Regina– Another week passes and we haven’t shaken the worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19, which continues to assert its firm grasp on economies across the globe.
We are officially in the thick of it. How do we move forward when the majority of hard-working Canadians have no clue when life will get back to normal?
Seemingly every day there are new restrictions coming forward both federally and provincially due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. Measures that need to be taken in order to flatten the curve, but these are measures nobody is ever really ready for.
Suddenly, you look at the man in the tinfoil hat we pointed at and called crazy for spending his life savings on a bomb shelter with years of non-perishable food items, and wonder if he was onto something this whole time.
This week in Saskatchewan, the provincial government announced more closures for businesses in hopes of flattening the curve and starting to rebuild everything that has been lost thus far. The province has been split into essential and non-essential services.
The difference in classification on one side means you can assume you know when your next paycheque comes, and the latter means you’ll have to pack a lunch and join the ever-growing number of those applying for employment insurance (EI).
According to a report by Global News, from Monday, March 16 to Sunday, March 22, the number of claims for those seeking EI hit 929,000. Week-by-week comparisons to the previous year show near doubling of claims due to the rapid job losses for Canadians all across the country.
While Saskatchewan’s list for “essential services” entails many services from all aspects of industry, just because they are allowed to work, doesn’t mean the work will be there. Every day that passes more large projects that employ many are shutting down.
Saskatchewan was already seeing difficulties in the economy prior to the pandemic. With coal transition looming, a decent chunk of jobs were already on the way out. Look no further than Coronach. A town of around 600 where a large portion of residents directly or indirectly are employed by the Poplar River Mine and Poplar River Power Station.
Westmoreland Mining in Estevan delivered notice on Feb. 18 they would be permanently laying off 25 employees due to low coal sales forecasts.
You can’t help but think an event like COVID-19 will do nothing but fast-forward the inevitable for the many businesses that don’t have the sort of reserves that large corporations do. Large corporations seem to not even know if they will have the means to make it out of a business shutdown that is reaching a global level.
A trade war with Saudi Arabia and Russia had oil prices tanking before even further lows came amid the announcement of a pandemic regarding COVID-19.
The federal government is doing its best to combat an event that many have talked about but no one is ready for. The announcement of an $82 billion aid package lets us know there is some effort to try and maintain an economy that is now moving in slow motion.
The aid package includes $2,000 a month for those who have lost their job due to COVID-19, for up to four months. Premier Scott Moe, after seeing what the federal government’s aid package was, “dovetailed in” on March 20 with a support program of his own. The program features a self-isolation program where they will provide $450 a week for two weeks for those who will have to self-isolate.
It is a positive to see governments doing what they can to help Canadians. You just have to wonder if it will be enough to keep people afloat. It is no secret that many Canadians live paycheque-to-paycheque. The hard part is not knowing when this chaotic time will come to an end.
Another positive is the $28 million the federal government is providing University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO-InterVac), the scientists of which were the first to isolate COVID-19 and are leading the charge in finding a vaccine for the virus.
As tough times still lay ahead, with no end in sight, we have to rely on the decision makers. We have to rely on provincial and federal governments going forward.
It is going to be difficult. Canada is known for breeding hard-working, self-sufficient people. For the first time in recent memory, those who drive the economy have no choice in the matter.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”
It’s as if there is a tornado headed straight for your town. Get to the basement and brace for what is coming and when this is over, we can rebuild.
Jordan Stricker is Glacier Media’s Local Journalism Initiative reporter, covering the Saskatchewan Legislature. Glacier is the parent company of Pipeline News.