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Small business owners concerned with logistics of possible vaccine passports

"We just ask that the government press pause and make sure they have answers to all the questions before rushing down this road," CFIB's Dan Kelly said

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A new poll shows many Canadian small business owners have mixed feelings about the use of vaccine passports or mandatory vaccination policies.

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The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) undertook a poll in early August with 2,878 business owners.

Asked if they would support the use of a vaccine passport by government in various circumstances, the vast majority said “yes”    for international travel or large gatherings such as concerts or sports events.

But the numbers drop below 50% when it comes to their staff or customers. Only 48% support vaccine passports for their employees, and 37% favour mandated passports among customers.

About half (55%) would choose vaccine passports for staff and customers over another COVID lockdown.

And about 15% remain undecided.

Most have concerns about implementation — who’s going to police this? Who will stand at the door of the shop and ask customers to show their vaccine passport? How do you spot a fake? What do you say to those who refuse?

And many expressed concerns about legal risks and human rights challenges.

An earlier CFIB poll in April found that 77% of business owners support and encourage their staff to get vaccinated.

Dan Kelly, CFIB president, said he has heard many concerns from members about the implementation of vaccine passports.

“The concerns are practical — how will this work?” Kelly said Monday.

He understands the reasoning behind a mandated vaccine policy as it increases vaccination rates and has public health benefits.

“But nobody thinks about the implementation of it. It passes down that responsibility to beleaguered business owners, who are barely making it now,” he said.

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“So 61% worry about the challenges of implementing it. And the government hasn’t exempted you from human rights complaints.”

Kelly said businesses that have posted signs saying all their staff are vaccinated “may be putting themselves at considerable legal risk — they may be violating employee rights.”

And he wonders if they are at risk of human rights complaints from potential customers who aren’t vaccinated.

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Not all who are against passports are anti-vaccine, he emphasizes.

“Some owners are dead set against vaccine mandates, and that includes some who are fully vaccinated themselves. They don’t believe anyone should be forced or else lose their job.

“They support vaccine passports for travel or large events, but applied to day to day life — they worry about how it would be implemented  … the legalities are complex,” Kelly said. “If an employee refuses to be vaccinated, how do you fire that person without compensation? What small business has those financial resources or the legal department to sort it all out?”

CFIB has developed a members-only template to allow business owners to have a vaccine conversation with staff.

“We just ask that the government press pause and make sure they have answers to all the questions before rushing down this road,” Kelly said.

lbraun@postmedia.com

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