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Chamber President Peter Turner

‘The problem is, there’s no detail’

The Yukon’s restaurants and personal service businesses are struggling to plan for reopening because the territorial government’s plan lacks a clear timeline, according to the Yukon Chamber of Commerce.

By Gabrielle Plonka on May 20, 2020

The Yukon’s restaurants and personal service businesses are struggling to plan for reopening because the territorial government’s plan lacks a clear timeline, according to the Yukon Chamber of Commerce.

“We are headed in the right direction and we applaud the government for getting the ball rolling on this, but what we’re concerned about, essentially, is the lack of detail,” chamber president Peter Turner said this morning.

“Particularly for the sorts of businesses that are going to require some time to get the government to review their plans for reopening.”

Last Friday, as outlined in Tuesday’s Star, the government launched phase one of a four-phase COVID-19 reopening plan.

It requires that all businesses mandated to close, including restaurants and personal services, provide an operational plan for inspection and approval from the government.

Those operating restaurants and personal services were told they should expect the green light to reopen some time in the coming weeks.

That timeline, however, is too vague for many of these business operators, who require time to staff their businesses and stock their kitchens.

“When the restaurant reopens, it has to order food, line up staff, plan the menus,” Turner told the Star.

He said he has heard the process of restocking kitchens with food could take one to two weeks, or longer for restaurants in rural areas.

Restaurateurs are wary of starting the restocking process before they know their operational plan will be approved and they’ll be permitted to reopen on a certain date.

“So, there’s a ton of uncertainty in the business community, particularly for businesses that are going through an inspection process,” Turner said.

He suggested that the process of approving the operational plans and conducting inspections could be lengthy. If five restaurants are inspected per day, it would still take 20 days to approve the Yukon’s approximately 100 restaurants.

“I don’t know how many bodies the government has to inspect the restaurants,” Turner said.

“That’s what we really need to jump on, because obviously for any business, when you shut down for a period of time, days can be like weeks.

“If you’ve got one more week of uncertainty, it can be the difference between a business failing and being able to restart.”

Another problem is the revenue drain that will ensue from limiting the number of diners in a restaurant at one time to permit social distancing.

For personal services, staffing is the primary concern, though there is also uncertainty regarding what level of safety precautions will be mandated.

In other parts of Canada, hairdressers have installed plexiglass partitions between themselves and their customers and are cutting hair through the glass.

If hairdressers in the Yukon are required to install a similar set-up, Turner said, it would take time to do that and then learn how to work around it.

There’s very little guidance at the moment regarding this, though the government has promised more guidelines will be released to business owners this week.

In the meantime, many business operators feel they’re in the dark about what they will be required to implement before opening.

“The devil is in the detail and the problem is, there’s no detail,” Turner said.

The chamber has been working to gather information from business owners and funnel that information through the business advisory council the government established early in the pandemic.

Turner said some discussions are already happening between restaurant owners about providing the government with a recommendation to improve the plan.

This might look like creating a clear template of steps for reopening, with a guaranteed timeline, then getting early approvals to open before the inspection to make the process more timely.

Enabling restaurants to open while awaiting a government inspection could stop the delays that many business owners are worried about.

“No restaurateur wants their customers or employees to be unsafe; nobody is trying to take shortcuts here,” Turner said.

“What they’re concerned about is getting the approvals done on a timely basis and, to cut the government some slack, we’re all in uncharted territory here.”

Another piece of the puzzle for businesses is sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

Turner noted that sourcing PPE is challenging right now, as the global pandemic has resulted in a nearly world-wide shortage.

He noted that Yukoners are starting to source supplies, with Yukon Brewing producing hand sanitizer, and local corporations tapping into the supply chain for masks and gloves.

The chamber has worked with Northern Vision Development Corp. to source 5,000 masks for the rural business community. Turner said the masks will be distributed through the six community chambers of commerce.

“We’re going to be essentially passing them through at cost to any businesses that are interested,” Turner said.

“(PPE) is a need that unfortunately we’re all going to have to satisfy through the summer, if not beyond.”

The chamber is engaging with as many businesses as possible during this time to provide the business advisory council with feedback as the territory reopens.

“We have a 90-day free membership on our website with any business that wants to engage with us,” Turner said.

“We operate from the greatest amount of input from the whole Yukon business community.”

See related commentary.

Comments (17)

Up 11 Down 2

scribefit on May 25, 2020 at 12:55 am

Giving a precise answer to a definite question is definitely not what this Government and his health official are capable of. Making vague suggestions without any depth or consequences seem like being afraid to speak up and hide out in the dark.
There is no courage to stand up for a decision, other than the act of insecurity to just shut everything down without differentiating.
What are Sandy Silver and Mr. Hanley waiting for after more than 5 weeks without any infections. We are supposed to avoid each other to get infected - from whom ??
Creating fear and cushioning it with financial support works great in a federal sponsored bubble. Or is it just about to demonstrate authority.
Every other jurisdiction gives a perspective with defined timelines.
When does this Government finally hit daylight and gives all Yukoners a target to aim for?

Up 17 Down 3

Charlie's Aunt on May 23, 2020 at 9:14 pm

@ Bud; I have no knowledge of why Sandy decided to move here but your reasoning would also consider me to be a 'bit of a cast off.' I left an excellent job in UK before moving to YT. I applied for and was offered the same position here. Initially for one year that I thought would be an adventure, but I liked it and chose to stay another year, and another etc. I continued in same work until retirement and I'm still here almost 50 years later. Have you considered that some of us are here because we enjoy Yukon lifestyle and maybe the climate? You also needn't class me as another bureaucrat, I was a front line health care worker.

Up 10 Down 16

Bud McGee on May 22, 2020 at 8:47 pm

@ Give me .... If Sandy was a good teacher, he would have gotten a job in Nova Scotia. But he couldn't...then he might have looked in Ontario or BC and no luck there. So he scored a teaching job at the end of the earth in Dawson where you don't see the sun and it's -40 for three months of the year. All of this doesn't point to a smart guy that was a master in his chosen vocation. It points to a bit of a cast-off that Yukoners are unfortunately stuck with.

Up 10 Down 16

Chris Sorg on May 22, 2020 at 6:04 pm

People can always nitpick. However, the results to date speak for themselves.
Somehow, they're doing something right.

Up 28 Down 7

Give me a break Bud! on May 21, 2020 at 8:10 pm

Come on Bud, it’s fair game to criticize the government for not being clear enough on their reopening plans or any other aspect of their Covid-19 response. But stating we have a Premier who “couldn’t cut it as a teacher in his native Nova Scotia, so now he’s a politician in the Yukon,” is just “born and raised” BS. So I guess Darryl Paslosky just couldn’t make it in his native Saskatchewan, Dennis Fentie and John Ostashek just couldn’t make it in their native Alberta, same for Chris Pearson, heck, George and Martha Black were immigrants too! Sandy arrived as a young education degree graduate from St. Francis Xavier because there were more job opportunities up here. Ask around in Dawson to learn how valued he was as a teacher. Criticize the policies to your heart’s content, but let’s leave the personal slurs out. Maybe you were born here, but were your Mom and Dad? How about Grandpa and Grandma? Maybe they just couldn’t cut it Outside?

Up 17 Down 8

JC on May 21, 2020 at 5:51 pm

Yukon Cornelius. Actually Yukoners don't have long memories. They're very short is why they voted L B in again after all the checks he wrote just before the election campaign and nonsense his boss in Ottawa did in the first 4 years. Many of them were published only a couple of months before the election. Stephen Harper wasn't accused of even one moral ineptitude and was defeated. Says a lot of Yukoners memory. Says a lot about overall morals and ethics.

Up 10 Down 10

JC on May 21, 2020 at 5:42 pm

Bud McGee, totally agree with you, but they still vote in the Liberals. Simply because they are afraid the Conservatives' moral values will stunt their values and way of life.

Up 35 Down 5

Crunch on May 21, 2020 at 4:47 pm

Exactly what quite a few have been saying. Wait until the end game until desisions have to be made and watch the scramble. Dither the process and complicate it so all asses are covered. Drive businesses into closure all while inventing stimulous packages to make it look like you care. Sorry, not fooling anyone.

Up 30 Down 11

Yukon Cornelius on May 21, 2020 at 3:33 pm

A quote reported by another Yukon news outlet was: 'Restaurants and personal services that were ordered closed will need to come up with a Pandemic Operational Plan that needs to be approved by officials before the business can re-open.'

So let me get this straight. Sandy had 3 1/2 months to prepare and plan for an airborne, global pandemic since the World Health Organization issued its first Global Public Health Advisory on January 30, 2020 regarding the initial COVID-19 epidemic in Wuhan, China, but instead, after months of dithering, the best that Sandy can come up with is to put it all on restaurants and personal services business owners?

Seriously?! Newsflash, Sandy: It's YOUR job as the 'leader' of the Yukon Government to consult with the Yukon business community and the scientific and epidemiological community and THEN put together the CRITERIA required for Yukon businesses to re-open.

No disrespect to hard-working Yukon business owners, but is Sandy so clueless that he actually thinks that 'Betty' the hairdresser or 'Buddy' the restaurant owner has the educational background (let alone the financial resources to hire a consultant after their businesses have been shuttered for 2 1/2 months) to research and develop a Pandemic Operational Plan so that some YG pinhead (who has never run a real business) can judge whether it satisfies the interest of public health? Is THIS the 'scientific approach' that Sandy spoke of (ad nauseam) during YG's last announcement?

Yukoners have a long memory and we won't be forgetting this ineptitude and lack of leadership any time soon.


Up 39 Down 2

Kyle Carruthers on May 21, 2020 at 7:25 am

YG's plan is definitely pretty thin gruel even when put beside plans for comparable jurisdictions like the NWT. Turner's comments are dead on.

The standards that need to be met to move between phases are incredibly vague. It took me a while to spot the difference between Phase 1 and Phase 2. In order to move to Phase 2 we need “[s]ufficient self-isolation facility capacity” rather than merely having “[s]ufficient space to self-isolate… available”. What the difference is I’m not sure and what the government is doing to meet this criteria they don’t say.

I appreciate that requiring "operational plans" from businesses rather than simply dictating standards might seem flexible and empowering for business but subjecting each of them to bureaucratic review will further bog down the reopening process given the historically glacial pace of the territorial government. It will take further months to reopen with this process.

Of course all of this is moot while protective equipment supply chains are strained and officials are still restricting access childcare to critical and essential workers. Pretty difficult to reopen when that sizeable chunk of the workforce with young children can't access care for them. I was hoping for more on the plan for schools and daycares last Friday given that our neighbours to both the south and east see this as possible but got nothing. Even a reopening in the fall was punted to further "consultations with the Department of Education" (here I was under the misapprehension that the Department of Ed was part of the same government that released this "plan").

Oh and I haven't seen any indication that the government is increasing its capacity to contact trace which everyone everywhere is saying is essential for reopening. Maybe it is doing so but who knows? They don't tell us much.

I'm supportive of about 90%+ of the moves the government has made during this pandemic but in light of the slow pace (both at the beginning and now again during the reopening), brutal communications by the Premier and his cabinet, dismissiveness of any dissent and the hasty and poorly thought through campgrounds decision the best I can give this government for its handling of this situation is a C, C-.

Up 13 Down 30

Patience please on May 21, 2020 at 6:50 am

Detail of deduck went over defence before defeat. There you go. If those businesses don't want to open when they get the green light then they should terminate their leases and try something else. Somebody else will move into those spaces and be more than glad to open. Successful people make it happen they don't dwell on excuses.

Up 48 Down 15

Bud McGee on May 20, 2020 at 7:26 pm

The Yukon has one of the highest bureaucrat to citizen ratios in Canada. Yet I am continually amazed by the inefficiency of it. This is further compounded by vapid political leadership.

You have a Premier that couldn't cut it as a teacher in his native Nova Scotia, so now he's a politician in the Yukon.
You have a doctor that couldn't cut it as a doctor in his native Alberta, so now he's the Yukon's Chief Medical Officer.

Somehow these two thoroughly under-qualified individuals have dominion over people's livelihoods. Sad that it has come to this. The Yukon of my memory was about resilient and intrepid pioneers that were resourceful in the face of adversity. But this Liberal Government finds that spirit - that sense of rugged individuality - to be a liability in these times.

Up 42 Down 10

vlad on May 20, 2020 at 6:45 pm

The bureaucrats took over the world. The tragedy is, they don't have a slightest clue what the real life is all about. Sad.

Up 36 Down 11

Thomas Brewer on May 20, 2020 at 4:48 pm

There's been no leadership here, simply mimicking what other jurisdictions have done weeks earlier. Irreparable damage has been done to businesses (and by extension families) and without a concrete plan to open soon, more damage will be done. We've been conditioned by the CMOH to weekly, nay even daily changes to keep us off balance. Abysmal situation Yukoners have been put in.

Up 21 Down 22

BnR on May 20, 2020 at 4:09 pm

".....because the territorial government’s plan lacks a clear timeline...."
Good grief.
How the hell is anyone supposed to provide a precise timeline of any sort in a situation that is constantly evolving. The gov would say we'll be doing X on this date, situation would change, and timeline is off and everyone is screaming bloody murder.
Yes, times are tough, and likely to get much tougher come fall.
We're so damned lucky up here, and many just can't wrap their head around that simple fact.

Up 29 Down 15

JC on May 20, 2020 at 3:57 pm

The truth is, the Yukon Liberal gov. really has no plan. They're just waiting to see what other provinces do. Then they will follow their plan, change a little thing here and there and expect applause and votes. Well, I for one ain't wasting my summer. I will go where I want when I want.

Up 18 Down 8

JC on May 20, 2020 at 3:50 pm

Funny, a few days before Silvers and Hanley mentioned a 4 phase plan, I read on Townhall news, Trump declared a 4 phase plan. So, where are these two getting their ideas from. Certainly not from the CBC or JT.

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