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B.C. businesses’ COVID-19 emergency plans often unavailable to public

Plans should be “readily available,” says Dr. Bonnie Henry's May 14 order
Dapinder Kaur, customer service manager at Burnaby’s Metrotown Walmart, shows a copy of the store’s COVID-19 emergency plan mandated for public inspection by Dr. Bonnie Henry

Lower Mainland consumers asking to see businesses’ COVID-19 emergency plans are more likely to get blank stares than a copy of the plan.

That’s despite an order from provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. The May 14 order says businesses must “post a copy of your COVID-19 Safety Plan on your website, if you have one, and at your workplace so that it is readily available for review by workers, other persons who may attend at the workplace to provide services and members of the public.”

Glacier Media went to multiple businesses and organizations in Vancouver and Burnaby asking to see their plans as COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb.
Four businesses had an order immediately on hand when asked: Walmart at Burnaby’s Metrotown mall, McDonald’s and London Drugs at Broadway and Cambie, and Vancity Credit Union at W.10th Avenue and Cambie in Vancouver.

Those businesses also have the information on their websites.

Those who could not produce a plan immediately included Vancouver City Hall; Metrotown’s Real Canadian Superstore and Hudson’s Bay; Best Buy, Save-On-Foods, Canadian Tire and RBC bank in the Cambie/Broadway area of Vancouver.

“We are respecting the government’s precautions and observing social distancing in our interactions,” said a sign in the RBC lobby. The bank does have some of its policy on its website.

In contrast, the Vancity lobby up two blocks away had a plan synopsis on the door and the full plan submitted to WorkSafeBC posted in plain view in its lobby. Information is less accessible on the credit union’s website.

In comparison, the city does have its plan on its website. And, after being contacted by Glacier Media, a spokesperson said a move would be made to have the plan at City Hall information desk. “We will make sure the original document and then the revised one is made available.”

At most of the businesses visited, store customer service desks called a manager when asked for a plan. Invariably, that manager would not say if a plan was available but instead referred questions to corporate communications staff elsewhere.

Walmart and a few others were the exceptions. Customer service manager Dapinder Kaur arrived with the plan in hand when asked.

Also, when asked for the McDonald’s plan, a manager enthusiastically said, ‘Yes!’ and reached several feet to grab and hand over the document for examination.

A Save-On-Foods’ spokesperson said the plans should be available at customer service desks but had no explanation why Glacier Media could not see it.

“They’ve all been instructed to have a copy at the customer service desk,” she said.

When pushed, a Metrotown Sport Chek manager conceded the plan was not available for the public review.

In stores such as Hudson’s Bay and Real Canadian Superstore, managers disputed Glacier Media’s right to see the plan, even after reading Henry’s order.

“Anything to do with externals, go to public relations,” Real Canadian Superstore manager Sagar Kukreja said, referring Glacier Media to parent company Loblaws in Ontario.

As customers socially distanced past sanitizer pumps, mask displays and a broken device to sanitize cell phones at The Bay’s customer service desk, a manager declined to provide the plan. She referred Glacier Media to parent company HBC spokesperson Tiffany Bourré.

“Hudson's Bay's BC COVID-19 Safety Plan is available on, and is also posted on the health and safety board within our store, accessible to all associates," Bourré said. “In addition, as we begin to launch mandatory face coverings for all B.C. stores on Monday, we will also have the plan available at our store entrances.”

Some managers unable to provide plans would not give their full names, saying they were not allowed to speak with media.

“I don’t have the right to give you my last name,” said the manager, Gary, at Canadian Tire.

A government response was not available by deadline.

The lack of plan availability is not to say the stores are doing nothing. All had sanitizer available, while most recommended masks, encouraged social distancing and had arrows directing shopper movement. Floor arrows remain a constant – although frequently ignored by customers.