This week, Manitoba began to ease restrictions and gave certain businesses a pathway to get back to work. Some have called the plan aggressive; however, given the numbers and the success that our community has had in planking the curve, the Province of Manitoba felt that this was a prudent next step.
At the end of week one, some businesses are finding their ‘new normal’ and have opened their doors. Others have needed more time to establish the protocols they need in their business to keep their employees and their customers safe.
We’ve heard concerns from business about childcare – is there enough childcare to support workers and enable them to come back to work? The province says it’s now opening up childcare options to everyone who needs it, beyond critical care workers. We know from Statistics Canada, women have been hit hard by the loss of work and childcare will be critical for our full economic recovery.
Others have expressed concerns around finding proper sanitization and personal protective equipment (PPE) for their businesses. We know the province is working with the federal government to buy in bulk. We know it’s working because the Canadian government just signed a contract with Winnipeg clothing company, Mondetta, to source medical gloves and gowns.
The Business Council of Manitoba is part of the recently announced, COVID-19 Supply Council. The council includes health and business associations from across the country that will give the federal government advice on how to further strengthen our supply chains.
As part of the provincial plan, restaurants could open their patios at half capacity. While some restaurants have patios, many others are looking at whether that’s an option for their location. The process to license a patio has previously taken time. This week the city has laid out guidelines on how to set up temporary patios to help business owners get back to work and welcome customers.
The Retail Council of Canada has created a playbook for retailers with checklists and best practices to follow to help ease the transition for companies. At the same time, we recognize the road back will be difficult. The Conference Board of Canada highlights that retail makes up more than $21.7 billion in federal revenues and $1.2 billion in revenues for Manitoba. While we could be months away from understanding the real impact, economists are predicting a double-digit decline in revenues and it could take a year to see retail bounce back to what it was before the pandemic.
Here are some other reasons why it’s so important to support local businesses now, where you can.
Last month, Statistics Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce surveyed 13,000 businesses asking a series of important questions around how the pandemic was affecting them.
Only 11.9 per cent of businesses said they could survive and stay open partially or fully amid social distancing measures that lasted more than three months.
The good news? 62.3 per cent said they could more than likely return to a state of normal operations within one month of social distancing measures being removed with larger firms needing a little longer-between one and three months.
That's why it's important to start the process of getting people back to work – safely and in a controlled way. Our economy relies on small and medium-sized businesses. We need to support them now as restrictions start to lift so we can get them to the other side.
We’re not out of the woods yet. We know that there will continue to be issues and challenges we have to work through together as a community.
Our team is continuing to raise issues that businesses encounter to the appropriate levels of government and to communicate the best back-to-work practices for companies in every sector of our economy. We won’t stop and we hope you won’t either.
Not everyone may be comfortable with heading out onto patios or public spaces just yet and that’s okay, but we all have a role to play, whether it's taking those first steps back to support business in-person or from a distance.
Together this week, we have started down the road to recovery.