Advocacy is an important part of how the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce supports local businesses. We have an opportunity to submit two resolutions to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to go before its membership in the fall for a vote on whether to include these items as part of the Canadian Chamber’s national advocacy efforts.
Our two resolutions are:
The CEBA program has been a vital lifeline for businesses with nearly 900,000
approved for loans. The generous terms of this loan have been exactly what many businesses needed.
Circumstances have changed since this program launched in early April of 2020. The government has shown
flexibility in expanding
eligibility criteria and
increasing access to funds, but the repayment terms have not been updated to reflect the length of time businesses have been
expected to reduce their
access to the public.
Unfortunately, the economic impact of COVID-19 has hit some businesses harder than others. Many businesses in sectors including food service, hospitality, tourism, arts and entertainment, retail, and personal service have spent a significant portion of the last year and a half heavily
restricted — if not
completely closed — to the public. It’s not uncommon for businesses to carry a debt in good times, but one can only imagine the level of debt some business owners have incurred just to survive. They carry debt to their lending institutions, landlords,
suppliers and in some cases, have leveraged personal assets and borrowed from friends and family.
Under the current terms, the loan is interest free until December 31, 2022, at which point it increases to 5%. Those who pay back 67% of the balance of their loan by that date will have the remainder of their loan
forgiven. Full repayment is due by December 31, 2025.
The result is the most
vulnerable businesses will also get the least benefit from this program, resulting in significant interest incurred and the requirement to pay back 100% of the
principal — dragging out their recovery even longer. Additionally, the
government will be forced into the unpopular position of collecting on their debts from the most vulnerable
businesses who often employ our most vulnerable people.
We’re asking the
Government of Canada to allow businesses to re-apply for the CEBA loan annually with a schedule that shows that businesses who have struggled to recover will not incur interest and will get a larger portion of their debt forgiven. For those who have not yet recovered by the end of 2025, we’re asking that the entire loan be forgiven.
High Frequency Rail Strategy
VIA Rail, a Crown
operates the only national passenger rail service,
controlling most passenger service outside of urban
commuter networks. In most areas of the country,
passenger service operates on the same network as freight. Passenger service typically must yield to much slower freight service. These network conflicts happen regularly and result in slow and inconsistent service.
High Frequency Rail networks eliminate this conflict by
providing a dedicated
network for passengers.
VIA is currently working to improve service along the busy Windsor — Quebec City corridor. This includes a proposed High Frequency Rail network with dedicated tracks between Toronto –
Ottawa – Montréal – Québec City. This proposal will assure the corporation can maximize ridership and revenue and improve their on-time
performance to over 95%.
The hybrid electric-diesel trains running on this route will dramatically reduce
carbon emissions by 12.5
million tons of CO2e, the equivalent of a car-pool reduction of 2.8 million vehicles.
Dedicated tracks solve VIA’s congestion problems, increase its efficiency and profitability, create economic development while
remaining environmentally friendly, and will give
commuters better access to communities not
traditionally served by transit. It is important to note that track improvements for passenger service will offer significant benefits to current and future freight users.
This will increase economic development, improve
environmental sustainability, and allow for movement of people and goods in unprecedented ways — all of which enhance the lives of Canadians. The busy Windsor – Quebec City rail corridor currently services an area where 19 million Canadians reside.
The VIA HFR project has been under consideration by the federal government since 2016. The 2021 federal budget included nearly $500 million in funding toward due diligence, de-risk and
infrastructure projects that support the proposal. The project is in the mandate
letter for the Minister of Transport. But the federal government has yet to
provide a funding
commitment to build the line nor has a timeline for construction been set.
We’re asking the Government of Canada to prioritize high frequency rail service as a key part of meeting our climate change target as well as
commit funding and set a timeline for the
implementation of the VIA High Frequency Rail Project between Toronto and Quebec City.
Roadmap to Reopen
The Government of Ontario recently announced its Roadmap to Reopen, a new framework for re-opening our economy and relaxing social restrictions. While it is encouraging to see increased transparency in our government’s plans, the plan itself falls short of our recommendations in the
Responsible Business Protocol resolution recently adopted by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
We are asking the Ontario Government to:
1) Establish a Safe Operating Framework with a uniform and equitable set of safety standards, in line with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, for all businesses regardless of products/services or establishment size — not based on a perception of essentiality — enabling businesses to continue serving the public during a health crisis, including the current
2) Establish a Community Contact Reduction
Framework that applies the same capacity limits for all public-facing businesses, based on regional virus spread, identifying a clear framework for reducing individual contacts.
We will continue working with the Ontario
Government to create a
re-opening plan that is fair and equitable for all
Tax Reform Input
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has been asked to provide the Canada Revenue Agency with ideas for tax reform. We’re looking for your input on specific suggestions for tax forms to be digitized, consolidated or eliminated through our Tax Form Buster.
Everyone has an opinion on taxes. We would love to hear yours! Visit thinkgrowth.ca/ to get-involved.
June is Seniors Showcase month, the largest
seniors-focused event in the region. This year’s event is entirely online and
features a whole series of free workshops, a panel discussion, and a variety of local exhibitors.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Age Friendly Peterborough, is presenting the 2021 Seniors Showcase virtually, running for the entire month of June on peterboroughchamber.ca and the Chamber’s social media channels.
Check it out at
Chambers of Commerce across Canada are joining the campaign “Faster, Together.” This national vaccine
confidence campaign is about bringing us back together, faster. The sooner all of us who are eligible and able get immunized, the sooner we can gather together with friends and family and the sooner our businesses can reopen and get back to providing us with our favourite products and services.
The Faster, Together.
initiative is made up of more than 100 organizations, including business
associations, labour unions, entertainment groups, influential individuals, and national brands. The initiative is co-chaired by Bruce Anderson (Abacus Data, spark* Advocacy) and Hassan Yusseff (Canadian Labour Congress) and has been built on a volunteer basis with the goal of fast-tracking Canada’s
recovery from COVID-19. Visit fastertogether.ca for more information.
Capital Is Key
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has released a new policy brief titled Capital Is Key: Financing Entrepreneurship in Ontario after COVID-19. As per the OCC:
“Ontario’s small business owners are armed with grit and creativity, which proved instrumental as they
adapted to public health restrictions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, managing cash flows and debt became a challenge as the crisis forced many businesses to suspend, adapt, or
restructure their operations. Meanwhile, as the pandemic accelerated digital
transformations, many of Ontario’s
innovation-oriented firms flourished.
entrepreneurship will be fundamental to Ontario’s economic recovery and it will require access to the right forms of capital. Recognizing that newer and smaller businesses are inherently riskier to finance, Ontario must develop policies to bridge gaps for entrepreneurs who will be in greatest need of support as they rebuild and grow in a post-pandemic world. This means enhancing access to capital for firms that were less well-financed before the crisis, as well as high-growth firms with the potential to drive long-term competitiveness.”
Our workforce is undergoing significant changes, including a large shift in the skills our businesses are looking for.
Peterborough’s Workforce Development Board has been diligently monitoring these changes and engaging businesses to help them meet their needs. Recently, they partnered with workforce planning boards across
Eastern Ontario to conduct this year’s EmployerOne Survey. Highlights from the survey include:
Direct Impact of the Pandemic
This pandemic has had a substantial negative impact on 40% of businesses surveyed, with only 6% of businesses reporting a significant positive impact. We can also see that businesses took advantage of assistance offered to them, including 39% using the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. It has shifted how people work, with 52% of local businesses having at least one employee working remotely.
Turnover & Recruitment
Turnover is a concern for many employers. The main reason for employees leaving is quitting, with sales and service occupations struggling the most.
Compounding issues with high turnover are struggles with recruitment, including a general lack of applicants. Recruitment woes point to a few things, including a tight labour market where the most qualified workers are already employed. Other factors include not enough promotion for vacancies and concerns that the workplace may not have sufficient employee protection protocols for working during the pandemic.
While online job boards, social media, and company websites are used extensively, word of mouth is the most popular form of recruitment.
Specific positions and sectors are facing the most
challenges in recruitment. Currently, the most difficult positions to fill are:
• Home support workers, housekeepers and related occupations
• Construction trades
• Sales and account
representatives for wholesale trade
Why are some positions so difficult to fill? Of the local businesses surveyed, 70% cited lack of applicants and 53% pointed to lack of work experience from the
applicants they did get.
What are employers looking for?
When it comes to new hires, employers are looking for computer skills (including working remotely) topped by soft skills like the ability to work independently, time management, problem
solving, teamwork and
And businesses are looking to hire, with 54% anticipating they will hire in 2021. The main reasons for hiring are:
• Increase in sales
• Change in work processes
• Reorganization of
• Change in products or services
• Acquisition of new
• Adoption of new
While ridding the world of COVID-19 and moving out of our current social and
business restrictions will go a long way toward building a thriving business community, that’s not happening right away nor will it happen
quickly. It’s clear that
re-skilling and re-training are key to moving ahead. Various organizations, educational institutions, governments, and businesses are all working on new programs to train our workforce for the future. But it also hinges on our willingness to adapt. The jobs lost due to the pandemic aren’t the same ones that are popping up on job boards.
The success of our economic recovery hinges on
investments in our workforce to adapt to the changing needs of local employers.
The last year has given new perspectives and new voices for business issues. Business issues that were once more easily pushed aside, dismissed, or ignored have been placed front and centre.
Traditionally, when we talk about business issues it’s discussed as a solitary entity, independent of life outside the business world. Then COVID-19 came along and turned everything upside down. As Joni Mitchell said, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” We’ve gone through a reckoning and have seen just how intertwined business is with everything else. I think many of us have known for a long time the importance of social issues for our economy and various movements have pushed that cause over the years.
Our recovery from this pandemic gives us an opportunity to take a huge step forward. When we talk about the “new normal,” let’s talk about what we want the future to look like.
Gender inequality is a business issue. COVID-19 has had a disproportionate economic impact on women. Women are more likely to beemployed in sectors facing shutdowns and layoffs, female entrepreneurs tend to be newer or smaller with less financial backing, and women have taken on the largest role in childcare and home-based education. This inequality is not a new challenge for the workforce, but the pandemic has illuminated shortcomings. Our governments are working to find ways to implement what has been dubbed the “she-covery.” Failing to address this issue will impact our nation’s economic recovery and drag it out longer. This is not just a moral obligation — it’s critical for our economy.
Childcare is a business issue. Quality childcare is nearly impossible to maintain while also working a full day of work, especially for jobs that can’t be done from home. When the childcare centres closed, thousands of adults removed themselves from the workforce.
Childcare has been an ongoing issued made much more challenging by the pandemic. Childcare spaces have been in short supply for years and the cost is a
significant challenge for families. The federal government is taking steps to address these issues through the 2021 budget, pushing more subsidies, increasing spaces, and investing in quality care. Giving parents the option of quality, affordable childcare is essential to engaging the full potential of our workforce.
Our schools are a business issue. Anyone attempting to help our children with online learning can attest to this. Much like childcare, many parents have had to make the choice to either remove themselves from the
workforce or burn the candle at both ends and get their work done after the kids are done school (or gone to bed).
Investing in our schools both helps our economy by training a better future
workforce and makes it so those who don’t want to be homeschool teachers can focus on our work. This is a resource a generation of parents will never take for granted again.
The line between the
workplace and home has become a bit blurred. While work has moved more into our homes, our lives have also become more entwined with our work. We’ve seen more prioritizing of physical health, mental health, and schedule flexibility. These are all part of the future business community.
As your Chamber of
Commerce, it’s our duty to advocate for a thriving
business community. We know addressing social
issues goes hand-in-hand with advocating for
traditional business issues.
This recovery is our chance to work together and make some positive change.
It’s no secret that businesses thrive on a certain level of consistency and stability.
Knowing what to expect allows business owners and managers to plan and invest for the future. That same logic applies to plans for next weekend as well as five years down the road. It impacts how many staff to bring in and how much product to order as well as investments in expansion, renewal, and succession.
Unpredictability has become one of the few constants for many businesses. Being able to accurately predict economic and social trends has always been a key part of running a business, but not to this level.
Pressure is mounting on our federal and provincial governments to release their plans for moving into
recovery from this pandemic.
The current stay-at-home order expires May 20. While there is an expectation that some form of lockdown will continue, especially in certain regions, there are insights that could be shared that would help businesses figure out staffing, product/supplies, and promotions for the
coming weeks and months.
Federally, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is adding some pressure by calling on the government to release a roadmap for the restart of domestic and international travel. At this point, air travel isn’t expected to fully recover until 2024. This impacts tourism, international business, and cargo capacity.
As per the Canadian Chamber of Commerce: “Canada cannot afford to wait until after the pademic is over to develop the travel restart plan given, the lead-time required for implementation. In executing a roadmap,
government needs to present a plan that is underpinned by three traits: clarity in its intent and objectives rather than based around outlier
issues; trustworthiness that is it based on solid evidence that it will protect the health of Canadians; and
predictability that the plan is durable and will only be changed under well
telegraphed circumstances.” (see full letter at chamber.ca)
I would emphasize that we can’t afford to wait until the pandemic is over to
develop recovery plans for any economic or business sector. Knowing the “how” without a firm date on the “when” will still add a significant level of certainty for some sectors. Not only how are we going to roll back restrictions, but what is the path forward. The future of business is going to be different from where we left off in 2019 — rolling back restrictions doesn’t roll back the clock.
We know our governments can’t predict every zig and zag of this health crisis. Many of the public health and economic experts the
governments have been relying on have made their assessments and best-guesses public. We know they’re hard at work on getting us through this and into better times. That has been the focus of the recent federal and provincial budgets.
Sharing their plans for recovery will give businesses assurance that there is indeed a plan ready to go, provide expectations of how things will roll out, and hopefully give a bit of stability and certainty to our business community.
Ontario is planning to go digital in a big way with the government recently
announcing its Building a Digital Ontario strategy to move our province ahead online. This strategy has involved two years of consultations with organizations, businesses, municipalities, experts and community members.
We’ve heard a lot about going digital for the last while, with a lot of it focused on shopping and ordering takeout online. But there’s so much digital can do to make it easier and more
cost-effective to access services, get help, and interact with our institutions.
The push to take government services and departments digital may be getting a little extra motivation from the current pandemic, but it has been a pressing need for years.
Our provincial government’s plans to go digital include:
Taking healthcare digital includes expanding virtual care options like video visits and secure messaging to find ways to best meet the needs of patients. It includes online appointment bookings and easier access to your own health information. For healthcare professionals, it means more tools and better data.
The Province plans to roll out a new digital ID this year. This will be optional electronic identification for both
individuals and business to prove who you are for
accessing services. People can use it to check in for virtual medical appointments, get a birth or marriage certificate, apply for government
assistance, or update
Businesses can use it as part of the hiring process, apply for grants or loans, open
business accounts, or verify the identity of customers or other businesses.
Being able to access more government services online means more immediate
results and the ability to
access services outside
traditional hours. The Province is also investing in making our businesses more competitive in a digital world through programs like Digital Main Street — offering grants, supports and
one-on-one assistance from experts.
Broadband and mobile
Access to digital services is only as good as the
connection. Both the federal and provincial governments are aggressively rolling out programs to improve access to high-speed broad band internet and mobile data. It’s estimated that as much as 12% of the province is unserved or underserved for internet access. This is key for any plan to improve digital access to healthcare, education, business and the workplace.
The Building a Digital Ontario strategy calls for more supports to help people learn the skills and tools to improve our overall digital literacy. Just as high-speed internet is key to making services accessible, people also need to know how to use it effectively and safely. Driving strong digital literacy will also improve people’s overall online experience, including access to their local businesses, while tackling cyber security issues like fraud and misinformation as part of increasing consumer confidence.
The Ontario government’s digital plan is a welcomed step forward. There is still room to improve and
progress with many
government offices, services, and institutions still
struggling to adapt to a less physical workspace and
access to the public.
Greater online access needs to go hand-in-hand with
increased security. The Province is promising the security will be there.
Hopefully, consumer confidence and digital literacy will help move it all forward.
Moving to a digital public sector is a big win. It will increase access for people. It will save businesses time and money. Ultimately, it will lead to a better, more efficient and more competitive Ontario.
The skills needed for the modern workforce have changed and now is the time to adapt.
The mismatch of the skills people have and what employers need is nothing new. It has been a growing issue for a while. Chambers of commerce across the province have been
advocating for this to be
addressed for years.
We’re now at the point where we can’t put this off much longer. COVID-19 has changed the workplace at a rapid pace. Millions of workers have suffered job loss and unemployment
numbers continue to
fluctuate. Yet according to a study by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, one fifth of Canadian businesses expect to face labour shortage issues in the next three months. This rises to nearly a third for businesses with more than 20 employees. Nine percent of businesses across Canada stated that over the next year they plan to hire staff with skills or knowledge that their current employees lack.
The impact of COVID-19 on the labour market is still evolving, but both the federal and provincial governments have rolled out programs aimed at helping people re-skill.
The Government of Canada is planning to invest $30 billion in workforce support over the next five years. They’re
investing in labour force research, development of training programs,
recruitment and retention programs for businesses.
Look for new
government-subsidized skills development and training programs to roll out in the near future. The government is also looking for businesses and organizations that have high potential for growth to invest in for further training
and work placement programs.
The federal government plans to roll out a new Canada Recovery Hiring Program for eligible employers. The program will offset a portion of extra costs for employers
as they increase wages, hours, or hire more staff as part of their reopening.
The Province is working closely with post-secondary institutions, employers, and industry to develop rapid training programs to help people retrain and upgrade their skills.
Micro-credentials are rapid training programs offered by colleges, universities and
Indigenous Institutes across the province that can help people get the skills that employers need. They help people retrain and upgrade their skills to find new
• take less time to complete than degrees or diplomas
• may be completed online and may include on-the-job training
• many are created with
input from business sectors, so the skills being taught match employer needs
The Ontario Government is looking to invest in
post-secondary institutions that propose ways to use
training and education to drive economic recovery, increase job growth, and enhance community
partnerships. This builds on the province’s existing
This is the time to invest in training and skills
development. For anyone who has been thinking about upgrading their skills or learning new ones, this is the time to do it. There are a host of new programs rolling out offering new skills and certifications. There are also new programs to subsidize both some of the costs of getting trained as well as the costs of hiring.
If you are an employer
struggling to find people with certain skills, now is the time to reach out to our local
post-secondary institutions and work together to help create the programs your workforce needs.
The programs that are rolling out are too good to pass up. There are new opportunities to invest in ourselves and our employees that will help us all grow and thrive.
The federal budget, the first in two years, is out and the Government of Canada is offering continued support and investments for businesses through this public health crisis while offering new funding for programs and projects for our recovery.
VIA High Frequency Rail Project
The federal government established a Joint Project Office to explore VIA Rail Canada’s high frequency rail project in 2019. The project has the potential to transform passenger rail service in the Toronto-Quebec City corridor, offering faster, more reliable service, and helping to encourage the shift to rail from more polluting modes of transportation. The proposal includes service to
The 2021 Budget includes $4.4 million in 2021/2022 to Transport Canada and VIA Rail to support their work with the Joint Project Office in order to advance due diligence and to de-risk the project. The budget also provides $491.2 million over six years to VIA Rail for infrastructure investments that would support the overall success of the high frequency rail project. These investments will help reduce bottlenecks, improve fluidity and connectivity, and allow VIA to take an important step towards high frequency rail in the corridor. The budget stops short of committing funding to build the rail line itself, a commitment made in the mandate letter for the Minister of Transport.
The emergency rent and wage subsidies are
extended until Sept. 25, but will decrease starting July 4. The phase out is expected to coincide with increased
vaccinations and the economy reopening.
The government is also investing $5 million over two years to have Statistics Canada work with partners to enhance the available data and ensure the support measures are responsive to the needs of businesses and entrepreneurs.
The budget includes financial support for businesses to transition to digital, including capital expenses, access to financing, broadband internet access, and cyber security.
There is also renewed
emphasis on reducing interprovincial trade barriers.
The Government of Canada is pushing for a green recovery, including credits for
businesses that reduce their emissions, a 50% tax reduction for companies that manufacture zero emission technologies, and investments in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Workforce challenges have been identified as an area needing more support as businesses continue to adapt to the needs of a changing economy and consumer base. The budget includes the creation of the Canada
Recovery Hiring Program to help the hardest hit businesses hire staff when they are ready for recovery as well as programs aimed at reskilling and upskilling to get Canadians back to work. The government plans to produce better data on labour market demand in individual communities and build talent pipelines based on employer needs.
The budget calls for
substantial investments in Employment and Social
Development Canada for training, skills development, and assistance to help
businesses recruit and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Budget 2021 proposes new investments totaling up to $30 billion over the next five years, and $8.3 billion ongoing, for Early Learning and Child Care and Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care. This includes a 50% reduction in the average fees for early learning and childcare with the goal of averaging $10 a day by 2025/26 for regulated child care spaces. The budget also calls for 40,000 new spaces and expanded before and after school care.
Tourism & Culture
Tourism, festivals, and cultural sectors are getting a $1 billion boost, including:
• $200 million through the regional development agencies to support major festivals.
• $200 million through Canadian Heritage to support local festivals, community cultural events, outdoor theatre performances, heritage celebrations, local museums, amateur sport events, and others.
• $100 million to
Destination Canada for
• $500 million Tourism Relief Fund, administered by the
• The budget proposes to invest an additional $430
million in additional supports for the heritage, performing arts, sports, musicians and music venues, and cultural spaces.
All of this support and relief comes at a cost. The 2019 federal budget projected a $19 billion deficit. This budget shows a deficit of $354 billion last year and a projected deficit of $154.7 billion this year, increasing our current national debt to $1.41 trillion dollars by 2025-26.
Now is indeed the time to invest in our businesses, our society, and our recovery, but we need to keep in mind that it will be through economic growth that we begin to pay back this borrowed money. Our businesses need the support and resources to hire, expand, and drive our economy forward.
The Business Summit is back and this year it’s going virtual! This free event is a chance for businesses to network, build skills, and learn about the latest business trends and best practices.
The summit is being hosted by the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development & includes a series of workshops,
webinars, networking events and guest speakers during the week of April 19 – 23.
Our keynote speaker, Craig Ryan, kicks off the summit on Monday, April 19, at 10 AM. Craig is the Director of Sustainability and Environmental and Social Governance at the Business Development Bank of Canada. His presentation is on The Path Forward: What Lies Ahead for Canadian Business Owners? One year after the onset of the pandemic in Canada, we are looking beyond the near term to identify what Canadian small and medium-sized businesses need to do to survive and succeed in a post-COVID-19 world.
On Wednesday, April 21st, at 4 pm the Business Summit will host a Funders' Forum moderated by Heather Hallahan, senior account manager with the Business Development Bank of Canada. The forum will host panelists Gail Moorhouse of Community Futures Peterborough, Ann-Marie Kelleher-Byers of the Federal Economic
Development Agency for Southern Ontario, Trevor Crowe of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and Kim Freeburn of The CFO Centre Canada. The panel will discuss financial resources, opportunities, and best practices.
The week features some helpful workshops, including:
• Photography — Local photographer Heather Doughty will walk you through some key strategies for taking photos of your products/services to make them stand out. As things go more and more online, having high quality visuals plays a big role for sales and branding.
• Email Marketing — Connecting with your customers is challenging, especially when they aren’t able to shop like they used to. Email marketing is an important point of contact to drive sales and engage your patrons. We’re hosting Diane Barr from Constant Contact to provide her expertise on email marketing and answer your questions.
• Inventory Management — One of the biggest barriers for online retail is inventory management. Darryl Julott, Managing Lead at Digital Main Street, will walk you through online sales and inventory processes that are working for businesses across Ontario.
• Customer Experience — Join author and founder of Zero In, Dennis Geelen, in this high-energy, interactive workshop focusing on giving your customers the
experience that will keep them coming back and telling their friends about you.
The week will also feature a series of webinars on topics including wellness in the workplace, soft skills, cyber security, and communication technology.
The 2021 Business Summit features daily networking tournaments to help you make new connections and engage the local business community.
Find out more about what’s happening and get your free tickets at
The business community is in a time of rapid change. We’re now getting a better picture of just what has changed.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), and Palette Inc. partnered with the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) to analyse business trends throughout the course of the pandemic using Statistics Canada’s Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, which includes feedback from 15,400 businesses.
The finance and insurance industry is leading the way in online sales with 20% of businesses in this industry reporting that 60% or more of their sales are online. As a whole, 9% of Canadian business report making 60% or more of their sales online in 2020, up from 6% in 2019. On the other end of the
online sales spectrum, the number of businesses in
Canada making less than 1% of their sales online
decreased from 83% to 78%.
Only 7% of retailers report making 60% or more of their sales online, up from 5% in 2019. Despite this, online sales as a whole increased from 3.5% to 5.9% of total retail sales in 2020. Just the month of December, a key time for
retail, saw an increase of 69.3% in online sales.
There is a lot to unpack from all of this. The shift to online takes more than a willingness to adapt. While businesses with 1 – 4 employees make up a significant number of online retailers, the study finds a direct correlation between those currently adapting and the size of the business. Bigger businesses have more ability to plan and adapt than a smaller
operation where owners and staff have a much wider range of roles and
expectations. Businesses that have been more able to adapt to remote work, like finance and insurance, have adapted faster to
selling online. Other
industries, like arts and entertainment, have been leaders in online sales, but have struggled through the pandemic due to restrictions on their ability to provide their product.
It’s no surprise that
businesses that have been able to shift to working at home are better positioned to weather the pandemic and the resulting health
employment fell by 213,000 in January 2021 while the number of people working from home increased by nearly 700,000. Most of the job losses were focused on sectors with less ability to work remotely.
Again, larger businesses had an easier time adapting to the shift to remote work as they tend to have more resources to create flexible work
arrangements. More than 70% of firms in professional, scientific, and technical
services, finance and
insurance, and information and cultural industries
reported that remote work was a possibility.
This has implications on physical business locations as 8% of businesses report that it’s likely they will reduce their physical space after the pandemic. Businesses also report an increase in plans to hire employees outside their region.
The impact of COVID-19 on the labour market is still evolving. Millions of workers have suffered job loss and unemployment numbers
continue to fluctuate. Yet one fifth of Canadian businesses expect to face labour shortage
issues in the next three months. This rises to nearly a third for businesses with more than 20 employees.
In the first quarter of 2021, 9% of businesses across Canada stated that over the next year they plan to hire staff with skills or knowledge that their current employees lack. A larger proportion of businesses have plans to train existing employees for new skills compared to those planning to hire new employees with different skill sets, suggesting a stronger inclination towards upskilling the existing workforce rather than looking elsewhere for new talent.
Again, larger businesses are more likely to see an increase in the number of employees over the next 3 months.
Where is this taking us?
The shift is here to stay. 17% of businesses report it is likely they will continue to provide remote work options.
Businesses working on plans to shift more sales online aren’t planning to slow that momentum when this pandemic is over. The skills businesses are looking for are skills they need to continue this shift.
It’s also evident that smaller businesses have to work harder than their larger counterparts to keep up, especially in our hardest hit sectors. As we move forward, we need to make sure the supports are there for small and medium-sized enterprises to thrive and succeed in this shift. We’ll eventually get through this pandemic, but online sales, remote work, and changing demands for skills aren’t going away.