Businesses concerned about potential costs, enforcement for potential COVID-19 vaccine passports: Ottawa business advocate

An Ottawa small business advocate believes most businesses would support the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine passport to help avoid another lockdown, but there are concerns about potential costs associated with the plan and enforcing the rules.

A senior government source tells CTV News Toronto the Ontario government will unveil a COVID-19 vaccine passport to access non-essential businesses and services this week. The source said the certificate will be required in places like restaurants and movie theatres.

In an interview on CTV News at Six, Michael Wood of Ottawa Special Events said small businesses are waiting to hear the details of a potential proof of vaccination system in Ontario.

“As we’ve seen over the last couple of days, we have case counts rising. So at this point, I think whatever it’s going to take to make sure that the restrictions are not reintroduced or lockdowns,” said Wood on Sunday evening.

“I think most businesses are happy with the idea of support coming, however, there’s a lot of concern as to what that support is actually going to look like.”

In an interview on Newstalk 580 CFRA Sunday morning, Wood said businesses are looking for some direction from the Ontario government and public health units.

“Business people will know the 80-20 rule, where 80 per cent of your business comes from 20 per cent of your customers as a rule of thumb,” said Wood.

“I think that this idea of a vaccine certificate falls into that. I think that 80 per cent, give or take, of small businesses want some sort of guarantee or process that will reduce any further chance of a lockdown.”

However, Wood says small businesses in Ottawa cannot take on another costs associated with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine passport, so there will need to be funding from the government.

CTV News at Six anchor Colton Praill asked Wood if he was hearing any concerns from businesses about how a COVID-19 vaccine passport would be enforced.

“When I met with the Ontario government months ago regarding the COVID rapid test, I was very clear that you can’t have youth, you can’t have a 17-year-old or 18-year-old host or hostess if you will in a restaurant asking to see this,” said Wood.

“This is only going to cause a whole bunch of problems I don’t think anybody is looking to have right now.”

The Quebec government’s COVID-19 vaccine passport rolls out on Sept. 1, meaning only fully vaccinated residents and visitors can access non-essential businesses.

The former federal manager in charge of Canada’s response to the SARS crisis believes a COVID-19 vaccine passport will do more than just protect customers and businesses.

“I would hope that this will provide some motivation for people who are hesitant to get the vaccine to go ahead and get what is effectively a very safe vaccine,” said Dr. Ronald St. John.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says there are concerns associated with the idea.

“Yes, vaccine passport systems have, it seems, led to an increased take up of vaccinations, which is, of course, a good thing,” said CFIB President Dan Kelly. “But it comes at a pretty significant cost as the responsibilities for becoming the vaccine police are then pushed down to small and medium sized businesses,”

If Ontario introduces a COVID-19 vaccine passport, Wood has a message for residents.

“In Toronto we have seen various protests in front of small businesses. People are going to have to be aware that if this actually comes through it’s not the business, this is a government regulation that the business has to follow.”