Editorial: Back businesses in the Elk Valley by following COVID guidelines

We’re very fortunate to be here in the Elk Valley, not just to live here but to be far away from a lot of the world’s problems.

The big problem of the year isn’t one that we avoided though: it might not be visible in our hospitals, but it’s visible in our economy.

Even though we’ve (mostly) dodged the public health risks (for now), sacrifices have been made. On a global scale, the financial markets and jobless numbers should tell you that. To put it lightly, the economy has been screwed up. Now, and well into the future.

The two biggest industries that power the Elk Valley are hurting. Tourism and hospitality businesses that depend on travellers are shut or operating at lower capacity, while the single biggest employer in the valley posted eye-wateringly poor numbers in its financial performance and outlook reports for the first half of the year.

Jobs remain at risk everywhere.

Demand for the great outdoors and everything the Elk Valley has to offer may well come roaring back thanks to domestic tourism and Canadians wanting an escape to all the amazing places this country has to offer, but optimism in demand is missing a big point: supply.

Supply in Canada is often met by international workers, and they are cut off by closed borders.

The Elk Valley has long had issues with workforce, with having enough warm bodies to staff businesses and keep operations humming along nicely, meeting demand. The pandemic has made a bad problem worse.

Without workers, businesses cannot keep up. Demand will go wanting, dollars will go elsewhere. Not just now but towards the end of the summer season, into fall, into winter, into next year. Without workers, without supply, industries will suffer, and jobs will disappear.

Perish the thought of what happens if lock-down measures are introduced just as we head into the winter season, and don’t even get me started on what happens if the resource industry doesn’t bounce back in a timely fashion.

As we have seen in the first wave, and as we see today as the second wave gets going in British Columbia, the Elk Valley isn’t immune to the impact of this global story. COVID-positive travellers pass through here. Sometimes we’ll know, often, we will not.

It was not through sheer luck that Elk Valley communities minimized the human cost of the pandemic, but through proactive efforts to reduce risk and keep the public health effects at bay.

The economic costs of the pandemic, however, are accruing, and could be devastating if we don’t stay proactive. The economic impact may well be artificial, in that it resulted from government responses, but it’s the businesses – and those that depend on them in our community – that suffer.

We need to reduce the risk associated with those responses and give the Government of Canada reason to open those borders again, reason to relax restrictions on the services and hospitality industries and reason to allow people to go back to work.

On a local level, that means physical distancing, avoiding large groups, not shaking hands and wearing a mask indoors.

Because if you go about your life as if nothing is different to any old year in the Elk Valley, you’re not sticking it to the man, you’re sticking it to your community.

You’re raising the risk that the Elk Valley will see more cases, that the pandemic will drag on, that businesses in the valley will shut.

It was reducing risk that helped the Elk Valley dodge the first wave, and it was done without the widespread wearing of masks, but with the shuttering of our small business doors.

Now that there are second waves in British Columbia and all over the world, reducing risk is what we have to do again.

There are so many cautionary tales to pick from around the world; tales of countries, cities and communities that thought they beat it, that thought they were safe.

Don’t let the Elk Valley be one.

So reduce the risk, and wear a mask.



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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