Our staff at the Chamber, all working from home, are focussed on two things: providing answers and lobbying all levels of government for meaningful support for both employers and employees.
The biggest announcement this week, so far, was the Ontario Government’s closure of all non-essential businesses. Here is the link to the list of what is essential vs non-essential. This is a list of 74 categories of business that could remain open at this time.
One sentence from the government website we know is causing some confusion is: “This does not preclude the provision of work and services by entities not on this list either online, by telephone or by mail/delivery.”
Here is what we heard from MPP Dave Smith's office:
"If your business is not listed as an essential business and you have a bricks and mortar location, that location must be closed by 11:59pm on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. If your business is able to operate online, by telephone, or by mail/delivery you may continue to operate."
Our dedicated website is being updated daily and is considered the go-to source for quality, filtered information. If you need information about any announcement from any level of government; links to the proper government agencies; or available support locally, provincially and federally, you’ll find it here:
One of the big areas of confusion is around employment. Also on our website you will find links to:
And here are two existing Employment Insurance programs that may also prove to be useful:
We continue to meet by conference call almost daily with all three levels of government. We are listening to you and learning what works and what doesn’t. For example, the announced 10% wage subsidy compares to as much as 80% in other Countries. The question from business is: Is it better to lay people off and swamp the employment insurance system, or to provide a wage subsidy that allows employers to keep people employed? This is a key policy position of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and we anticipate some movement on this issue.
This lobbying/advocacy work is the core work of the Chamber in good times, let alone now. Thus it is important that our membership remain strong.
Not only do we appreciate the support of our existing members, but to the businesses that have reached out and joined our Chamber in the past week, thank you. As the situation evolves we are confident that we can continue to provide “Influence, Profile, Knowledge” to our members.
Information is key
A consortium of local organizations involved in economic development have already provided our elected leaders with an important temperature check about what is really happening in the business community. A second survey has just been released today, and will also provide important information for all three levels of government as they design a strategy to support the business community.
Indeed, this is an unprecedented situation. The Covid-19 Virus has been more than well documented, and the story is not finished.
But perhaps we should look at a few other unprecedented things that are going on. Acknowledging first the fact that there are indeed precedents. Viral outbreaks in many forms have fundamentally changed society in the past.
Multiple examples of unimaginable sacrifice can also, and should also, be brought to mind. The Greatest Generation is a term used to describe those who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II, and those whose labour helped win it, as one example.
But most people are experiencing this level of upheaval for the first time. One of the most difficult aspects of this current situation is how it has gotten worse every day, and if you look back to all of the post-SARS inquiries and reports, perhaps not all of the
lessons were truly learned. But here we are.
There are many things that we should acknowledge:
The unprecedented measures announced by the Federal Government will not solve everything, but they will go a long way to mitigating the impacts, the full extent of which are not yet clear.
Lastly, I have seen some deeply disturbing comments about people, businesses, elected
leaders, public officials, and more about how they are handling this outbreak. Public shaming for any and all reasons is all too common. While it might be wise to simply dismiss the people making these comments as common trolls, it’s also important to make it unacceptable. Everyone is doing their best, and not everyone is shutting down, nor should they.
The Premier did a great job of \listing the sectors that would be closing and those that wouldn’t. It’s important for everyone to realize that an economy is based on jobs. Not every country has gotten it right. Not every elected leader has said the right things. But the focus should be on getting through this. Together. Be nice.
This week at the Future Ready: Business Summit 2020, hosted by the Peterborough Chamber and Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development, there was a session called “What Happens If…”. While this session focussed on business partnerships, succession planning and managing stress, it could have easily included
the need for business to be prepared for emergencies, such as a COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, there was discussion amongst the event team on a health protocol. The protocol was developed and then communicated to attendees, along with signage at the event. That protocol is now on our website and all event pages as the safety and well-being of our members and community are of the utmost importance.
Some of the suggestions in the protocol include:
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) has pulled together a five-page guide for businesses that will help them ask the questions that will ensure they are prepared. The guide is designed to assist business planning and continuity efforts. It includes links to some of the most relevant and credible information, best practice tools and resources.
The guide begins with the following overview:
"In addition to the work of the health care industry when a pandemic hits, businesses play a critical role in protecting the health and safety of employees, and limiting the negative impact on the economy and communities. They also need to have business continuity plans that will minimize the impact on the business itself and facilitate a speedy resumption of activities if the business has been forced to scale back or close during the pandemic. Preparedness, not panic, is the best way to mitigate the risks posed by a COVID-19 pandemic to the Canadian economy and our citizens.
Should COVID-19 escalate in Canada, some of the things businesses need to plan for include:
The guide breaks planning down into five sections:
Each of the first three sections has a series of questions that a business or organization should be asking themselves, such as:
The final two sections offer links to resources such as:
Locally, Peterborough Public Health also has extensive information and frequently asked questions on their website: peterboroughpublichealth.ca
A link to the Canadian Chamber guide for business can be found on our website:
The saying goes that if you don’t have a destination, any road will take you there. For Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development (PKED), their new strategic plan, launched this week, provides the road map to their newly minted destination; “To be the most sustainable and innovative community and economy in Ontario”.
Called Future Ready, the plan captures four objectives:
Much will depend on our ability to adapt to these many forces, but we have proven that we can adapt to change. No longer do we have 6,000 lunch pail workers at GE, or 1,500 driving down Highway 115 to GM. And yet, manufacturing is still one of our strongest pillars of the local economy, along with agriculture and tourism. Increasingly important are the cleantech, aerospace, the water and wastewater sector, the trades and technology centre at Fleming, a burgeoning entrepreneurial community and more. We call it TeamPtbo, and collaboration between all of these elements will be critical in helping PKED deliver on its strategy.
The Future Ready plan also has the United Nations report “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” in mind, particularly:
If you want to dig deeper into the plan, you’ll find 18 specific “Actions” to support the four main objectives. These include everything from creating a crisp, clear value proposition for the region; delivering a multi-year, multi-media marketing strategy and an earned media strategy; to developing customized strategies for growth in each targeted sector; championing investments in regional infrastructure; building on business attraction and retention programs; increasing connection between business leaders and college and
university students, to make staying in Peterborough an attractive option; to supporting our strong entrepreneurial culture, including working with under-represented groups such as First Nations, new Canadians, women and youth.
From the Chamber perspective, we have enjoyed a close working relationship with PKED, including the Future Ready Business Summit that we are partnering on next week (March 11). We look forward to continuing that partnership to help strengthen the business community in Peterborough.