April 17, 2020 – Canada needs firm principles and timelines for a graduated return to work, according to a new report from a C.D. Howe Institute Crisis Working Group.
At its latest meeting on Tuesday, April 14, the Working Group on Business Continuity and Trade discussed the need for a “playbook” to restart Canada’s economy, the implementation of supports for businesses to “bridge” the present shutdown, and the importance of continued investment in robust telecommunications infrastructure to meet the current surge in demand.
The group of economists and industry experts is co-chaired by Dwight Duncan, Senior Strategic Advisor at McMillan LLP and former Ontario Minister of Finance, and Jeanette Patell, Vice-President of Government Affairs and Policy for GE Canada. The working group recommends that Canada’s governments coordinate on developing and communicating a playbook for the restart of the economy. Such a framework would outline principles, processes, metrics and milestones for a graduated return to work at the industry and workplace level. As elements of a framework, working group members recommended:
- Transparent principles for managing risks of transmissions and impacts on economic activity;
- Federal-provincial collaboration on pan-Canadian principles with continuing responsibility for emergency measures by provincial and municipal governments;
- Collaboration with industry (e.g., through task forces) to develop workplace-level standards and protocols to mitigate transmission risks;
- Thresholds for public health indicators at which certain restrictions can be lifted; and
- Timely tracking for epidemiological indicators and pressures on healthcare system.
For supports to “bridge” the crisis, the working group commended the federal government’s initiative in so quickly establishing various new and urgently needed programs. Nonetheless, members urged:
- Simplification of criteria to address confusion by workers and businesses – in particular, guidance around qualifying conditions for the wage subsidy;
- Tailored industry-specific support measures for hard-hit sectors; and
- Design of support as temporary, rather than permanent measures, and careful weighing of trade-offs for new, targeted supports.
Finally, the working group emphasized the important enabling role of Canada’s resilient telecommunications services during this crisis. The working group acknowledged the challenges facing telecommunications providers to maintain network reliability amid record usage levels. Looking ahead, the roll-out of next generation networks will be essential for helping Canadians to adjust in a “new normal” (e.g., sustained “work from home”) for Canada’s economy post-crisis.
The group noted governments could ensure ongoing network resilience post-crisis by providing incentives to accelerating capital outlays by telecom providers.