Majority of small businesses stand against most COVID restrictions

CFIB survey reveals which measures get the strongest opposition from Canadian entrepreneurs

Majority of small businesses stand against most COVID restrictions

As government and public health authorities begin to reevaluate COVID restrictions, data from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) shows that while small business owners are in favour of change, they oppose some policies more than others.

"While lockdowns are ending, many other costly COVID restrictions on businesses remain in place across the country," said CFIB president Dan Kelly. "It is welcome news that some public health officials are now openly questioning their value with the Omicron variant." 

According to Kelly, a restaurant or gym that’s only allowed 50% capacity is likely losing money every day. He also cited earlier CFIB data showing vaccine passports come with increased costs and result in further drops in sales.

In its most recent survey of business owners, CFIB saw the strongest calls to eliminate capacity limits, travel restrictions such as PCR border tests, and vaccine passports for customers.

When polled on which restrictions should be lifted, nearly three fourths of small business owners (74%) agreed capacity restrictions should be lifted for all sectors.

Nearly seven tenths (69%) called for the elimination of travel restrictions such as PCR tests for crossing the border, and two thirds (66%) said it was time to stop requiring customers to present vaccine passports. Another three fifths (60%) wanted an end to vaccine mandates for employees.  

Business owners had mixed views on masking requirements, with 56% agreeing they should go away, and 42% saying they should stay in place.

"While there is majority support for removing most COVID restrictions among small business owners, it should be noted that the view is not universal. Some business owners feel that vaccine passports make customers feel safer and, in some Atlantic provinces, a majority of suggest mask rules should continue for the time being," Kelly added.

With only a third of small businesses (34%) making normal levels of sales, CFIB said independent business owners are calling on all governments to come out with a quick and orderly plan to eliminate all COVID business limitations as soon as possible, as well as a concrete plan to keep businesses open. Any limits on business activities to be retained must be based on scientific data that is properly communicated, with a timeline for when they will be lifted.

"The reintroduction of business restrictions to deal with the Omicron variant was a tough blow for struggling small businesses that set back recovery," Kelly said. "And even lifting restrictions does not mean that customers will flood back to their local small firms. Until public health officials and governments can reassure consumers that it is safe to return to office work, shopping, dining, events and travel, the COVID economic hangover will continue for many parts of Canada's economy."