Smithers District Chamber of Commerce vice president Elizabeth Miller moderates a roundtable discussion of government representatives and local business leaders via Zoom April 3. (Thom Barker photo)

Some Smithers businesses may re-open sooner rather than later

Weekly Chamber of Commerce video conference focuses on business concern amid COVID-19

Some Smithers businesses may be getting ready to re-open sooner rather than later.

During a weekly roundtable meeting conducted by the Smithers District Chamber of Commerce on the online video conferencing platform Zoom, participants got updates on the COVID-19 pandemic respsonse from the Chamber, representatives of all levels of government, financial institutions and others.

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A focal point of the discussion, however, was around what local businesses have to do to if they want to re-open.

Smithers Deputy Mayor Gladys Atrill explained that there are three categories of businesses in B.C., essential services, such as grocery stores, businesses that must remain closed, such as bars, and other businesses that may remain open as long as they can adapt to provincial guidelines.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses explains:

READ MORE: Update from the medical community of Smithers, April 3, 2020

“Any business or service that has not been ordered to close may stay open at this time if it can adapt its services and workplace to the orders and recommendations of the provincial Health Officer (1-2 metres social distancing for customers, increased sanitation, no gatherings over 50 people).”

It is unclear at this time what businesses are considering re-opening, but Atrill cautioned that those intending to do so should exercise caution by educating the public so as to avoid backlash.

Seven other provinces have already ordered all non-essential businesses to close, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, B.C., Northwest Territories and Yukon are still leaving it up to most businesses whether they can operate safely.

Another important area of conversation came from Mark Fisher, Electoral District ‘A’ representative for the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechacko RDBN.

While all the emergency preparedness focus currently surrounds COVID-19, Fisher reminded meeting participants that wildfire season is just around the corner.

RDBN, Smithers Fire Rescue, Bulkley Valley Emergency Support Services and other organizations in the region continue to work on this issue.

The Interior News will have more on this next week.

Another main area of concern emerged regarding what financial institutions are doing to help businesses weather the crisis.

Lonny Wiebe, RBC Smithers branch manager explained they have discretion to defer loan, credit card payments and some bank fees for both businesses and individuals for up to six months or a year.

Greg Wacholtz of the Bulkley Valley Credit Union said they have similar discretion on a case-by-case basis.

The April 3 meeting, moderated by Chamber vice-president Elizabeth Miller attracted 51 participants.

The Chamber plans to host similar meetings weekly. They are open to anyone who wants to attend. A link to the meeting is posted on the Chamber website and Facebook page. Creating an account on Zoom is free.

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