Advocacy group SaveHospitalityCA, launched in March 2020, is pressuring local and federal leaders to come up with a plan to save the $90-billion Canadian restaurant industry from ruin. Oliver & Bonacini CEO Andrew Oliver, one of the group’s founders, has this update.
Canada’s 100 Best: How is SaveHospitalityCA doing one year in?
Andrew Oliver: It’s been a year of challenges, small victories and frustrating dead ends. That said, we remain committed to fighting for government policy that provides independent restaurants across Canada an opportunity to survive this pandemic.
From which level of government are you seeing the most favourable response?
AO: No level of government has been astute enough to understand our needs properly, and there have been too many half measures and missteps. We have yet to see any government enact supports that are specific to the hospitality sector, except the ability to sell alcohol with takeout. It’s supremely frustrating to see our municipal government continue to collect our property taxes despite supporting shutdowns, our provincial government’s nonsensical shutdowns of patios, and the federal government missing the mark in their complete lack of common sense.
What if the government continues to drag its feet?
AO: Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of political will to fight for the hospitality industry. They are effectively saying that they won’t lose votes if they don’t act, or gain votes if they do, so they have decided not to step up.
What are the next items on the to-do list?
AO: At this point, what we desperately need is industry-specific aid at the federal level that accounts for how disproportionately our sector has been affected by the lockdowns. We recently saw a targeted aid package delivered to the airline industry, so we’re sitting here wondering why hospitality is left out.
What can regular folk do to help?
AO: Call your MPP and your MP and ask them what they are doing to ensure that restaurants will be able to survive the ongoing restrictions. Ask your city councillor why the city continues to charge fees and property tax to businesses that they have shut down. Ask the province why restaurants, who are resellers of alcohol, have to pay more for that product than everyday consumers. And if you can afford it, please continue to support restaurants through takeout.
Photo Credit: Cindy La