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Ford government minister skips meeting with restaurant industry leaders

Many restaurant and bar owners are frustrated following last week's decision to allow full capacity for sporting events and concert spaces.
20200207-Lisa McLeod-DT
Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture, Feb. 7, 2020. Darren Taylor/SooToday

Restaurants and bars have been excluded from the list of venues that are allowed to operate at full capacity again and the industry was hoping for answers Tuesday.

But their expectations were belied when a Ford government minister was a no-show at a meeting the government set up.

The restaurant industry says it was told over the weekend that Minister Lisa MacLeod would hold a meeting Tuesday morning to find a way forward, but CityNews has learned the minister did not show.

“Unfortunately there was no cabinet representation” said James Rilett, vice president of Central Canada for Restaurants Canada. “We were given no justification for the decision and the only commitment was to work on a plan. The industry leaders on the call were angry and extremely frustrated”

CityNews reached out to Minister MacLeod’s office for comment and they responded saying the minister was at the Ottawa Hospital which is planning a new Civic Campus pending City of Ottawa final approval expected Wednesday.

“Minister MacLeod has made herself available to stakeholders throughout the pandemic, including through an ongoing restaurant working group, 14 Ministerial advisory committees, and several dozen town halls and webinars. The Ministry organized a meeting Tuesday morning for the restaurant working group that included senior leadership from the Minister’s Office, Minister of Health’s Office and the Premier’s Office to give them the earliest opportunity to provide feedback to the government,” the statement read in part. “Minister MacLeod will continue to bring stakeholder feedback to the Chief Medical Officer of Health, as she has done since the beginning of the pandemic.”

There has been an outpouring of anger from the bar and restaurant industry over Friday’s decision to do away with capacity limits for sporting events, concerts, event spaces and other venues but not for bars and restaurants. Thus far, eateries have to adhere to social distancing requirements which for many locations means operating at 50% capacity or less.

“I know people are very, very upset that this decision was made ” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath.

When asked, Minister Rod Phillips said Tuesday that “the decision around the ability to have people attend at stadiums and other venues was one that was made in cooperation with the chief medical officer. We will absolutely continue to work with him.”
 

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