So we are now at the point where five provinces have released their re-opening plans and while there is reason for optimism, especially when it comes the fall, it leaves us once again here in Ontario wondering what our government is thinking and if they are still just flying by the seat of their pants. Let us take a closer look at how the Ontario plan affects us in Live Performance and how it stacks up against the other Provinces.
So on first glance, the Ontario plan seems to make sense. Three distinct stages, based on vaccine rollout with minimum times between steps, to ensure we don’t end up taking steps backwards on this road to recovery. On further inspection however, there are many problems with this plan, especially for the Live Performance Sector.
First off, we hit the 60% number contemplated in the plan last week so that would mean that step one should start? No. fine print states that it should start two weeks after we hit the 60% number to allow for the vaccines to actually take hold. Ok, this makes sense. So that means this will start somewhere around June 7th then? No, because if you look at the top left corner it states it also requires changes to “Key Health Indicators”. Again fine, but what are the benchmarks that need to be hit? This is where it starts to go off the rails. Why did they not publish what these thresholds are? Because they don’t know what they are.
So now we get into Phase One on June 14th, and slowly the province will begin to re-open. YAY!!!??? Not so fast. Outdoor venues remain closed. Theatres and performance venues are still shuttered. What is worse, companies still will not be able to to live stream from their venues under this phase. Live streaming, even though it had been done safely by many companies through the fall, was abruptly stopped at the beginning of April leaving many companies in limbo. These activities will commence in Phase Two, but for many, will be too late to salvage anything that was planned for the 2020/2021 season. A bigger issue however, is the fact the rehearsals are still banned until Phase Two as well. This will mean anyone planning to operate outdoors under Phase Two can’t because it will take weeks to ramp up to actually doing performances.
So if groups can actually perform outdoors during Phase Two, how many people will be allowed in the audience? Nowhere in the re-opening guidelines does it say what the capacities will be in any venues whether outdoors in Phase Two or indoors in Phase Three. No one in the Ontario Government at this point is willing to say even if the capacities will be hard cap numbers (boo!!!) or percentage based (yay!!!) yet alone what these caps will be. How do you start selling tickets when you don’t know how many seats you have?
All of these problems are just delaying any re-opening of live performance in Ontario. How does this plan compare to the other provinces?
Saskatchewan was the first out of the gate with a three step plan, like Ontario’s to reopening. You can see this plan is solely based on vaccination rates and sets out hard caps on events and indoor gatherings in Step 1 and Step 2 and most restrictions lifted in Step 3.
Quebec was second out of the gate and you can see above that as of May 28th, in their first step of four, audiences will be allowed upto 2500 people in independent zones of no more than 250 people. It should be noted that Arts venues have been open in Quebec with limited audiences for a while now and this represents a ramp up of audience capacities in Step 1. Similar to the Ontario plan, further easing of restrictions are not defined at this point.
BC’s plan is a 4 step plan like Quebec’s and starts right away with allowing up to 50 people in outdoor gatherings. Step 2 allows for 50 people indoors and Step 4 actually contemplates concerts (remember those?) but numbers for indoor gatherings in steps 3 and 4 are nowhere to be seen.
Alberta is the only plan that is based on percentage of capacity as you can see in Stage 2. While in typical Alberta fashion declaring that Early-July everything will be back to normal may be a little ambitious, a 30% capacity in Stage 2 is something Ontario should be looking at as well.
If there is one thing that common among all of the plans is the fact that all of them are based on vaccination levels. The sooner we are all vaccinated, the sooner the Live Performance Sector will re-open. So as they say in Hamilton: I’m not thrown’ away my shot, and neither should you.