As Nunavut establishes travel bubbles and gradually reopens its borders and economy, a Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce survey indicates that business owners are split over the best course of action.
Half of respondents to the Chamber’s Covid-19 survey stated that they prefer a slow reopening to manage the number of Covid cases, whereas 44 per cent of business owners are in favour of restricting travel and focusing on measures to keep the number of Covid cases at zero. The remaining six per cent prefer to reopen business to pre-Covid-19 levels despite the higher risk of the coronavirus spreading.
“To see a nearly equal split – to have a polarized view – I think demonstrates the challenges health and economic sectors are battling,” said Hudson Lester, executive director for the BRCC.
Almost 80 per cent of business stated that they believe the Government of Nunavut has taken appropriate Covid precautions and three-quarters of those who completed the survey said they feel there has been sufficient information provided to help prepare for reopening.
“…We applaud (chief public health officer) Dr. Michael Patterson – he is amazing and has done a stellar job. Now someone who can plan for the economic recovery alongside him needs to be at the table,” suggested one survey respondent, among the anonymous comments included at the end of the survey results released Wednesday.
As for the impact that the pandemic has had on Nunavut businesses, 44 per cent of ventures reported a decrease in revenue between 0-30 per cent. One-quarter of respondents said they lost between 30-70 per cent of revenue. Extremely high revenue losses of 70-100 per cent hit 12.5 per cent of enterprises. However, almost 19 per cent of businesses actually realized an increase in revenue during the Covid period.
On the expenses side of the ledger, close to 58 per cent of businesses reported higher spending in the 0-30 per cent range. Nearly 40 per cent had lesser expenses. Just three per cent saw expenses shoot up by 30-70 per cent.
When it comes to funding aid, 50 per cent of businesses indicated that they tapped into Government of Nunavut funding. The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy was accessed by 32 per cent of ventures. Another 23 per cent took advantage of the Canada Emergency Business Account. The option to defer GST/HST tax payments is being exploited by 18 per cent of respondents.
While the funding has been critical, not all were satisfied with the programs or, especially, the delivery.
“Funding to businesses has been far to slow, CERB (the Canada Emergency Response Benefit) was taken care of with no issues – employees received money in days of the program starting up. Businesses, however, have not been helped appropriately and in enough of a timely manner.”
Another Chamber member made this suggestion: “Translated Inuktitut/English/French signage, as required by the GN for business, should be designed in PDF and made available. Otherwise, cost is high to produce for already strapped businesses.”
The BRCC’s survey had a 19 per cent response rate among all member businesses. Ninety-four per cent of input came from the Qikiqtani Region, while the Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions represented three per cent each.