Dear Prime Minister and Premiers,
A month ago, the Business Council of Canada issued a call for leaders across the country to join us in a shared battle against COVID-19. We knew that doing so would have a significant impact on our businesses and our employees. But we also understood that aggressive and sustained action to contain the virus was critical to addressing the health challenge and hastening the recovery.
In the weeks since, millions of men and women have lost their jobs and more than 1,000 Canadians have died as a result of COVID-19. Thankfully, the first wave of the pandemic appears likely to crest later this month, after which the number of new daily cases should decline.
The challenge now is to decide how and when to ease strict physical distancing requirements and permit Canadians to resume normal activities to the extent that it is responsible and safe to do so.
In confronting this, it is essential that governments, business and labour work together in the national interest to responsibly restart the economy, guided by the best available scientific evidence and based on the following core principles:
Health and safety must be paramount. Governments should not feel pressured to move faster than public health considerations permit. A slow, steady and carefully calibrated approach to restarting the economy is the best possible way to maintain public confidence and avoid future lockdowns. Decisions should be based on sound medical analysis, accompanied by widespread, systematic testing and contact tracing of positive cases.
A consistent national approach. We recognize that the timeline for a resumption of business activities may vary by region and by industry. As the Prime Minister said today, one size may not fit all – but coordination and consistency are essential. We urge you to agree on a common set of risk-informed protocols and guidelines for workplaces and public settings such as schools, universities, parks, and public transit.
Protection for employees. Face masks, face shields, gloves and other forms of personal protective equipment will be necessary to ensure the health and safety of employees in some workplaces. Governments must ensure that employers have access to sufficient quantities of such equipment at all times.
Learn from others. Countries that were hit with COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic will likely be in a position to begin relaxing public health measures sooner than Canada. We should take every opportunity to learn from the experiences of those countries and adjust our own plans accordingly. Coordination with key trading partners is critical to keep trade flowing and minimize supply chain disruptions.
Relative to many other countries, Canada has done an admirable job so far of managing the health and economic consequences of COVID-19. Our healthcare system has performed well under enormous pressure, and governments have acted to provide financial assistance to those who are most in need. But until there is a vaccine, we cannot lower our guard. We urge you to work closely with employers, labour leaders and other stakeholders to ensure that Canadians can return to work safely and with confidence that an end to the pandemic is in sight.
We must get this right and we in the business community are ready to do our part in safeguarding public health while guiding Canada toward a durable economic recovery.
Thank you for your service to Canadians and your leadership in these extraordinary times.
President and CEO
Business Council of Canada
December 1, 2022