In order to help Canadian governments confront the public health and economic crisis resulting from the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the C.D. Howe Institute has established a working group to address challenges for business continuity and trade. The group, 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, held its first meeting on March 24, 2020.
In this meeting, the group of economists and industry experts recommended urgent and immediate implementation of measures by Canada’s federal government to ensure continuity for businesses and not-for-profits – and preserve cash flow to families. Among the key recommendations were:
• Subsidization of wages, through employers by pre-emptive delivery of Employment Insurance
• Government backing of lines of credit for businesses through financial institutions to cover wages and fixed costs
• Immediate reduction of tariffs on critical imports
The working group highlighted three key policy priorities: preventing a spiral of cascading layoffs; backstopping business credit; and safeguarding supply of critical products. In particular, the working group identified immediate risks from the sourcing and manufacture of vital medical devices (e.g., ventilators). As well, Canada could face potential food shortages without support for farm credit and mobility of foreign workers for Canada’s agricultural sector – particularly if U.S. agricultural production (which is highly reliant on migrant labour) is also impaired.