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Standing up for restaurants and restauranteurs in River Heights

 On Thursday November 5, I spoke at second reading on a budget bill on the situation of businesses, particularly restaurants, in River Heights.  I have been receiving a number of emails from restaurant owners in  River Heights and I  wanted to make sure  their point of view was being better represented. My comments,  from Hansard, are below. 

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Yes, Madam Speaker, I want to take what the member for St. Boniface (Mr. Lamont) has talked about in terms of the big level down to the local situation in River Heights, where I'm getting many people writing in for one reason or another. But let me start with our local restaurants in River Heights. And I'm sure many other constituencies have similar situations.

      As Manitoba continues to endure the second wave of COVID-19, restaurants are being singled out and are struggling. There have been a lot more restrictions placed on restaurants, yet no data has been provided and there has been no help offered to restaurants to help them get through this very difficult time.

      I'm told that the average restaurant has invested almost $20,000 in new procedures and training, personal protective equipment, sanitizer stations, air purification systems and other means to ensure that the highest levels of safety happen for staff and patrons. And there's some national research indicating that 87 per cent of consumers agree that restaurants are doing a good job of keeping people safe.

      But one of the problems at the moment is that in the data that's being collected, which is not being shared very openly in many respects, we don't know to what extent there are any infections being spread in restaurants because we're not being shown any data on one side or another. And we're not, in circumstances, for example, where people are investing, as one restaurant has in River Heights, in a highly sophisticated air purification system in order to decrease the amount of COVID spread–we're not assessing, measuring the results. Restaurants like that, whether they, in fact, they are maybe much better in terms of not having any spread, or maybe the average restaurant with all the measures that they've taken are not having a lot of spread.

      I mean, we're hearing lots and lots about spread at personal-care homes, at hospitals, at correctional institutions, but we're not hearing the evidence that the government is accumulating in terms of what's happening in relation to restaurants. And it's really important when you've got restaurants, you know, looking at the second wave and looking at the potential for sales losses, as much as 80 per cent for full-service restaurants, more than 40 per cent for quick-service restaurants, and thousands of jobs being lost.

      Now, it's important not only that we know what's safe and we're managing things well in terms of spread of COVID, but it's also really important that we're supporting financially restaurants which are struggling. And clearly, what we've seen so far is that the present government is hopelessly inadequate in terms of the financial support for restaurants and many other businesses.

      We want our restaurants to pull through the pandemic. We want them there afterwards. They do a great job. They serve wonderful food. Some restaurants go out of their way to make sure that they have particularly healthy food, which is really important. They've been looking at the quality of the food. And we need this government to have the clear and transparent data. We need the government to be working with industries as well as working with health professionals, and it looks, at this point, because the government has not been doing a good job of preventing this second wave and it is really at a crisis point at the moment that, you know, we may, and are right now, in a situation where restaurants are not able to operate anywhere near what they were even a few weeks ago.

      So there's a great concern among businesses like restaurants, and there really is a lot of work that the government has to do because right now there's not a lot of trust in this government in terms of their helping with ensuring health care is there and ensuring prevention is there and ensuring the support for business is there.

      And this sort of thing should have been much there in this budget. The government should have presented a much better plan of how it's going to enable everybody to get through a very difficult circumstance at the moment and enable to come out the other side and have people surviving and their businesses surviving and doing well.

      Thank you, Madam Speaker. 

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