Ontario business owners wait for vaccine certificate details as Quebec's passport launches

As Quebec prepares to activate its provincial vaccine passport system, which reserves access to many non-essential services for only those who are fully vaccinated, Ontario is under pressure to do the same.

However, business owners have questions about how it will work.

At Fitz’s Classic Grill and BBQ Smokehouse, owner Fitzroy Reid says the secret is in the sauce. But even with a recipe for success, his restaurant has been grilled with rolling lockdowns and protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“Sixteen months ago we thought this would never happen but now COVID is everywhere,” says Reid. “We got great support within the community but we can’t do a fourth wave.”

Reid, like many other small business owners, can’t afford the cost and emotional toll of another closure. It’s why he’s in favour of a vaccine passport, similar to what is being implemented in Quebec.

Starting Sept. 1, Quebec residents 13 and older will be required to use the COVID-19 vaccine passport to order non-essential services across the province, including dining at restaurants, gyms, festivals, theatres and other places.

“We will see how it goes and we will adjust before considering expanding it,” says Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé, speaking on Tuesday.

Dubé says 86 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older have now had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 79 per cent have had both doses.

The Ontario government has yet to reveal any details on a provincial passport plan. Sources tell CTV News Toronto that the Premier and his cabinet deliberated the vaccine passport Monday evening, but were unhappy with the plan to implement the policy and how far reaching it should be.

Business advocate Mike Wood says in order for any kind of system to be effective, it will need to be mandated by the government.

“Small businesses cannot risk people protesting or putting out a boycott of a certain business for having a vaccine passport,” says Wood. “This is a government decision; this is not a business decision, this is not a business owner decision, and so we have to protect livelihoods right now.”

There is also the question of cost. Shop owners will likely need a tablet or device to scan a customers QR code, as well as people to work the system.

“For us, as a restaurant, to take on any more costs it’s going to be hard,” says Reid, adding that even finding workers can be tough. “Our biggest problem right now is we just can’t get enough staff to maintain the new software if we get it.”

Problems, Reid hopes the province will solve if or before they release a passport.

Reid says he will make it work to add another layer of protection to staff at his family-run restaurant, and the patrons who visit.

“We got a great community support,” he says. “We want to make sure that everyone who come to our location feel that we are all doing our part to make sure everyone is safe in the neighbourhood.”