New Brunswick businesses have suffered under the strain of constant disruptions over the last two years. The challenges they have had to overcome have included COVID-19, increasing inflationary pressures, labour shortages, supply chain disruptions and more. Now, achieving a successful recovery is further threatened by the ongoing blockades of critical infrastructure across the country that enables our economy to function.
With the planned protest in Fredericton this weekend, we hope that New Brunswickers can express themselves without bringing similar harm to our local economy and small businesses. “We’re all in this together” is a phrase that’s been perhaps overused over the past two years – and there are certainly different interpretations of what it means – but in the most literal sense it is true. Each of our choices and actions at a local level has an effect on our friends, neighbours and small businesses – and protests this weekend will make us more acutely aware of these collective and individual impacts.
No one disputes that COVID-19 and the associated Public Health restrictions have been difficult. We’re all eager to see the end of restrictions and regain normalcy. The situation has been incredibly dynamic over the past two years, and we’ve all had to adjust on the fly many times – it’s frustrating, no doubt about it.
No one disputes that everyone has the right to protest peacefully and have their voice heard. Indeed, there have been several protests in downtown Fredericton during the pandemic that have not interrupted the flow of traffic or caused harm to local businesses downtown.
What’s different with the planned protest for this weekend is the goal of creating ‘gridlock’ downtown – presumably inspired by the ongoing protests in Ottawa and elsewhere – which have caused massive economic disruption, now notably affecting our trading relationship with the United States – our most important economic partner.
The talk of “gridlocking downtown” is already having a negative impact and the timing could not be worse for small downtown businesses who have recently come out of Level 3 lockdown and are trying to get back on their feet. Some businesses in Downtown Fredericton have relocated for the weekend (not an option for most), restaurant reservations are being cancelled (on Valentine’s weekend – a big one for that industry), many retail shoppers will avoid the area altogether and some businesses have made the difficult decision to close altogether in advance of the protest.
Our organizations respectfully ask:
- To those choosing to protest this weekend: use your right and freedom to protest responsibly and within the parameters of the law. Please do not exacerbate the pain of downtown businesses. Be respectful and kind to these businesses, their employees and the residents of downtown.
- To those that disagree with the planned protest: be empathetic to your fellow New Brunswickers that peacefully and lawfully express their frustration and dissatisfaction. Nerves are raw and anxiety is high – on all sides. Listen and talk to your friends and neighbours that don’t align with your views. People have lost a lot over the past two years – that should not be ignored.
- To government and law enforcement officials: what businesses need now more than anything is an economic environment conducive to growth – including our constitutional ideals of peace, order and good government. This weekend, that means managing a protest whose organizers have stated that their goals are causing gridlock and disrupting the flow of traffic. We appreciate the work and communication that has gone into preparations throughout the week and hope that everyone respects the difficult job that you are doing.
New Brunswick is a week away from Level 1 and hopefully, as Premier Higgs said this week, we’ll be in a position to go even further a month or so after that. This has been a hard two years for small businesses in particular – the last thing they need is more disruption, especially with better days being so close.
Krista Ross, CEO, Fredericton Chamber of Commerce
John Wishart, CEO, Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton
David Duplisea, CEO, Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce