MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (September, 2021)

It’s the Federal Election edition of the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, talking all things business, alongside Jeanhy Shim, Rubina Ahmed-Haq, and Hillary Johnstone (personal finance, business, and the roof over your head, we had it all!).

With so many topics in play, we focused our discussion in the areas of the economy, jobs, and affordability.  Here are a few comments about the issues facing Canadians, businesses, and the days ahead.

It’s hard to imagine a strong economy without COVID19 being well under control, at a minimum.  A healthy society is an important foundation for a healthy economy, and it is a reasonable concern that Canada will not have the ability to truly move ahead until the days of the pandemic are in the rear view mirror, making this effort Job #1.  In the absence of doing so, communities face the risk of an ongoing cycle of relaxing measures and opening businesses, only to have to reverse course a short time later.  This is very difficult not only for Canadians, but also for business leaders who are trying to reach a point of some stability within their company.  Those who have been in business understand that “normal” times are challenging enough; the uncertainty and additional measures associated with COVID19 have left many companies in a precarious position, with others having closed up shop altogether (evident by driving around and noting all of the vacant storefronts).

This situation directly relates to jobs, as companies only need staff members when there is sufficient demand from the marketplace (customers) and they are able to operate (regulatory).  The third component of this equation is supply, in that companies need to be able to procure the necessary materials to deliver products and services.  Times of COVID19 have resulted in a global supply chain glut, making many products and manufacturing inputs significantly delayed or unavailable; the semiconductor chip shortage is one example.

There is also a shift occurring in the labour market as a whole, as people consider where work is available, as well as the type of role that they want to pursue.  Factors such as the increase in remote/flexible work environments, as well as the stress associated with front line sectors, such as healthcare, have led to shortages and hiring challenges; expect demand for education and training to increase in the coming months, as Canadians re-think their careers.  In the case if remote workers, this has resulted in some interesting developments in the housing market, as location is no longer reliant on the daily commute.

From a consumer perspective, the cost of so many things continues to rise, including food, household items, and housing.  While wage growth has not kept pace even in normal times, the gap between the super-wealthy and lower to mid-level workers has continued to increase, to a point of ridiculousness, in some cases.  The intent, obviously, should not be to have all people earning the same amount of money, but rather, to manage wage levels carefully (at the business level) and ensure that the tax system is fair (at the government level).  There have been too many situations of wealthy corporations and people paying little to no tax, while lesser earners pay their fair share.  Canadians also have good reason to question why some at the top of corporations received large bonuses, while being slow to increase employee wages and/or taking COVID19 business financial support at the same time.

This is the backdrop of the Federal Election, and as a business person, I first look for good ideas, with the source or party being of lesser relevance.  It is less than ideal to see party platforms that bring a “piecemeal” approach to policy, as people do not live their lives in this manner, nor do businesses operate this way.  This approach also raises the question if anything truly “gets fixed”, as opposed to utilizing one short term approach after another.  There also tends to be a disconnect between policy and implementation, with the latter being much more challenging than many in the political realm appreciate.  Experienced business leaders understand the importance of solutions that can be readily implemented and resolve problems, an important part of the foundation of a sustainable company going forward.

Thank you for watching, and remember that it’s important to vote to ensure that our voices are heard.  Ballots can be cast by mail this time, just apply to do so by September 14, 2021.

Jenifer Bartman
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