Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, and Coralee Oakes, Official Opposition critic for small business, answered questions and provided guidance to local business owners as they navigate their next steps amid the COVID-19 pandemic April 21, 2020. (Contributed)

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, and Coralee Oakes, Official Opposition critic for small business, answered questions and provided guidance to local business owners as they navigate their next steps amid the COVID-19 pandemic April 21, 2020. (Contributed)

COVID-19: ‘money needs to get out the door,’ Okanagan MLA says

Cariboo North, Vernon-Monashee MLAs talk business with chamber of commerce

Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster and Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes joined the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce’s general manager Dione Chambers for a Zoom Q-and-A period to talk about what recovery may look like for small- and medium-sized businesses.

The main message from the April 21 meeting was although COVID-19 response announcements from the federal and provincial government are great, the province needs to “get money out the door,” the elected officials said.

One issue with that is the province’s hands are tied to the federal government’s.

“We’re waiting for federal programs before they can roll out provincial programs,” Oakes, the Official Opposition critic for small business, said. “We need a whole bunch more work done on the provincial side.”

“Now more than ever, we need to be supporting our chambers of commerce,” Oakes said, offering praise to the hard work done by the Vernon chamber to support all businesses within its community.

“Economic recovery and how we support small business — focus groups are more important now than ever,” she said.

Both MLAs said it’s important to keep lines of communication open between the business sector and elected officials so they can advocate on behalf of the business community.

But more importantly, all parties said it’s important to start brainstorming as to how businesses can adapt amid the pandemic and what the recovery process will look like.

“How can you have physical distancing,” Oakes said. “Is there curbside pickup available?”

Chambers asked what is happening at a provincial level to deal with business economic recovery. The BC Chamber are among those doing some extensive research, but the MLAs said they were disappointed there was a lack of representation from north of Hope.

“We desperately needed representation from the Interior, the North and the Kootenays,” Oakes said.

Foster echoed the sentiments.

“There was no representation from parts of the province that create the wealth.”

The BC Chamber had recently done a “pulse check” and the numbers, Chambers said, are “grim.”

“Especially on the small business sector,” she said. “In a release, four out of 10 businesses don’t think they’ll last three months.”

The release, issued April 21, said 43 per cent of those surveyed said they could only continue operations for up to three months under the current restrictions. For businesses that have temporarily closed doors, the future is dire with only 53 per cent expecting to reopen while 38 per cent are unsure and eight are certain they won’t reopen when restrictions are eased.

Oakes said tourism and hospitality sectors, including restaurants, aren’t receiving enough support from the government.

“We can’t do everything for everyone, but there are certain sectors that we have to pay attention to,” she said, noting more money needs to get into the pockets of business owners so they can pay rent for the month of May.

Foster said the federal program that will subsidize 75 per cent of wages would be fine for businesses that still have income flowing in, but for the restaurants and businesses that have had to stay closed, that wage subsidy program — which requires businesses to supply 25 per cent — isn’t feasible without that income flow.

Buying local is a critical component in keeping local businesses from permanent closure, but Foster said he recognizes the struggle for families to support local when they too faced job or income loss.

It’s a challenge for folks who go into the store and have five kids and can buy an apple from Washington State for a fraction of the cost of a B.C. apple, Foster said.

But he urged: “When you get back to work, spend that extra 50-cents.”

Non-profits are also hard hit.

Foster said he’s reached out to several organizations in the North Okanagan and many have voiced their concerns about the next few months.

“They have government programs that continue to be funded but they have to fundraise for extra programming,” Foster said, but those fundraisers have had to be cancelled following provincial health orders.

Normally, the biggest supporters of non-profits are small businesses, Foster said.

“It’d be really hard to go to a local restaurant for a gift card while they haven’t been open for the past month and a half,” he said.

Oakes suggested non-profits reach out to local media to share their stories. If a business can’t support a fundraising effort, perhaps someone from within the community can support the cause, she said.

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a Q-and-A with North Okanagan-Shuswap Member of Parliament Mel Arnold Thursday, April 30.

READ MORE: ‘We’re winning, but we haven’t won yet,’ Vernon-Monashee MLA on COVID-19

READ MORE: Reservists sequestered at Vernon Army Camp


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BusinessCoronavirusSmall Business

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fifty-one improperly discarded needles were picked up from Vernon streets in four months as part of the Folks on Spokes program. (File)
85% fewer needles found around Vernon

Folks on Spokes numbers showing fewer improperly discarded sharps

In a feature article published April 10, 2021 in The Times of London, ‘headlined British Columbia has what it takes to rival Napa Valley,’ the valley is praised extensively for its natural beauty and wine. (File photo)
From the U.K. with love: Okanagan wine, scenery receives international praise

The Times of London newspaper recently featured the valley in a wine and travel piece

Skogie’s Express Tunnel Wash on Anderson Way in Vernon. (Submitted photo)
Lawsuit dismissed after vehicle damaged while inside Vernon car wash

Civil Resolution Tribunal dismisses driver’s claim following a collision inside Skogie’s car wash

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

Forward Elan Bar Lev Wise of the West Kelowna Warriors (right, shown playing for the Vernon Vipers in 2019) has been suspended nine games by the B.C. Hockey League for being the instigator and aggressor in an after-the-game fight with Vernon’s Kjell Kjemhus Monday, April 12, at Kal Tire Place. Kjemhus was given a two-game suspension for his role in the fight after the game was over. (Morning Star - file photo)
West Kelowna Warriors forward handed lengthy suspension

Elan Bar Lev Wise fought Vernon Vipers forward Kjell Kjemhus after BCHL game was over Monday, April 12; Kjemhus suspended two games

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

A dumpster was on fire behind a residential complex in downtown Penticton Tuesday afternoon. (Brennan Phillips Western News)
Dumpster fire extinguished in downtown Penticton

There has been a string of dumpster fires lately

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The future of the Eagle Pass Lookout cabin is being discussed. (File photo)
Options presented for future of former Eagle Pass fire lookout in Shuswap

Stakeholders met in 2020 to discuss the restoration, or possible removal of the cabin

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Mayor Cindy Fortin - Peachland)
Peachland mayor declines early vaccination offer

Mayor Cindy Fortin said she wants seniors, immunocompromised individuals to get the shot first

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Conservation officers caught three men over fishing bull trout in Kinbasket Lake. (Facebook)
B.C. men fined $1.7K for overfishing near Revelstoke, Golden

The seized fish were donated to the Golden Food Bank

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021. (Kamloops This Week photo)
Clothing that ‘detracts from learning process’ removed from SD73 student dress code

Policy change underway after student in knee-length dress, long-sleeve turtleneck sent home

Most Read