How are B.C.’s large employers faring through COVID-19? Part II

April 9, 2020
David Williams

Part I of this blog series looked at the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on large employers surveyed in British Columbia. Part II briefly summarizes how these businesses are viewing the effectiveness of federal and provincial government responses to date.

The most effective parts of governmental responses to the pandemic appear to be around the provincial government’s guidance for safe workplace practices (Figure 2.1). Workplace restrictions are generally seen as clear and allowing for work and business activity to occur wherever practical and safe. Large employers also tend to view the support measures for employees (e.g. the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, CERB) as effective. Most also report that their supply chains are functioning.

Large employers are less likely to view as effective the various government efforts to provide bridging cash flow to businesses, measures to prevent redundancies (although the CEWS was announced partway through the survey period), and measures that provide new opportunities to businesses to assist in the COVID-19 response.

Figure 2.1: Firms see clarity on workplace activity, support for employees and supply chains as working well

According to large employers, the top federal
government priorities should be to ensure that supply chains, credit markets and financial markets continue to operate (Figure 2.2). Around a third of firms would like to see relief through reductions in federal tax rates, levies and charges, and the deferral or cancellation of planned legislative and regulatory burdens on businesses. (Note: the federal government proceeded with its planned increase to the federal carbon tax on April 1, whereas the B.C. government delayed its planned increase until further notice. The federal carbon tax is now $30 per tCO2e (up from $20), while B.C.’s carbon tax remains at $40 per tCO2e.)

Figure 2.2: Top federal priorities should be the functioning of supply chains, financial and credit markets, alleviating tax and regulatory burdens

At the provincial level, large employers see the top priorities as reducing the tax rates facing businesses and households, reducing regulatory burdens on businesses, and providing direct support to hard-hit industries (Figure 2.3). Around two-in-five firms would like municipalities to freeze property taxes and allow payment deferrals.

Figure 2.3: Top provincial priorities are to reduce tax and regulatory burdens, and to directly support B.C.'s hard-hit sectors

A future blog will look at how B.C.’s large employers are viewing the prospects for a post-pandemic economic recovery.

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