Stability and resilience: our response to COVID-19
March 17, 2020
The COVID-19 outbreak is a considerable global challenge. The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. The federal, provincial, and municipal governments have instituted various protective measures and recommendations and are providing updates daily. The province, for example, has implemented cancellations or closures for schools, daycares, and post-secondary institutions in Alberta; and the City of Calgary has also declared a State of Local Emergency to help contain the spread of COVID-19. Canadians are encouraged to practice physical distancing, stay at home, and dramatically limit the time they spend in public spaces and gatherings.
COVID-19 will impact all Canadians one way or another, from physical distancing, to school and daycare closures, to travel bans – our way of life has been disrupted.
The Calgary Chamber is actively supporting our business community, and the residents they employ and serve, through this uncertainty. Here are a few ways we are engaging with our business community and governments:
- The Chamber is making individual calls to all of our members to learn more about their needs, to connect them with the resources they need, and to relay feedback to government.
- The Chamber has issued a member survey for members to provide feedback during this time.
- The Chamber is at the table with government officials to share information, provide advice, and problem-solve.
- We are performing our role as an emergency partner to the Calgary Emergency Management Agency and actively participating in the Emergency Operations Centre.
- We are at the table with the Business Sector Support Committee, a group established by the City, to help business through this challenging time.
- We are partnering with local non-profits to help disseminate information and share resources that are available to the business community and Calgarians at large.
If you are a business owner and you are unsure what steps you should be taking, please contact the Chamber team, and we can assist you.
We understand the stress and uncertainty of the last few weeks, and continued uncertainty looking towards the next few weeks and months for the physical and economic health of our community. We know that all Canadians – everyday citizens, business owners, and our elected representatives – can meet this challenge. In order to ensure this, we ask policymakers to consider the following outcomes.
Delivering on these outcomes will keep us safe, ensure our Canadian economy continues to function, and allow us to emerge from this outbreak on our front foot and ready to lead in a globalized, connected world.
Short term outcome (next three months): Stabilization
- Flattening the curve. All Canadians need to follow the directives and recommendations of our public health and emergency management authorities, especially when it comes to physical distancing. It is critical that we “flatten the curve” to stem the outbreak, and following the direction of our public health and emergency management authorities is an important part of achieving that goal. We all have a shared responsibility to protect our families, colleagues, friends, and our community, and ultimately it is how we get back to stability, for our society and our economy.
- Debt/ household financial relief: We need all levels of government to work together to ensure that households receive the necessary relief and monetary support for monthly payments such as utility bills, tax deadlines, rent and mortgage payments and the like. Canadians must be able to focus on their health first and foremost.
- Supply chain integrity and labour: The integrity of the Canadian supply chain, and access to labour, must continue to remain a priority. Canadians and Canadian business owners need assurance that while balancing public health concerns and safety, good, services, and labour will continue to enter Canada in a safe and predictable way.
- Ease of access: Reduce the regulations and/or waive them for the next three months to enable ease of access to benefits and financial resources presented at all three levels of government.
Medium term outcome (end of 2020 and into 2021): Resiliency
- Securing global supply chains: We need all levels of government working together to continue to enact policies that ensure confidence in the global supply chain, and to work with allies around the world to ensure this confidence with tangible measures.
- Alberta’s innovation opportunity: For the Government of Alberta specifically, continue to commit to economic diversification and ensure a more stable and consistent revenue mix. The COVID-19 outbreak combined with a breakdown in negotiations and cooperation between OPEC members and Russia has led to a massive decrease in the world price for oil, and further highlights a long-standing issue Alberta has faced and the need for stable revenue to ensure our ability to weather crises.
- Canadian Economic Task Force: Led by the federal government, we recommend the establishment a dedicated economic task force to examine the structural economic vulnerabilities highlighted by the COVID-19 outbreak, and mandate that the task force provide recommendations to Parliament to improve all sectors of the Canadian economy to ensure further resiliency and preparation for the next national crisis.
- Canadian Tax Review: We recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of the Canadian tax system in consultation with industry stakeholders and sub-national governments, and report prior to the next election in 2023.
- As previously outlined by the Canadian Chamber, the Royal Commission’s terms of reference should be guided by the principles of tax competitiveness, simplicity, fairness, and neutrality. The inquiry should have the objective of expediently raising sufficient revenues to fund public spending, without imposing excessive costs on the Canadian economy.
- Governance: All levels of government should engage in good governance and accountability, specifically by:
- Respecting the rule of law and honouring contracts that have been signed and increasing business confidence in the process.
- Providing a reasonable time for consultation before implementing new policies, with appropriate implementation timeframes for businesses and the marketplace to adjust.
Long term (2021 and beyond): Winning
- Public health system preparedness: All levels of government need to commit to ensuring our public health system can respond to and withstand a similar outbreak in the future.
- We recommend a Royal Commission should be appointed to holistically study the federal government’s response to COVID-19 and offer recommendations for the future, with a particular focus on the continued functioning of the Canadian economy, support for businesses during a crisis, ensuring public health, and methods for timely and streamlined communications.
- Exporting Canadian IP: We recommend policy is enacted which allows for the export of technology and continued and improved access to international markets for Canadian businesses to help improve the global supply chain. We have to double down on exporting Canadian intellectual property, to ensure we are ready to meet the future economy.
- Solving Climate Change: As we’ve said previously, climate change is the issue of our time and by being innovative, we have an opportunity to be leaders in solving this issue. Each order of government must be committed to meaningful, thoughtful policy solutions to solve climate change, and that those policy aims and outcomes must be in harmony and reconciled with one another. Canada can be a leader in natural resource development AND solve climate change simultaneously. When doing both, however, we need tangible outcomes and conviction. The success of our businesses, the well-being of our families, and our strength as a country all depend on it.