been able to reopen, and then this looming threat of okay we can’t let you in if you aren’t vaccinated.”

Several businesses declined to do interviews because vaccinations have become such a controversial subject. One restaurant operator said after a year and a half of fighting for survival, they were not prepared to turn some customers away by demanding a COVID-19 vaccination.

Telegraph Taphouse Manager Tracey Rogerson said it’s understandable that some business owners are reluctant to comment.

“You just feel like you’re under fire all the time,” said Rogerson.

She said they’re prepared to do whatever they need to, in order to prevent another closure. But Rogerson maintains any regulations around vaccinations need to make sense.

“If it’s not mandatory for people who work in restaurants or wherever to have the shot, how can we force people coming in here to get the shot to be able to dine?”

The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce said it plans to send out the survey Wednesday, and compile the results in about a week. 

Vos said non-members are also welcome to respond.

The chamber will also be meeting with local health officials and having discussions with its board members.

Vos said the business organization wants to be proactive and prepared, something that has been extremely difficult during a pandemic where rules are constantly changing.