Looking forward: Building a post-pandemic economy

Looking forward: Building a post-pandemic economy

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Greg Warburton
Policy Analyst, Intern

The past fifteen months have been unthinkable. Each of us, our businesses and our communities have faced significant challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which felt insurmountable at times.

Yet, there are reasons to be optimistic. Case counts across the country continue to decline, and second doses in arms continue to ramp up. Here in Nova Scotia, our small businesses have reopened, people are back at restaurants, and friends and families are once again getting together. Things are looking just a little more normal.

This raises an important question: Do we want to go back to normal? There’s growing consensus among our leaders that portions of what was once normal may no longer be desirable.

The pandemic has brought to light deep inequities and weaknesses. They exist within our economies and communities, requiring action at every level of government and in the private sector alike to overcome. These realities have not gone unnoticed by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

As the Chamber’s policy intern, I have had the opportunity to begin work on a COVID-19 recovery document, titled “Looking Forward: Building a Post-Pandemic Economy.” Its purpose is not to paint a road map back to our pre-pandemic lives, but to acknowledge the challenges and opportunities before us and what can be done to make Halifax a better city where businesses can thrive and for everyone to call home. It’s meant to be a tool the Chamber can turn to for policy ideas and suggestions.

Three pillars guide the recovery document:
Investing in communities, broadly

This pillar focuses on issues that have not been traditionally seen as relevant to small businesses but are becoming increasingly clear as limiting their potential for success.

A standout under this pillar is affordable housing. Haligonians continue to spend more each month to put a roof over their head, which means less money to spend in their communities. Beyond that, investing in affordable housing means direct and indirect support for job creation, along with an overall boost to G D P.

Investing in businesses, specifically

This pillar focuses on policy decisions that can work to support the business community. One policy option explored here included the benefits associated with localizing procurement. This procurement strategy has been adopted by businesses and governments alike in other jurisdictions, and it has shown success in supporting regional economic development. Benefits associated with adopting localized procurement policies include keeping a greater share of generated revenues in the community, along with nearly all jobs created employing locals.

Investing in people, personally

In many ways, marginalized individuals have endured the brunt of the hardship experienced during the pandemic.

Although not the only group, those living with disabilities have faced significant challenges. A focus of this pillar was researching best practises for enhancing accessibility that have proven successful in other jurisdictions.

I also researched methods by which the business community can improve accessibility. This can be accomplished not only by showing the existing limitations ––preventing those living with disabilities from working in or shopping in a store –– but by connecting business owners with resources to ensure their business is accessible to everyone.

The topics outlined above are meant to offer a glimpse into the work being done behind the scenes by the Chamber’s policy team. They’re by no means an exhaustive list. We’re always happy to work with the business community on important policy topics such as these ones.

As we look towards putting the pandemic behind us, let’s not forget about the lessons it has taught us. Instead of going back to normal, let’s keep pushing forward.

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