It’s time for a check-in on the business community and how they’ve continued to be affected by the pandemic. Earlier this month, Statistics Canada released the second wave of the Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSBC), with the support of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
The survey was conducted from May 29 to July 3 with business owners from across Canada.
Here is the statement from Perrin Beatty, President & CEO, Canadian Chamber of Commerce:
“The survey is Canada’s second comprehensive view into how our businesses are coping, and how they are planning and executing their reopening.
The second survey data shows businesses are adapting to a distinctly new, paradoxical phase of the pandemic, where businesses reopen because they can no longer afford to remain closed, but struggle to break even while paying for pre-COVID level costs with significantly reduced revenues.
The business owners I speak with are clear-eyed in their understanding that the truly hard part begins now. The data on the reopening stage of the pandemic has shown three key challenges for businesses of all kinds.
First, getting Canadians back to work. So far, 22% of businesses were able to access the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and, of those, nearly half reported the program allowed them to hire back 30% of their workforce. Another quarter of businesses approved for the wage subsidy reported that it allowed them to bring back 100% of their workers. However, looking forward, this effect appears to be stalling, as 65.8% of businesses reported they expected their staffing levels to remain the same over the next three months. Together, these numbers show the need to expand the eligibility criteria for the wage subsidy to bring back workers and build on the momentum from reopening and job gains in this next phase of the pandemic. (Since the release of the data an updated CEWS regime has been passed by legislators.)
Second, rent relief remains a major challenge for businesses. Only 25% of businesses report having the benefit of rent relief. Three-fifths (60.1%) of the businesses that make rent or mortgage payments had not
requested or been offered the option to defer payments owed. As we approach this new phase, rent relief programs will need to be improved and made more accessible to commercial tenants.
Finally, safety measures remain a priority concern for businesses, owners, workers and customers. 80% of businesses expect to need personal protective equipment or supplies as physical distancing measures are relaxed. However, over one-fifth of businesses are experiencing difficulty in procuring personal protective
equipment or supplies. Increasing access to PPE will be crucial in this next phase of the pandemic to enhance consumer confidence while we live with the virus in our midst. This will be particularly
important for some of the hardest-hit sectors that require a physical presence, such as food services,
accommodation, retail and the arts.
The balancing act between declining revenues and hard costs remains in place. The data demonstrate that we have entered a new phase of the pandemic, where getting to economic recovery will require adapting the wage subsidy to get Canadians back to work and building confidence in returning to economic and social
activities with health as a priority. Now is the time for governments to start transitioning from subsidies to growth as our economy reopens.”
Many of the challenges listed above are also found in the report card from the Mayor and Warden’s
Economic Recovery Taskforce of which the Peterborough Chamber is a member. However, one issue continues to come to the forefront and that is childcare. As is stated in a recent press release on the report card and its recommendations to government, “There has been a shift towards businesses seeking more recovery support as opposed to relief measures. Issues that still remain include uncertainty and challenges navigating safety guidelines which vary between federal, provincial and municipal regulations or are
requiring a longer term approach such as access to childcare for workers to return to work.”
Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development on behalf of the taskforce has released a new survey asking businesses about their capacity this summer and into the fall and winter. It’s important to gather this data and use it to help inform the actions of government moving forward.
Earlier this week, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and 20 other business organizations
including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), sent a letter to the federal government detailing the challenges of the restaurant industry in Canada.
In the letter, the CCC highlights how pre-COVID the restaurant industry provided positive economic returns and how revenues have fallen significantly.
Here in Peterborough, as stated on Peterborough.ca, the City has issued 22 permits for new or
expanded patios under the fast-track process for using the flexible-use area that has been created through the Downtown Public Space Plan. We are also seeing restaurants in the county that are creating or
enhancing patio spaces. One example is Chamber member Canoe & Paddle in Lakefield creating a larger patio space behind their restaurant lined with AstroTurf from the former Skydome when the Toronto
Blue Jays won back-to-back World Series.
Locally, along with implementation of patios, restaurants have modified hours, added curbside pickup, relied on delivery, added grocery items and under a provincial directive were allowed to sell alcohol with their takeout meals. While keeping businesses going, it’s nowhere near the amount of business that would be seen in a normal year.
Here is a segment from the letter to government:
“Our restaurants are cornerstones of communities of all sizes across Canada. They’re meeting places for business and pleasure; they’re where we celebrate; they’re where we gather to mourn a loss.
Pre-COVID, the economic impact of our restaurants on Canadians was deeply felt. The industry directly created one out of every 15 jobs (1.2 million Canadians), served 22 million meals per day to Canadians, operated close to 100,000 establishments, paid Canadians $30 billion of wages and benefits, and contributed $31 billion annually to Canada’s GDP.
When the pandemic hit, our restaurants were among the first and the hardest hit. Notwithstanding their own losses, which includes 800,000 jobs lost, the food services industry stepped up to serve their communities, their customers, and continued to bring Canadians together – just in new and innovative ways. But despite their best intentions and best efforts, the food services industry will be among the last to resume normal operations, on a timescale stretching at least into the next 12-18 months.
The urgency of action cannot be overstated. Indeed, if action is not taken now, businesses will close and communities will be among the hardest hit since a loss of business means loss of jobs throughout the entire food services supply chain."
Recovery Activation Program expands to City and County of Peterborough
PETERBOROUGH, July 20, 2020 – COVID-19 has changed everything, requiring telecommuting, on-demand delivery and services, supply chain resiliency and virtual collaborations. Even as the province begins to reopen, the pandemic has heightened the urgency for businesses to digitize to survive.
To address this change, Toronto Region Board of Trade and World Trade Centre Toronto created the Recovery Activation Program, or RAP. RAP offers businesses the know-how, blueprint and partners to address the conditions that COVID-19 has created by implementing digital solutions to their front, middle and back-offices. It will not only equip them to come through COVID-19 intact, but to thrive.
With the support of a $7.7 million investment from the Government of Canada and Government of Ontario, RAP is now expanding to businesses of all sizes throughout the province, including the City and County of Peterborough. The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has been selected as an important partner to help ensure local businesses benefit from the customized services and mentorship that RAP offers.
“This program is a tremendous opportunity for businesses in the Peterborough area to develop a digital strategy,” says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “We all need to be thinking about product and service delivery, marketing, and security through a digital lens. Free to participating businesses, you will come out of this program with a digital blueprint and a competitive advantage.”
By enabling this partnership between the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the Toronto Region Board of Trade, the governments’ investment in RAP will also help make sure at least half of RAP’s participants are based outside of Toronto.
“The Recovery Activation Program is a direct response to what we’re hearing from our members and the business community at large: digital tools and services are crucial to success, but challenging to implement,” said Jan De Silva, President and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade. “The Peterborough Chamber’s involvement in this program will result in the digital transformation of businesses outside of Toronto who will now be in a position to shore up their current business offerings, create new businesses opportunities and explore new markets.”
With recruitment currently open, RAP cohorts are now being sought for September. Interested businesses can apply here.
ABOUT THE PETERBOROUGH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is a member-based organization. Our main focus is to channel the collective strength of the business community to improve the economy. This includes providing representation on numerous committees, conducting surveys, issuing discussion papers and developing policy positions on issues of significance to our members. Learn more at peterboroughchamber.ca
ABOUT THE TORONTO REGION BOARD OF TRADE
The Toronto Region Board of Trade is one of the largest and most influential chambers of commerce in North America and is a catalyst for the region’s economic growth agenda. Backed by more than 13,500 members, we pursue policy change to drive the growth and competitiveness of the Toronto region, and facilitate market opportunities with programs, partnerships and connections to help our members succeed – domestically and internationally. We want Toronto to be recognized as one of the most competitive and sought-after business regions in the world, and believe this reputation starts with our businesses. Learn more at bot.com and follow us at @TorontoRBOT.
Peterborough Chamber of Commerce
705-748-9771 x 215
Toronto Region Board of Trade
The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce recently reached out to its membership on the subject of a mandatory mask policy for Peterborough. The Peterborough Chamber represents over 900 businesses of all sizes and industries in both the city and county. Peterborough Public Health is continuing discussions on the topic and we saw an opportunity to hear directly from the business community on the issue.
The survey was sent out earlier this week and in less than 24 hours over 200 responses came in.
In addition to the yes or no question, we asked, “why or why not” and received over 170 written responses. In reading through the responses various themes emerged as to why such a policy should or should not be considered. Some of the responses also outlined the issue and brought to light further concerns.
For those who were in favour of a policy the themes behind their reasoning included:
For those who were not in favour of such a policy their reasoning included:
There were a number of respondents who indicated that they would rather have a choice because:
There were some responses that offered further commentary on the topic:
Respondents identified themselves as being from varying sectors of our economy. However, there are a few interesting takeaways from the sectoral breakdown.
Our Health Care and Wellness members were evenly divided on whether or not a mandatory mask policy was required.
Our members in the Business and Professional Services category were overwhelmingly in favour of a mandatory mask policy. The same sentiment continued through the Shopping and Specialty Retail and Real Estate and Construction members.
In fact, none of the membership groups were wholly against a mandatory policy.
The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce recently had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable on Women’s Economic Empowerment. The virtual roundtable of about 40 was hosted by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and featured two provincial ministers – MPPs Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Women and Children’s Issues and Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour along with Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance Stan Cho.
As the indispensable partner of business, the OCC was pleased to bring together government & members of the business community to provide recommendations & examples of public-private partnerships to support women’s economic empowerment during COVID-19 & for economic recovery. The roundtable consultation was to gather information to feed up to the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee.
The OCC noted the following – that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women, resulting in what some economists are calling a “she-cession”, as more women have lost their jobs and fewer women than men are re-gaining employment In a recent episode of The Current on CBC, it was noted by the panel of economists that even though more women were unemployed during COVID; more men are receiving CERB. In Ontario 1.6 million men are receiving the benefit compared to 1.5 million women.
A panellist, when asked about the biggest challenges not being talked about, identified childcare as an area that needs immediate attention if there is going to be a “she-covery”, and that a federal plan is needed. Another panellist brought forward the fact that many of the small businesses most severely impacted are
connected to women.
Many of the issues facing women before the pandemic have become more prevalent in a COVID world.
A study by the McKinsey Institute called “Women in Workplace 2019” assesses data collected by the group over the past five years and while it’s revealed there have been improvements in the presence of women in workplace from entry-level to managers to C-suite executives, that movement has been minimal.
The authors identify a concept called the “broken rung” which is that in reality, the biggest obstacle that women face is much earlier in the pipeline, at the first step up to manager. This broken rung results in more women getting stuck at the entry level, and fewer women becoming managers. Not surprisingly, men end up holding 62 percent of manager-level positions, while women hold just 38 percent. This early inequality
has a long-term impact on the talent pipeline. Since men significantly outnumber women at the manager level, there are significantly fewer women to hire or promote to senior managers. The number of women decreases at every subsequent level. So even as hiring and promotion rates improve for women at senior levels, women as a whole can never catch up. There are simply too few women to advance. Fixing this “broken rung” is the key to achieving parity.
The report goes on to offer: Five steps companies can take to fix their broken rung—and ultimately their pipeline:
Set a goal for getting more women into first-level management
About a third of companies set targets for the representation of women at first-level management, compared to 41 percent for senior levels of management. Companies should use targets more aggressively.
Require diverse slates for hiring and promotions
Companies are more likely to require diverse candidate slates for promotions at senior levels than at the manager level. When two or more women are included on a slate, the likelihood that a woman will get the position rises dramatically.
Put evaluators through unconscious bias training
Unconscious bias can play a large role in determining who is hired, promoted, or left behind.
Establish clear evaluation criteria
Companies need to make sure they have the right processes in place to prevent bias from creeping into hiring and reviews. This means establishing clear evaluation criteria before the review process begins. Evaluation tools should also be easy to use and designed to gather objective, measurable input. For
example, a rating scale is generally more effective than an open-ended assessment.
Put more women in line for the step up to manager
The building blocks to make this happen are not new—leadership training, sponsorship, high-profile assignments—but many companies need to provide them with a renewed sense of urgency.
Peterborough-Kawartha MP Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for the Status of Women presented what the government is planning to do to address the needs of women in the workforce to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women (FEWO) this past Wednesday.
The Ontario Chamber Network has been part of the launch of two reports recently, one by RBC
Economics called Small Business, Big Pivot and the other by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) policy team called Small Business, Big Impact. Both reports highlight the fact that small businesses were most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the OCC report it is recognized that “the coronavirus has hit small business harder than the 2008 financial crisis. As a result of public health measures aimed at mitigating the virus, SMEs are facing unprecedented challenges to their survival, including reduced revenue, poor liquidity, disrupted supply chains, inflexible fixed costs, increased need for technology, navigating emergency government supports, and retaining employees.”
The OCC report goes on to show current challenges, including for those businesses in rural, northern
communities and First Nations.
The RBC report identifies five areas to help with recovery:
1. Streamline relief programs. As we shift to a recovery, the government has an opportunity to refresh and streamline its business relief programs. Most immediately, those options could include:
based programs to help employers restart their businesses. These could include:
strategy that could include:
opportunity to invest in sectors that leverage Canadian supply chains and fuel small business growth, including:
In a world that is likely to be more fragmented, Canada will need a more focused approach to trade. We may need:
93% of the membership of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is a small business. These businesses are creating jobs and economic activity right across our region. They are working hard to ensure the safety of their employees and customers. We remind everyone to be patient and helpful to our local businesses as they move through the reopening phase.