'How will it be enforced?' Business owners seek clarity on vaccine certificate program
Business owners are seeking clarity one week before Ontario's vaccine certificate program rolls out, with some making big changes to avoid it altogether.
Lazy Tulip Cafe owner Michelle Huggins says she's downsizing. "I decided to just go down to take-out only."
Huggins won't have to ask for proof of vaccination from her customers with no indoor dining option.
"If I did have the dining room, I would definitely be enforcing it, for sure," she adds.
Mixed emotions run across the board, with some business owners saying they are cautiously optimistic.
"We are looking at all sorts of unknowns. How will it be enforced? There is still no clarity from the government on that," said Barrie Chamber of Commerce executive director Paul Markle. "Are there insurance and other financial implications, and will they receive support from that?"
Starting Sept. 22, residents will have to show proof of being fully vaccinated for at least 14 days, or a medical exemption, along with a piece of ID to access a long list of non-essential businesses, including gyms, movie theatres and restaurants.
Then on Oct. 22, the province is scheduled to roll out a QR code-based mobile application for residents and businesses to use.
"Recovery is still very much in its infancy, and this is another burden both administrative and financial thrust upon small businesses," said Ryan Mallough, director of provincial affairs for Ontario with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
ENFORCING THE VACCINE CERTIFICATE
With just a week to go, Mallough says there are several unknowns.
"There are a lot of questions around how to spot fraud and what to do to prevent a fraud," he said. "What do you do if someone is being difficult, are you supposed to call police? At what point do you do that? Are you supposed to put hands on a person and escort them out?"
Midway Diner owner Matt Jones says that while his staff is not keen on turning people away, he is taking a wait-and-see approach with the program.
"I've already been telling my customers that it's happening," Jones says. "I don't know if they are going to have people randomly come in and check passports to make sure I checked them. I don't know how any of that is going to work."
Barrie police tell CTV News, police will not be conducting random business compliance checks unless working on joint projects with public health, municipal enforcement agencies and provincial ministries.
The service adds that police will respond to vaccine certificate-related incidents, including safety concerns, but complaints of local businesses not complying with certificate regulations should not be made to police.
The fines for non-compliance start at $750 for individuals and $1,000 for businesses.
"A lot of business owners are saying realistically they have to hire a new person to do the screening and really can't find anyone," Mallough said. "At the same time, they are not being given any kind of financial support."
In Quebec, where they are using QR codes, Mallough said some businesses have had to buy new technology to do the scanning.
With the program rolling out next week, the Barrie Chamber of Commerce is asking residents to be kind to businesses.
"It's not the restaurant's fault that this has happened. It's not the restaurant's fault or any business's fault that we are in this pandemic, and blaming them for the rules and policies put in place to keep us all safe just isn't fair," Markle says.
"I think we need to be considerate of that as we are moving through this and allowing them to get their bearings."