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COLUMN: Thank you to our entrepreneurs, their small businesses

"Entrepreneurs and their small businesses have borne more than their fair share of the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty caused by the pandemic."
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Columnist John Liston

A historic summer is on the doorstep for our province.

For more than a year, our business community has faced restrictions as our province and world battled the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, though, there is hope on the horizon and Alberta, under the guidance of Dr. Deena Hinshaw, has pledged to reopen July 1.

For many Albertans, the sense of hope that will define this summer has been building up for weeks. This follows a year which was challenging for Albertans of all stripes, and one we have to build our way out of.

But make no mistake about it, the province can emerge from this last 18 months stronger than ever, and the months ahead will define that.

Alberta has been through tough times before. After more than a year of COVID-19, it’s time to rediscover our sense of optimism.

Over the coming weeks and months, Albertans could see a boom that will rival the post-war booms of the early 1920s and 1950s. All this requires is for us to get outside, shop local, and support our neighbours.

Entrepreneurs and their small businesses have borne more than their fair share of the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty caused by the pandemic. For many, this does not end as soon as the restrictions do. For them to return to normal, all of us need to pitch in.

Most business owners took on massive amounts of debt over the last year to keep their businesses open. Relaunching them now is another leap of faith. The damage done to many, especially in the hospitality and service sectors, will take a huge push from consumers to build back. In the UK, Statista research indicated that for British pubs to recover their losses, each British adult would have to drink 124 pints between mid-May and Dec. 31, 2021. The numbers in Alberta won’t be much different. I’m going to try and do my part.

Despite reopening months ago with lower vaccination levels, U.S. states such as Texas and Florida haven’t seen the massive spikes some predicted. Even the states most cautious with reopening, such as California and New York, have removed all restrictions. It is clear now is a safe time to reopen our province.

Some Albertans are still nervous about reopening, and this is natural and understandable given what we have been through, and the global risks associated with COVID-19. But tomorrow we must be brave and go out to build a better Alberta for generations to come.

As we march toward a reopening, let's lean in.

Let’s make sure to support local restaurants we know have had a difficult time over the past year. Let’s support local businesses we want to be as much a part of our future as they have been our past. Let’s see friends and family and remember what makes us strong as people and as a province. Let’s go into this together and continue to shape this province in the way generations before us have done.

It is time for Alberta to re-open. It is time for Albertans to return to normal. It is time for a grassroots movement of Albertans consciously buying local to get our small businesses to feel the return of normalcy.

John Liston is the vice president of Alberta Enterprise Group, and is a St. Albert resident active in our business and charity communities

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