As of April 2nd, 2020, Canada’s federal government has held off on invoking the Emergencies Act, which would give Prime Minister Trudeau the temporary ability to do just about whatever he thinks necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19, including putting an effective stop to commerce as we know it. Provinces such as Ontario and Quebec are already on an economic pause, having halted non-essential services causing many businesses to shutter their doors for at least the next few weeks–with the hope they will be able to pick up where they left off. It’s a big hope and gamble, especially for businesses that were already dealing with tight margins.
While I fully understand and appreciate the need to stop the spread of COVID-19 (I’m practising self-distancing and following the accepted health protocols), I find myself asking, At what cost? Beyond the economic impact, people are also having to manage added anxiety and stress–some of the unintended consequences of social distancing–and these will only be heightened if the economy isn’t able to reboot.
I guess what I’m trying to say is perspective is important. Right now, the premiers and the prime minister are making decisions based primarily on slowing the spread of COVID-19. By doing so, we are risking a potential spate of bankruptcies and high unemployment. My concern is that if the effects of the virus go on for longer than we expect or hope, many small business and some larger businesses will never reopen their doors.
While the federal government’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan, which provides direct support to workers and businesses, is important and necessary, I’m not sure it will be enough to get the country through a prolonged shutdown. What I would like to see is the safe return to work of non-essential service providers sooner rather than later with a requirement to follow safety protocols, such as wearing gloves and masks. Even with a return to work, consumers will be slow to go to restaurants and movie theatres, for example, but they still have to have that option. Those businesses need to be opened at some point in the not so distant future. It’s the only way we can move forward and restart the economy and avoid an economic death which could last far longer than the virus.
Let’s hope this current shutdown and all our efforts to self-isolate will curb the spread of COVID-19 so we can all get safely back to work.
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