Governments should launch an initiative involving business and civil society leaders
by Anthony Ariganello
Millions of Canadians lost their jobs in March and this unprecedented crisis will not end soon. Even after barriers are lifted, the effect on people’s lives, employment and the economic and social impacts of the crisis will linger on. We need to act now to anticipate and respond to the challenges that will emerge in this uncertain future.
To date, and much to their credit, governments at all levels have responded in a timely and effective manner in providing much-needed assistance to individuals and organizations of all sizes.
Still, those who have jobs are facing difficult circumstances. Health-care workers are caring for the sick under very challenging conditions. Office workers are setting up makeshift workstations in their homes while caring for young children, seeing to the continued schooling of older children and often delivering food and supplies to parents and neighbours. City workers and police officers are making sure our streets continue to be safe.
I have been particularly impressed by the resilience of small businesses. For example, the food service sector has pivoted by using innovative ways to ensure food and meals are available. I think of the many restaurateurs who, within a few days, have established online order platforms and with their teams make sure food is on our tables. The significant support from the business community to food banks has given me hope for the future.
Nevertheless, the road ahead will be bumpy. As Canadians already possess one of the highest debt-to-equity ratios in the world, debt levels may well continue to rise without any equity or income build. This will put additional stress on individuals.
A steep reduction in government revenues at all levels, with less income coming in from projected taxes, and higher outflows related to stimulus programs will further challenge the economy.
Yes, challenging times are ahead. But now is the time to begin to set the stage for recovery. If anything, this crisis has shown us that we are in this together and it is together that we will find new ways of doing things. Our political, business and civil society leaders must join in this conversation aspiring to full health, social and economic recovery.
As human resource leaders, we will do our part. We will join the conversation and work with employers, workers and others to ensure the workplace of the future is healthy, safe and productive. The health of workplaces and the efficiency of labour markets in Canada are critical not just for the success of our economy, but for the quality of life of all Canadians.
To get there, we are calling on provincial and federal governments to launch an initiative involving business and civil society leaders. The focus of the initiative would be to assess the impact of COVID-19 disruption on businesses and individuals and plan for recovery so that the economy and our population are not paralyzed for longer than they need to be.
Anthony Ariganello is president and CEO of CPHR Canada in Vancouver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (604) 684-7228.