2020-06-22 - COVID-19 Response, Recovery, Resiliency

Over the past few months, there have been phrases that have entered the popular lexicon, become very common, and – based on my social media, are now reaching the point of over-saturation – “the new normal” and “unprecedented times” immediately come to mind, but there are others.  

There is one idea, however, that I want us to hang onto for as long as possible – resilience.  

Resiliency is a concept that was already gaining traction in both the business world and as part of efforts to improve mental health. The very basic idea is that life and business and full of ups and downs – there’s no avoiding the troughs, so we should use available tools to build resiliency [during the good times especially] so that we can better deal with the low points. 

To put it mildly, the pandemic has been challenging for both our economy and our mental health and resiliency is a key part of rebuilding both and moving forward. I will focus on the economics in this piece, but that should not be taken as a sign that our mental health is somehow less important.  

From the business perspective, I see the pandemic in three broad and overlapping phases: Response, Recovery, Resiliency.  

By “Response” I mean our collective immediate actions taken to slow down the spread of COVID-19 as well as the specific supports and programs put in place for individuals and organizations. “Recovery” includes some of those supports but hopefully we can move beyond programs and into policy and regulatory changes that can alter New Brunswick’s growth trajectory in a positive manner (new normal, anyone?). “Resiliency” in this context refers to being better prepared to deal with the next major disruptive challenge (individually and collectively). 

In the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic, it is difficult to think beyond confronting the immediate effects of COVID-19.  But even as we continue supporting each other today, we must also begin looking over the horizon to the post-COVID-19 world. We need to start planning how the economies of our communities, province and country can emerge stronger. In order to do so, Canada’s response should rise to the measure of the challenge before it. We need to be as bold and agile in our recovery and resiliency-building as we were during the response to the crisis. 

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Roadmap to Recovery does exactly that. It was developed in partnership with the vast network of over 450 chambers of commerce and boards of trade and more than 100 of Canada’s business associations and lays out nine policy areas and 51 specific measures that our political leaders must consider to ensure a sharp and lasting recovery.  

Communities from coast to coast to coast have been affected by the current crisis, but now is the time to prepare for how we will build resilience moving forward. We are proud to stand with the Canadian Chamber to urge governments to adopt the Roadmap to Recovery which will help not only businesses to prosper, but all Canadians as well. The high level of collaboration among governments, businesses and civil society managing this pandemic will be required in equal measure as we move forward to deal with our shared recovery. 

The Roadmap to Recovery is part of the ongoing relief and recovery effort of the Canadian Business Resilience Network. Supported by the Government of Canada and led by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the network is a coordinated, business-led, inclusive campaign to help businesses emerge from this crisis and drive Canada’s economic recovery. 

While no one can predict with any certainty the economic and political changes this crisis will have on Canada, there is broad agreement these changes will be significant. Roadmap to Recovery proposes a policy reset to kick start the recovery and create a more resilient economy by addressing the following issues: 

  • Getting Canadians back to work  Keeping supply chains and people moving 
  • Managing debt and deficits
  • Navigating global fragmentation 
  • Adopting technology and innovation 
  • Ensuring a resilient resource sector 
  • Planning for small- and medium-sized business continuity 
  • Strengthening our public health infrastructure 
  • Rethinking government’s role and priorities 

The Canadian Chamber first proposes that we first need to evolve our thinking on labour market strategies if we are to get Canadians back to work in a meaningful way. That includes a collective rethink of the government’s role and priorities as we transition away from a subsidy effort towards a growth focus. 

The roadmap’s second area of focus is building a resilient economy. The core elements of this resilience include helping small- and medium-sized businesses prepare for black swan events like pandemics and environmental disasters.  

Canada’s resilience overall also needs to consider new ways to keep supply chains and people moving within Canada, adopting technology and innovation in a strategic way, strengthening our public health infrastructure, a strong and evolving energy sector, and prudentially managing our debts and deficits. 

Finally, the Canadian Chamber plan also recognizes that we need to chart new paths to help us navigate the global economic and diplomatic fragmentation that has arisen with COVID-19. Of course, we are all looking within our borders for opportunities to become more self-sufficient and resilient – but we shouldn’t forget that future growth is also dependent on reinserting ourselves into the international economy. Global politics and economics are of course dynamic and fluid in nature, things change quickly, and this is part of the reason why resiliency, flexibility and adaptability are going to be premium skills for individuals and organizations.  

This is part of the economic balancing act that has become more obvious – it is more important now than ever before to support local businesses and invest in your community – but we aren’t impervious to the effects of national and global economies. We still need to increase exports, we still need to increase the numbers of new immigrants in the province, we still need to be a part of global supply chains, and perhaps most relevant today – we are still vulnerable to events that are beyond our control. And we must be resilient. 

Krista Ross is CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, a nationally accredited organization with more than 1,000 members, is an active business organization engaged in policy development and advocacy that affects the competitiveness of our members and the Canadian business environment. The Chamber’s vision is ‘Stronger Community Through Business Prosperity’