HALIFAX: A group of more than 100 business people in Nova Scotia is calling for changes to provincial re-opening plans.

According to a press release, the newly formed Nova Scotia Business Alliance (NSBA), which is comprised of more than 110 people who employ over 30,000 Nova Scotians, met on June 10 to discuss their “serious concerns” over the current reopening plan.

The NSBA said it is promoting an opening plan that trusts in the science and the safety protocols currently in place so Nova Scotians can get back to earning a living.

Currently, the NSBA said Nova Scotia has the “most conservative reopening plan” of any Atlantic province and is in stark contrast to New Brunswick’s reopening plan that includes a multi-million dollar incentive program inviting Atlantic Canadian tourists into that province, as well as welcoming single vaccinated Canadians to enter after July 1 provided vaccination goals are met.

Last Friday the NSBA wrote a letter to Premier Iain Rankin which was signed by 70 of Nova Scotia’s top business people, which included four recommendations to augment the rollout plan, while keeping public health a priority. The four recommendations were: to eliminate the quarantine for anyone with two does; reinstate and join the Atlantic Bubble, subject to conditions; allow single vaccinated people to enter after July 1, subject to conditions; and align regulations with the rest of Atlantic Canada and Canada.

The NSBA said that letter “has not been acknowledged” by the province and concerns within this group are mounting given the tourism season is here.

“The business owners of Nova Scotia have taken public health extremely seriously and we will continue to do so but if we are denied access to communities, many of us simply won’t survive in the coming months,” said Taye Landry, President of SPINCO Halifax and Bedford. “Businesses don’t make money operating at 50 or 75 per cent capacity, we need to be fully open at 100 per cent, and mask up, and follow protocols. “

NSBA spokesperson, Robert Zed Chair, CEO Triangle Strategies, says the changes can’t wait.

“We are in complete agreement that public safety is and should remain a major priority in this province,” Zed noted. “The lack of acknowledgement from this government given the extremely precarious state of our economy and our current reopening plan will decimate our small businesses, tourism and hospitality sectors in the months to come.”

Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton told The Reporter that the NSBA has some sound suggestions which should be listened to.

“The Nova Scotia Business Alliance has a wealth of economic experience to offer up for the province to consider,” the mayor noted. “Their request to eliminate the quarantine for people with two doses of COVID vaccine coming into Nova Scotia makes sense. Also joining the Atlantic Bubble, subject to conditions, will allow for a better recovery for many of the businesses adversely affected by COVID; tourism and travel being prime examples. It makes sense also to align with regulations as an Atlantic Canadian region so we are more integrated in our reopening efforts and in economic recovery. I believe this request is about striking a balance between safety and economic recovery.”

Lisa Boudreau, owner of La Goélette a Pepe Café in Arichat, told The Reporter the province was “a bit slow” identifying the hardest hit sectors, and the re-opening plan is “too vague.”

“I think the province worked as quickly as it could to provide financial support to small businesses. The incentives offered are to try to keep small business afloat. Being a largely rural province, the incentives certainly do not allow for the profit margin required to survive the shoulder seasons,” Boudreau said. “As a taxpayer, I’m not certain the 100 percent subsidy to small business is the answer either. Every financial support has to be carefully considered as it’s borne by the taxpayers.”

Boudreau noted that Nova Scotia is already into the tourism season, and most people have already made plans for their summer vacations.

“We are behind because potential visitors have no idea what will occur when they arrive and that uncertainly is costing hundreds of millions to our local economy. That is not good business…even in spite of the pandemic. We are 15 months into this and we should have been able to better plan by this point,” she said. “We need, not only to give clear direction to those coming in, but we also have to work on restoring the confidence of our individual community members and associations that’s it’s safe to hold events under certain restrictions, and what exactly those restrictions are.”

The NSBA said it wants to hear from small business owners on the impacts the pandemic and the reopening plan will have. According to the group, Landry delivered an emotional perspective last week.

“The pandemic has been extremely hard on us, losing over $1.1 million in the past year and there has been no action from the province to help businesses like ours. We can’t provide an income to our employees who need to feed their families and that has been truly devastating,” Landry said. “We have worked our whole lives to contribute to this economy and we need a better plan to get back on our feet from this province than what is tabled currently.”

The NSBA said it is ramping up efforts to make Nova Scotians aware of this crisis, in an effort to have a more confident plan that safely gets our economy open again.

The Nova Scotia Business Alliance added it was formed to work with the government to develop effective reopening plans and economic strategies to get Nova Scotia back to work and move the economy forward.