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Coming Together to Raise Our Voice

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What I have missed most during the pandemic is the opportunity to visit and meet with members and colleagues across Canada. Fortunately, staying in my own province, Ontario, has turned out to be somewhat of a benefit, leading me to discover new restaurants, wineries and other member businesses. Nevertheless, I had experienced a bit of “cabin fever,” and Zoom simply wasn’t cutting it.

All those negative feelings dissipated when Luc Erjavec, Restaurants Canada’s vice-president of government relations in the Maritimes, invited President and CEO Todd Barclay and I to visit Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Luc organized meetings with a number of members and politicians, each hosted in their own province. Like all of us, our members in the east have endured a challenging time. Not surprisingly, some of their concerns were unique to their own province. What we all share though, is a common humanity, a love for our businesses and a passion for our industry. Everyone we met showed great strength of character and determination to succeed – pandemic or not. I have no doubt they will both succeed and flourish. Bravo Atlantic Canada!

Unfortunately, though, the cynical side of me is forced to ask the question: Does our federal government take unfair advantage of our tenacity and will to survive? Do government leaders believe that we can — and will — survive whether or not they provide the assistance we need? Late in 2021, they pulled the rug out from under us with the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program and its “threshold” of a forty per cent decline in revenue to qualify for benefits. The math is scary. Many businesses with revenue declines of 25 to 35 per cent either have failed or will fail without qualifying for this program, and businesses with declines of more than 40 per cent will not likely be saved, even if they do qualify for this program. Restaurants Canada’s government relations teams have been working tirelessly to try to adjust the qualification standard to a ten per cent decline in revenue.

As of this writing, we are all on pins and needles waiting for some good news in the upcoming budget announcements. And wait we must, as we have waited for months for the federal government to extend existing benefits. Don’t we deserve better than this? Restaurants Canada’s government relations team, led by Lauren van den Berg, continues to work on behalf of our industry. Through their efforts, businesses will receive some subsidies until May 2022. As well, the team continues to work on forgiveness for government-backed loans and extensions of repayment deadlines for CEBA. While in the Maritimes, I asked our members to write to their MPs and MPPs.

One important thing I have learned as Chair of Restaurants Canada’s Board of Directors is that your federal and provincial representatives will listen to you. A phone call from any one of you could change the future— astonishing but true! RC Show 2022 is a combination of live and virtual conferences, a dynamic trade show, industry competitions with prizes and networking events. Please come and help mark the resurrection and renewal of our beloved industry. Let’s make it a celebration! In closing, I wish to give a shout out to the five wonderful restaurants whose hospitality we enjoyed on our Maritime trip.

They were:
• Upstreet BBQ Brewhouse in Dartmouth, NS
• Bicycle Thief in Halifax, NS
• Clos in Moncton, NB
• Big Stop Restaurant in Aulac, NB
• Claddagh Oyster House in Charlottetown, PEI

Their ambience was wonderful and the food was utterly delicious. Should your travels take you to the region, it would be very much worth your while to give them a try. Although 2022 will already be underway as you read this, I would still like to take the opportunity to wish all of you and your families, the best for this New Year.

*Photo by Livia Widjaja on Unsplash

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