‘We’re not against asking for the vaccine passport. But we are now dividing the industry in two groups’
Quebecers must show proof of vaccination before they can enter restaurants, gyms, bars, liquor and cannabis stores and, as of next week, big box stores and car dealerships.
The Legault government extended the vaccine passport requirement to all stores with surface areas of 1,500 square metres or more — with the exception of groceries and pharmacies — as of Jan. 24.
At first, Robert Poeti thought this would not apply to his members, nearly 900 car dealerships across Quebec. But looking at the fine print of the government’s decree, he says he was surprised to see that areas such as conference rooms, locker-rooms, cafeterias and warehouses can be deducted from the 1,500 square metres.
“Of course, some of our dealerships have larger premises. But it’s nothing compared to the number of people who can enter Canadian Tire, Costco or WalMart,” said Poeti, president and CEO of the Corporation des concessionnaires d’automobiles du Québec (CCAQ), in an interview.
There is no exception, however, for mechanical workshops where cars are cleaned and repaired. Those workshops, which are off limits to the public, will also have to be included in car dealerships’ calculations in determining if they will have to ask for proof of vaccination.
“We never thought they were going to count the entire surface of the buildings, but only where people have access. So we are asking the government to review its criteria, because as of now, we’re bound to see some unfair competition. Smaller dealerships won’t have to ask for it,” said Poeti.
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The CCAQ sent a note to its 900 members earlier this week to advise them that they would have to respect the rules in place as of Jan. 24. The corporation even added a poster so that dealerships can notify their customers of the policy.
But Poeti is still hoping the government will change course before then.
“We’re not against asking for the vaccine passport,” he insists. “But we are now dividing the industry in two groups. If a smaller dealership is selling cars from a certain manufacturer and is not asking for it, and another one, a few kilometres away, is because it is a larger surface, it might drive customers away.”
Hardware stores around the province are also voicing their opposition to the vaccine mandate. In an open letter, the Association québécoise de la quincaillerie et des matériaux de construction stressed that unvaccinated customers will likely gather in smaller stores.
In a press conference on Thursday, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters that he had a message for all those who are unhappy with these additional measures or question their efficiency.
“Talk to someone working in the health system,” he said. “I think that everyone has made sacrifices, but these people are at the end of their rope. (…) You’ll see that we might all be a little bit more patient for a few more weeks of sanitary measures.”