Mayor Craig Copeland addresses city residents at Cold Lake’s sustainability Open House in December.
Cold Lake mayor Craig Copeland hopes to see the province allow businesses to reopen and some relaxing of physical distancing measures by May 15, he said on Monday.
When discussing the challenges to the local economy during the COVID-19 pandemic on The Morning After, he said he’s looking for direction from Premier Jason Kenney on a plan to pivot and re-open the community.
“I think we’ve got to open up our communities very soon. I’m hoping that the Premier is going to signal that by May 15 things can return to normal. It’s a big concern that we have is will there be any businesses left in Cold Lake?” he said.
“When are they going to start to relax and slowly open [it] up because a person goes to Canadian Tire or Walmart or wherever and the business is doing the safe social distancing. And so can other stores that are closed right now– you go to the mall, it’s all closed up primarily right?– when can those non-essential businesses open up and bring in some revenue? Because that’s really a big struggle right now is nobody’s getting revenue.”
The City is in a financial crunch themselves, taking out a line of credit up to $10 million last week to cover short term money shortfalls, and still waiting for the millions of dollars in Cold Lake Air Weapons Range tax assessments (ID349) to be decided by the province.
They’ve also put over 50 staff members on leave.
Lakeland Connect’s business confidence survey in early April of roughly 115 businesses in Cold Lake, Bonnyville, and area, saw half of the respondents who closed their business believe they don’t think they’d be able to open in three months if they remained closed.
More than 60 per cent did not have confidence in government supports, like the federal government’s wage subsidy program.
Premier Jason Kenney has not divulged much information yet about the province’s Relaunch Strategy–or when these public health orders could be relaxed.
“We’ve been hearing the same things–no doubt about it. I think that franchisees might be able to weather the storm better than say the mom and pop shops, but this is gonna happen. Everybody’s losing so much revenue,” said Copeland.
“The other thing that we’ve heard is some of the workers that have been laid off now are getting the benefit package from the feds. The money’s almost comparable, in some cases, to going back to work in a very slow economy. So it’s going to be a double-edged sword.”
Copeland said he thinks one-on-one businesses like dentists’ offices or hair salons could re-open slowly and is optimistic about upcoming events like Canada Day.
“I think May 15 or just prior to the long weekend, let these businesses open up. They’ve got to start getting revenue, they got to pay rent, they got to pay their bills. Otherwise, we’re gonna lose them all.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing for the kids if youth sports could open up the month of June where you can have a baseball and a soccer season. I mean, those are big fields people could spread out as best they can. I mean, we’re gonna have to return to normal life here soon.
“I’m hoping that by July 1, it’d be great in a perfect world that we can have Canada Day July 1 and really start to open up and get back to our normal selves. I’m probably very optimistic. I’d be really surprised if the feds go that way and the province, but eventually, we’re going to have to do this and get on with our lives.”