Local businesses still at risk a year into pandemic


By Paul Cashman

The first anniversary of sweeping province-wide restrictions on businesses to contain COVID-19 is coming up on March 17 and after a devastating year financially, campaigns are still needed to support Edmonton’s struggling firms.

Premier Jason Kenney’s government declared a public health emergency when the number of cases jumped to 97 and the City of Edmonton responded March 20 with its own health order and a decision to defer property tax payments and city utility fees – one of the first in a cascade of government pandemic financial relief programs.

The first round of restrictions in 2020 closed a wide range of businesses, from non-essential retail outlets to hair salons and bars, and it was only March 8, 2021 that Alberta completed Step 2 of its reopening plan by raising the capacity limit for retailers and malls to 25%. Step 3 will be considered on March 22 at the earliest for casinos and theatres.

Despite pressure on Kenney from sectors like the fitness industry to move faster on its four-step path forward, Edmonton Journal columnist David Staples writes: “I can’t see Kenney risking lives, not to mention his political career, on rapid re-opening.”

Art of Cake is featured in promotional videos to help pandemic stricken businesses. (Courtesy of YEG Video)

Art of Cake is featured in promotional videos to help pandemic stricken businesses. (Courtesy of YEG Video)

Besides the billions of dollars poured into the economy by all three levels of government, the pandemic has inspired a host of Edmonton initiatives to help beloved local businesses survive.

YEG Video is creating a series of promotional videos for free to help independent businesses. "I care very much about independent business and you know it's a bit of a cliché now that it's the lifeblood of the city but that is true. And if we don't support these businesses and see them survive then the city will struggle for it," owner Mike Wivell told CTV Edmonton.

Blogger and social media strategist Linda Hoang’s #AdoptAShopYEG: Love Downtown campaign brought a $10,000 spending boost to 50 downtown businesses and reached 500,000 people through social media. Partner ATB Financial kicked in another $10,000.

Edmonton’s Next Gen will start voting March 14 on the best video submissions from Edmonton businesses struggling to “keep the lights on” during the pandemic. One winner will receive $2,500 and another $1,000 because of a donation from RBC.