NDP calls for phase two delay, clarity, and support for small business owners

NDP Leader Ryan Meili joined with three Saskatchewan salon and barbershop proprietors to raise concerns about the lack of consultation with, and lack of proper guidelines for, businesses allowed to open on May 19th. Meili repeated his call for a delay in phase two of the plan, as case numbers continue to climb, and testing remains below the government’s stated goal of 1,500 per day.

“We’re now just over a week from the start of phase two, but business owners have more questions than answers about how to open safely,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili. “The province has failed to consult with those affected. They need to step up, listen to local business owners like those joining us today, and provide the guidelines and protections that are needed to ensure a successful and safe reopening of Saskatchewan businesses.”

Today’s announcement follows a meeting NDP MLAs held with several salon and barbershop owners, barbers, and hairdressers this week to hear their concerns with the government’s reopen plan. Three of those joined the NDP press conference to call for increased clarity and support. All three have made the difficult decision to delay their reopening until at least phase three.

Julia Darling, owner of High Noon Barber in Saskatoon, is concerned about the lack of clarity being provided to small businesses like hers, leaving each workplace to make its own decisions.

"You’re telling us we can dress like surgeons, but we don’t have to. Why aren’t we erring on the side of caution, especially with the numbers going up? “I have a large staff, including some with family members who are immunocompromised. We’ll need a lot of protective equipment, and if we run out, we’ll have to close. All we’re really asking for is time and support to figure this out.”

Kara Firman, owner of Guide Hair Salon in Saskatoon, is also concerned about the access to protective equipment to ensure the safety of her staff and the public. 

“I can’t morally source PPE that’s hard to come by, and it’s not even clear what specifically we will need,” she said. “This is putting all of us in a really difficult position: either we open and struggle with the safety risk, increased overhead cost and fewer customers, or we stay closed and face that ongoing loss of revenue.”

Megan Gustafson, owner of Manestreet Hair, hair stylist, and a board member of the Allied Beauty Association, a national voice for the professional beauty industry, is also concerned about the risk that she and her staff will face.

"The government has put me in a very hard position with whether or not to open. The concern for my clients and staff has to be my number one priority, but the longer I'm closed the harder it becomes financially."

Gustafson wants to see the government do more to ensure the safety and viability of the industry.

“Everyone’s doing their best, but we need to get this right. I hope the government will be putting the people of this province first when they’re looking at the plan, and adjusting the plan as needed based on how the situation changes.”

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“We’ve called repeatedly for the provincial government to consult with local leaders and community representatives at every stage of their response to this pandemic,” said NDP Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon. “The stress and frustration that small business owners are feeling right now is a consequence of that failure to consult. This is a government that needs to learn to listen.”

Authorized by the chief official agent for the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party.