British Columbia

B.C. business council calls for more help for ailing consumer-based industries

The Business Council of British Columbia supports social distancing but says the longer the pandemic goes on, the more government money will be needed to help in the aftermath.

Projections show the province's economy could shrink by 7-12%

The Steve Nash Fitness World and Sports Clubs chain recently announced it was letting go of its staff as the company restructures because of COVID-19. The Business Council of British Columbia says the government will have to do more to save businesses caught in the shutdown. (Steve Nash Fitness World)

B.C. business leaders are worried industries selling consumer services such as tourism, fitness, retail and restaurants will not survive the COVID-19 pandemic unless they get more help from the federal and provincial governments.

Vice-president of the Business Council of British Columbia, Jock Finlayson, said projections show B.C.'s economy could shrink anywhere from seven to 12 per cent due to the effects of business closures and the impact of social distancing measures.

But he said it is important to follow what health officials are directing them to do to stop the spread of the virus.

"We're not taking a Donald Trump view that says, you know, we got to get the economy back open in the next three weeks, or before Easter," said Finlayson.

The province is in a state of emergency and already many personal service, restaurant and tourism-related businesses have had to shut down or limit what they can offer, which has resulted in massive layoffs in a matter of weeks.

Finlayson said other countries are offering more financial help than he has seen so far promised to Canadians.

"Denmark, the U.K., Germany, Australia, their national governments have been coming forward with much, much bigger packages, economic support packages in the range of eight to 10 per cent of gross domestic product. So our overall commitment so far from the government of Canada is pretty skinny compared to these other jurisdictions."

The Steve Nash Fitness World and Sports Clubs chain, which operates 24 locations, recently announced that it was letting go of its staff as the company restructures because of COVID-19. 

In an Instagram post, the company said it "had to make the difficult move to let go of our valued team members as we transition through an organizational restructuring during these tough and unprecedented times."

The uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and how long emergency measures will continue in B.C. are causing anxiety in the financial sector.

Finlayson says the consumer-facing economy, including tourism, retail, and restaurant industries, will need more government help than already promised.

"Five hundred thousand people who are employed in B.C. in those industries, I would say 90 per cent of those are gonna be without employment very, very shortly."

Finlayson believes that more government aid is coming to help businesses but that it could take time.

With files from Yvette Brend