Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole says the South Surrey and White Rock areas have had “acute” challenges, especially the small- and medium-businesses.
“Many local and small businesses have been hit, particularly hard. They’ve lost jobs, they have uncertainty, they’ve been looking for programs that have been too slow from the federal government,” said O’Toole during a South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce town hall on Saturday (March 6).
“And many small businesses have closed their doors … including well-known and beloved businesses like Penguin Meats and Dolce Gelato on White Rock beach. These are family-owned initiatives and when a business closes, there’s a family struggling behind that.”
He added tourism, as a specific sector, has been “acutely” hit.
When it comes to tourism and safely reopening borders, O’Toole said “we need these tools to be able to reopen safely, as quickly as possible.”
“This border piece that comes up every other day when I’m doing this and this is why I’m really disappointed with the failure on rapid screening and rapid testing,” he noted. “This is a federal area of responsibility for the border, for airports, for ports.”
O’Toole said “literally all our G7 and developed countries” had access to rapid tests “six months before Canada and there was a deployment in large numbers.”
“They’re a tool that can be used particularly for border travel, for large confined workplaces,” he explained. “It gives you information on who to isolate, who is a potential risk and to isolate exposures.”
He added it’s “frustrating to see us lagging” when it comes to the vaccine rollout.
O’Toole said it’s “tough to watch as just across the border” in Washington State, there has been a “steady stream” of vaccination.
He pointed to the need for domestic capacity and supply of vaccines.
The federal government, O’Toole said, is “two steps behind,” adding “that if we really had put a whole of government approach, I think we could have secured this at home.”
He said if you look at a chart of vaccine deployment, the leading countries have that domestic capacity.
“That was the big miss.”