The Fernie Chamber of Commerce hosted this year's virtual 2020 Business Awards. (File Photo)

“I certainly have some optimism for the summer season”: Qualizza

Qualizza, Morrison and Shypitka spoke at the Fernie Chamber AGM

Fernie’s three top elected representatives lined up for their take on the current COVID-19 situation and response at the Fernie Chamber of Commerce AGM on April 15.

Kootenay-Columbia MP, Rob Morrison said that he was pushing the federal government for a clearer plan on the future recovery of the region’s economy, saying that the region’s reliance on tourism and travel, coupled with its distance from the Lower Mainland of B.C. meant it needed a road-map.

I’ve sent a letter to the premier asking for Kootenay-Columbia to be considered to be different to the lower mainland, looking at a regional perspective rather than all of B.C.”, he said.

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka was reading from the same hymnbook, saying that a regional-based approach was the priority.

Shypitka, who has been a hospitality business owner himself, said that the current system was not sustainable for East Kootenay operators, and called the circuit breaker ‘concerning’.

“Circuit breaker is a good definition of what it is – it really is an on-and-off type strategy, and business just can’t absorb that type of strategy. Hospitality, recreation doesn’t operate just off and on.

Those in the hospitality industry -when you’re preparing for a big spring break, you’ve ordered food and stock, and brought some more workers in, and then at the 11th hour you’be heard you’re shut down for three weeks and quite possibly longer – this just doesn’t bode well for our tourism or hospitality sectors.”

Shypitka said that there was scope for a variation in public health order procedure, as well as in the vaccination roll-out, saying that “whether the government recognises it or not, we already have hybrid solutions” in that some communities were targeted for community-specific vaccination roll-outs, while others were on the age cohort system.

Fernie Mayor Ange Qualizza talked more about what Fernie had done through the pandemic and where it was headed, congratulating the town and local businesses for pulling through and ensuring the ski season was not nixed by the cluster that popped up in Fernie in January.

“We got our numbers down when they came up. We did that by working together, not against each other,” she said.

Qualizza also said that what the town had done so far was a good sign for the future.

“I certainly have some optimism about our summer season.”

Qualizza listed some of the initiatives and works proceeding with the City of Fernie such as the expedited patio season roll-out (responding to restrictions on indoor dining), infrastructure and amenity works (such as the new Sparling East Playground) and ongoing grant applications.

The city recently snagged itself over $750,000 in grant funding designed for tourism-dependent communities, which will go towards new EV chargers and tourism infrastructure projects such as signage.

Nearby Kimberley also received a hefty dollop of cash, which Qualizza said was a good sign the region was getting some much-needed attention.

“Seeing almost $2 million come into this region for tourism … is a step in the right direction.”

READ MORE: Fernie chamber launches take-out bingo to support local restaurants
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