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Kayaks are tied to a dock at a rental business on Dow's Lake, May 18, 2021 in Ottawa. The rental business is closed as part of Ontario stay-at-home measures.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Canadian business groups are urging the federal government and its provincial counterparts to come up with a countrywide plan to reopen the economy as COVID-19 vaccination becomes widespread.

A group of 61 industry associations and chambers of commerce sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday calling for a “clear and consistent pan-Canadian approach to reopening” that would address issues such as travel restrictions, public transportation and public gatherings.

“We are not calling for lifting of all restrictions immediately. We’re calling for the criteria on which decisions will be made so that people can do some planning,” said Goldy Hyder, president and chief executive of the Business Council of Canada.

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“Business requires lead time. If government were today to remove all restrictions on travel, we would still have lost most of our summer tourist season,” he said.

The letter recommends following the lead of Saskatchewan, which published a step-by-step plan earlier this month detailing what businesses can do at various stages of the provincial vaccination campaign.

Restaurants and bars in Saskatchewan, for example, will be allowed to reopen for indoor dining with up to six people per table, three weeks after 70 per cent of people over the age of 40 have received one vaccine dose.

The federal government did give some high-level guidance on Friday about what social activities may be allowed this summer and fall, depending on vaccination rates. Camping, picnics and patio dining could be allowed in areas where 75 per cent of eligible people have received one shot, and 20 per cent have received a second dose, the Public Health Agency of Canada said.

As of last week, 50 per cent of eligible Canadians had received their first vaccine dose.

The federal government’s guidance, however, was largely silent on business issues, Mr. Hyder said.

“What we need to show Canadians is that this … is about not just their social activity, but also their economic activity. When will they return to work? When will public transportation have rules in place to make sure that as they get the volume up, people are safely moving around? When can we travel domestically or internationally?” he said.

“I recognize that there is going to be a patchwork across this country on a variety of things. But let’s get the big stuff right. Let’s get the border right. Let’s get travel right.”

Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said that governments also need to adopt a more optimistic tone, focusing on the rewards of vaccination alongside the continuing risks of the virus.

“Governments have done a great job of scaring people,” Mr. Beatty said. “What we need is to give people hope and to say to them that if we all do the right thing – if we get our shots, if we take proper measures to protect ourselves and others – we can reopen safely and get our lives back more quickly.”

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